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Home page > Grasse & the perfume > THE STORY OF PERFUMERY



The perfume appeared at the dawn of the Great Ancient Civilizations. At the time, oils were used in sacred rituals as offerings but they also accompanied everyday life: plants & medicine, herbs & food, flowers & rites of seduction ...

With the exchange of fragrance materials came the creation of trade routes, also called "spices route". Corinth was the first city to gather the trading of herbs, the manufacturing of perfumes, and of earthenware bottles.

In the Middle Ages, people used plants against epidemics. Since the Renaissance, the 1st perfumed oils of Italian chemists are the prerogative of queens and courtesans.


Until the XVth century, perfumery remained dependent on rudimentary means of production. But from the XVIth century, alcoholic perfumery developped thanks to the rapid expansion of various works from Venetian engineers and German botanists.

In France, perfumery developped in Grasse in the XVIIIth century and was to dominate Europe in the following century. Versailles and its Court were drunk with perfumes, which became a code of seduction. At Napoleon time, the perfume was looked for as a symbol of distinction.

In the XIXth century, the development of packaging with mass production, the industrial development, the emergence of department stores and large international exhibitions began a new mutation for perfumery. The synthetic products were emerging. The first major perfumers innovated with rich and original creations such as Houbigant, Guerlain, LT Piver.


In the early XXth century, it is the Belle Epoque then the Roaring Twenties. After the first World War, Europe is taking frenzy of creation, in perfumes, Chanel opens the ball with the first aldehyde perfume, the famous Chanel No. 5, which turns the ladies drunk. Paris and its perfumers designers will gradually democratize perfume ... Guerlain launches Shalimar, Patou innovates with Joy, Coty creates Chypre and Lanvin imagines Arpege …

In the 50’s, the American perfume is born under the impulse of the great Estée Lauder with her famous Youth Dew.

In the 70’s, the peace & love years, oriental perfumes such as Opium by Yves Saint Laurent and the patchouli knows its heydays.

A contrario, in the 80’s-90’s, fashion is fresh and flower waters, such as  Anaïs Anaïs by Cacharel, and mixed perfumes like  CK by Calvin Klein.

In the late 90’s, greedy perfumes are becoming inescapable as the famous Angel by Thierry Mugler or the magic Lolita by Lolita Lempicka.

4. NOWADAYS ....

Today, with approximately 1000 launches of novelties each year, the perfume houses often play it safe with very consensual juices which will please the majority, but which will not upset the originality. However some brands stand out, with more original proposals: such as Paco Rabanne, JP Gaultier  ....