French Perfume is one of the most iconic souvenirs from France. Many of the famous parfumeries have their origin in Provence, the stunning region in Southern France.
To tell you the truth, I’ve never been much of a fine perfume person. Don’t get me wrong, I’d never turn away a bottle of Chanel No. 5 if it were given to me as a gift, but I rarely shop for perfume on my own. However, after an informational trip to Fragonard, the famous French parfumerie (with shops in Grasse, Eze and Paris), my perspective changed. Like all fine French products, the history of perfume is rich and fascinating. Parfumerie Fragonard’s story is no exception.
Just before World War I, Eugène Fuchs, an entrepreneur and perfume affectionado, founded a perfumery on the French Riveria. His initial concept was to sell perfume and related products directly to tourists. In 1926. Perfumerie Fragonard, named after the famous painter, Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), opened its doors in Grasse.
Since then, Fragonard has been run by three subsequent generations of Fuch’s family. In the 1970s, Jean-Francois Costa led Parfumerie Fragonard through a period of expansion and modernization, opening shops in Eze and Paris. Today, Jean-François Costa’s daughters, Agnès and Françoise, continue to build the company while adapting it to current customers’ demands.
Fragonard’s perfume, soap and cosmetics factory is located on the Moyenne Corniche between Nice and Monaco. They offer a lovely 20 minute free guided tour (offered in all European languages) that explains the perfume making process. Of course, the tour ends at their extensive perfume shop, in which you can buy some of their one of a kind scents in plain bottles at a reduced price.
I personally fell in love with Billet Doux, one of their signature scents that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. In the centre (downtown area) of Eze (a few miles from the Fragonard factory), Fragonard has a lovely perfume and gift shop, featuring re-editions of antique jewelry, embroidered household linen, traditional Provençal quilting, glassware and wickerwork, preserves, perfumes, and natural aromatic oils.
If you find yourself in Paris, Fragonard’s Musée du parfum is worth a visit. Opened in 1983, it is located near the Opéra Garnier in a beautiful Napoleon III era house built in 1860 by Lesoufaché (a student of Garnier). The inner décor is true to the period. As you walk from room to room, you’ll have the chance to explore a well-organized and interesting collection of perfumery objects from several centuries. Like the factory, the museum offers free guided tours in all European languages.
Written by Jen Westmoreland Bouchard for EuropeUpClose.com