Grasse- Being in Perfume.

Wondering why there has been no news from 1000 Flowers for quite some time? A consuming and exciting project has been in the works… The story of which I will share in this entry.

It’s been clear for some time now, that my dream has been to base my company  here in the south of France; in the perfume capital of Grasse.  For the last three years I have voyaged back and forth between here and Canada,  stretching pennies, juggling apartment rentals, sublets, suitcases, storage lockers, raw materials, and all the myriad of details involved in attempting to make a new home in a foreign country.  Not to mention all the work in building my company at the same time.

Ever since perfumery school back in 2007, I have felt strongly that my heart has belonged here.  Sometimes I have cursed this feeling, since my life would be so much simpler, and so much easier if I could just feel the same deep sense of wonder and belonging in my own native country!  Not that I don’t love Canada- I do, it’s just that, for me,  there is a sense of magic in the Alpes-Maritimes region of France that has caught me inextricably in its lovely spell and refuses to let me go.

Mimosa in February... one of the magical things about this region.

Not long after my arrival this time, I learned about a new organization here in Grasse,  called the Pépinière d’Entreprises InnovaGrasse- which is a ‘business nursery’ or what we might call a business incubator.  This one is geared specifically toward the perfume and cosmetic sector since it is located in the heart of the traditional French perfume region.  It is housed in the newly renovated Roure Bertrand perfume factory.  The inauguration for this organization was only September 2010- so it is brand new.

Roure- Piles of rose geranium leaves soon to be distilled. (Vintage photo)

For the last 5 weeks or so, I have been working like mad to write a full business plan, and put together a presentation to showcase 1000 Flowers and my plans for the future.  My deadline was March 9th.  I worked right up until the last hour and then with powerpoint transferred from Mac to PC with some funny errors;  I stood before a panel 12 people who came from various economic and business development positions for the Grasse and Nice regions.  It was quite formal, as these things are in France- like one of those boardroom presentations that one sees in movies.  It was rather surreal!  Afterward, they had number of questions to ask me, before shooing me from the room to discuss and decide if they were going to accept me or not.  About 20 min later, during which time I sat, barely breathing with anticipation, looking out a huge window with a perfect view of the old city of Grasse… and waited.  When they called me back in- they immediately informed me that the answer was yes.  A few more questions followed, then one of them, a man from the economic development sector- looked at me and said- “We are all here for you, so whatever you need, you tell us- we are here to help you.”  At that point, I was practically exploding with happiness- and the realization, that finally, all the work, persistence and suffering of the past few years was finally made completely worthwhile.

The old factory as it was in its glory days- surrounded by terraced gardens.

SOME HISTORY–  Roure Bertrand, established in 1820, was one of the very first companies in Grasse that was established to provide natural raw materials to the perfume industry. (Rose, jasmine and tuberose, etc).  The industry at this time, was based on the perfuming of leather gloves, and Grasse was the centre for this art.   The company went through various incarnations before eventually being absorbed into Givaudan- the Swiss giant perfume production house.

The large building on the left is the location of the Pepiniere, and my office/studio will be on the third floor. Note the original red brick chimney that is so classic to these old factories of the region.

The large warehouse that now houses Pépinière used to be the enfleurage section of the factory- where mountains of flowers were made into absolutes in the now antiquated tradition of enfleurage–  of laying fresh flowers in trays of fat to extract their sweetness.

A full history of Roure Bertrand can be found here. (in French)  And a more general history of the Grasse perfume industry here.

The Pepiniere main floor… painted a very ‘creative’ colour of lime green. Offices run down either side of the space.

This beautiful old structure (designed by Gustav Eiffel himself)  has now been fully renovated and houses InnovaGrasse on the 2nd and 3rd floors and the University of the first.  (including a full laboratory.)

Looking toward the old Roure factory from the centre of the old city of Grasse.

There will be in total 27 offices opened to small business’ who qualify to be taken under the wing of this organization.  I  have the honour of being the eleventh member of the group.

The Pepiniere as of 2010. But historically, during the old days- this is the building where the Enfleurage production took place.

And now- I must return to Canada once more; this time to apply for the correct visa to launch my company in France.  With the acceptance letter in hand from the Pepiniere, I think this stage will be quite easy.  As well, there are a lot of details still to work out as to how 1000 Flowers products will be produced in Canada so that they don’t have to be shipped from France.  This will be an interesting and complex plan- but I know that things will continue to fall into place as they have so beautifully already.

27 Replies to “Grasse- Being in Perfume.”

    1. Thank you Mandy…it will be magical to work in a place that is so full of the history of natural raw materials. A real privilege. (One day I hope to meet you, by the way- you’ve been a real inspiration along the way. )

  1. Jessica, having followed your career as you first posted in the NP group, then moved to France to study, the launch of Reglisse Noir, and now this honor, I am very moved by your progress. You’re a valued member of the Guild, and I’m very proud of you.

    1. Thank you Anya! What a long and convoluted path it has been. I remember asking Jean Claude Ellena what was the most important thing to be successful as a perfumer, and he said ‘Passion’. And it’s so true- it’s the fuel that keeps us going even when it feels like the end of the line, and the ‘juice’ that pushes us through to achieve our goals.

    1. Ciao Roberto! Grazie! And thanks for reminding me to breathe… to take a breath before beginning the next challenging leg of this journey! Hugs from Grasse! Hope all goes well in your fragrant world!

  2. Jessica, congratulations on your acceptance into the Pépinière d’Entreprises InnovaGrasse program. This is an amazing achievement. I’m not sure if you remember me, we met at Sniffapalooza in April 2010…
    Looking forward to smelling more innovative and soulful scents from you.

    Terees

    1. Hello Terees… of course I remember you! I’ll always remember that great way we finished Sniffa in style together at that little French restaurant in Soho. I hope all your fragrant endeavours are progressing well! xo

  3. Hello,

    I don’t know you, but I can actually sense your excitement and feel your stomach flips! I’m elated for you. Congratulations, it is stories like these that make me want to pursue a career in perfumery. Thank you.

    On a side note, don’t stop updating this blog as I have come to read through your older posts. Proving very insightful. Again, thank you 🙂

    Liam

    1. Hello LIam…you’ve definitely picked up on what it was like! I’ll keep the blog going for sure- even if it is infrequent… it’s fun for me to watch this adventure story unfold as well. 🙂 All the best in your pursuits! xo

      1. It’s very easy to pick up 😉

        Thank you for the encouragement too. Not everyone in the perfume game is as supportive!

        Thank you.

      2. Surround yourself with encouraging people… there will always be naysayers- I’ve had a few a long the way for sure. For negative people- smile and nod, and walk away. 🙂

  4. I’ve been following your story for a year or so, and just saw this post today. How exciting that you continue to listen to your heart and progress and make deep connections in your work and life; all the best to you. Your hard work and loveliness is a true inspiration.

    1. Thank you Valerie for your kind words. I feel very blessed to have things falling into place the way they are…. but they do say that when we dream, the entire Universe then conspires to make it come true! Happy Spring!

  5. Such an inspiring story, delivered with such heartfelt and flowing words – I find it so wonderful to see you embracing your passion and living it fully! You are truly a work of art, Jessica.

    And the Paolo Coelho quote in your last comment just tops it off perfectly…I think it’s time for me to read “The Alchemist”…..again. 🙂

    Love and Light!

    1. Thank you so much Terran! Embracing one’s passion isn’t usually the easy road.. but life is just so short… too short to not jump in. 🙂 See you in France… L & L to U too!

    1. Thank you so much! It’s an adventure for sure… this life. And that’s what makes it so much fun… even when it’s deeply challenging. 🙂 Wishing you all the best with your projects as well! I look forward to smelling your work one day…. xo

  6. Hello Jessica,
    I don’t know if you still update this blog but I am a budding Perfumer in Los Angeles. I dream of attending school in Grasse or at least a summer program. I have read your blog and keep it bookmarked for inspiration. I have a husband and son entering middle school. I want to go and dream of the day when I can. I think you should write a book in your free time..ha. If you have another blog, please let me know. Many thanks. Mandy Aftel is a huge inspiration to me as well.

    Cheers,
    Maria

    1. Thank you for your story. I wish you all the best! This is the only blog that I keep at the moment- and do my best to update it from time to time. And yes, I have thought about writing a book. Have a great summer, and when you arrive in Grasse, please get in touch!

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