Nestled between the Cote d'Azur and the foothills of the Southern Alps, the Pays de Grasse’s temperate weather, rich soil and sheltered fields coincide to create the ideal microclimate for the cultivation of flowers. Iris, mimosa, tuberose, violet, orange blossom, hyacinth and most of all jasmine and the tousled pink centifolia rose (called the May rose) provided the backbone of an early cottage industry that over the centuries blossomed into the world epicenter of perfume.
In 1920, Coco Chanel decided to proceed with a project she’d envisioned for years: aligning her fashion house with a signature perfume, a new trend pioneered by only two other couturiers at the time.
There was just one place to go: the Pays de Grasse.
On December 15, 2018 Grasse was finally granted UNESCO status in acknowledgement of the “know-how related to perfume in the Pays de Grasse and to encourage recognition of the profession of perfumer in the arts”. Large perfumeries such as Fragonard, Molinard and Galimard offer tours and the possibility of creating your own perfume.
Grasse is a typical Provençal town, with ochre-colored houses and giant shutters to close against the noonday sun. Laundry hangs from balconies or above tiny, labyrinthine streets, and leafy plane trees shade town squares and café tables.
The factories have now moved out of the old town. But Grasse is still the place to be for fragrance-makers, whether multinationals creating signature smells for shampoos and detergents or smaller artisan perfumers.