In Grasse, a perfume of rebirth

From the window of his studio in the open field, decorated with the works of his sculptor mother – monumental grasses bent by the wind -, Aurélien Guichard distinguishes a horizon of tuberoses, small ivory flowers proudly erected on their slender stem and planted with a line over a hundred of meters. The harvest will not begin until the beginning of autumn.

By deciding to create his own perfume brand, Matière Première, in 2020, this “nose” from Grasse wanted to be part of the family terroir – his father was a perfumer and his grandparents cultivated verbena, jasmine and rose. —, choosing to cultivate its own fields of rose centifolia (the local variety) and more recently tuberose.

It is out of the question for him to sell flowers that he reserves for his own creations, starting with his bestseller Radical Rose, which concentrates “the highest quantity of Grasse rose absolute on the market”, each petal coming from its own fields. In addition to participating in the revitalization of abandoned agricultural know-how, Aurélien Guichard enriches his creations with a vintage dimension. “We only bottle the quantity of flowers produced on the 2 hectares at each harvest. If there are no more roses left, we stop the production of the juice,” he specifies.

Aurélien Guichard, founder of Matière Première, in his workshop, not far from Grasse (Alpes-Maritimes), on August 13, 2022.

Integrating flower production by offering its own fields is the new leitmotif of luxury brands wishing to claim a part of Grasse’s heritage. Lancôme, a subsidiary of the L’Oréal group, inaugurated in May a domain of 4 hectares where some of the most famous fragrant flowers of the region are grown: lavender, jasmine grandiflorum, tuberose and of course the May rose, the one and only quality that goes into the composition of the limited edition La Vie est belle Domaine de la pink.

At the Domaine de la Rose, in Grasse (Alpes-Maritimes), owned by Lancôme, on August 19, 2022.

“Having our own fields grown organically allows us to guarantee the consumer perfect traceability of the ingredient”, assures Marie Rosenstiehl-Russo, director of perfume creation for L’Oréal luxury. Lancôme aims to go further by transforming its plantations into a place of experimentation: “We have just developed a new extraction technique using natural solvents, with the aim of inventing a new signature rose, close to the smell of the flower on the vine”, adds Marie Rosenstiehl-Russo.

Sales pitch and marigold

On the cardboard of the packaging or on the curves of the bottle, the reference to Grasse (Alpes-Maritimes) is more and more frequent. The houses are no longer content to produce films for their social networks featuring the perfumer smelling the flowers in the early morning in the fields: the name of the town is a new selling point.

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