What’s so French about perfume?

SYLVIE ZIEMSKI - What's so French about perfume - My French Life - Ma Vie Française - www.MyFrenchLife.org

This is my first in a series of articles that takes a look at perfume from a French perspective. The potential topics are endless, as you can imagine. France is the world’s perfume nation, but bear in mind that it has not always been so.

In the last 100 years, France has been the centre of production, skill, creativity and – not insignificantly – education for things related to perfume expertise and production. This does not mean that you cannot find extraordinary perfumes in other countries: you can. But it is a fact that many of the world’s most skilled noses are French. If they are not, then they usually will have studied in Grasse.

Most of the perfumes considered to be iconic have been created in France. Coty, the company that revolutionised the perfume industry by turning perfume into an everyday product for the masses, is French.

One thing is certain: for someone interested in perfume, Paris is heaven. Wherever you go there seems to be a magnificent store with beautiful displays, infinite ranges and perfume expertise.


You go to the Louvre, you walk into L’Artisan Parfumeur (where you can create bespoke perfumes). You stroll down Champs Elysées, there is a pop-up Guerlain next to the real two-floor Guerlain paradise (do not forget to go up the stairs to the golden second level!). You go to the antique market at Saint Sulpice, there is Annick Goutal… and these are just the famous ones. Then you have the oceans of niche perfume houses.

When discussing this series of articles with a friend of mine he spontaneously exclaimed: “But France is all about smells and odours, isn’t it?” For him it was not so much about an association between France and perfumes specifically, as between France and smells. Perfume being one example of course, but then you have the wine, the cheeses…


I found my friend’s reflection really interesting and when visiting Paris a couple of weeks ago I kept it in mind. Is France a nation of smells and therefore the natural platform for perfumes?

What do you think?

Feel free to share your thoughts on my forthcoming series of articles discussing why the link between perfume and France is so firmly rooted in our minds and noses. Enjoy!

This is the first article by Sylvia in a series on French perfume.

Image Credits:
1. Sylvia Ziemski
2. fortune cookie, on Flickr
3. Ms. Tina, on Flickr

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Sylvia Ziemski

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  1. Julie Gourichon Jun 18, 2012 at 8:36 PM - Reply

    Je suis française et personnellement, je ne porte pas de parfum. Je ne supporte pas les odeurs. Je ne m’y suis jamais intéressée, à vrai dire. Je pense que la France a été le précurseur du parfum comme elle l’a été dans la mode. Mais c’est quelque chose de très parisien, de très bourgeois, de très snob. Je viens de province et je connais très peu de personne qui peuvent réellement se permettre un vrai et bon parfum. Parce que le flacon est à 100 euros.

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