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 P√©pini√®re¬†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 HISTORYР 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 enfleurageР 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.

1000 Flowers- Past and present

Happy New Year to all!!  May love and abundance fill all your lives for 2011 and beyond!

It is now officially the second day of 2011 here in France- and besides feeling full of optimism and energized to jump into some new projects, I am also reflecting a lot on how I arrived to where I am now.  This post will chronicle some of that journey.


On the first day of this year- we went up into the mountains behind Grasse to a little ski station called Gréolières Les Neiges, which is about one hour by car up into the Sub-Alps.  As we crested about 800m in elevation, the clouds dropped away, and we were bathed in bright winter sunshine.  At 1100m, the sides of the mountain were blanketed in wild lavender plants and plump little pine trees.

Upon arrival at the ski station, we found that many others had planned the same new year’s day outing, and the place was packed with people of all ages.¬† After all, the cost for a half day ticket is only 6 euro!

We had decided to have lunch in the lodge- and being that it was a bit too cold to sit outside at one of the long dining tables, we went inside, only to discover that it just as chilly. 
The proprietor was extremely gracious, in such a classic French way- pushing tables together for us (we were a group of 7) and lighting a roaring propane powered flame-throwing heater to warm us up.  (I suspect that it also fed us a touch of carbon monoxide!)


The lunch menu was small- but the risotto with prawns and shaved reggiano that I had, was absolutely delicious (and very well presented, given the setting).


Later, after a walk in the sunshine, looking up at the quite large runs over various parts of the slopes, plus some very brave sledding,  we returned to the waffle and crêpe stand at the lodge, and had our dessert.
My cr√™pe with ‘abricots et chantilly’ was divine!


On our way back down to Grasse, we stopped at the wild lavender zone to check for seeds.  Sure enough, the little scruffy flower tops still held some of the shiny black seeds, and even offered up the dry powdery aromatic perfume of the summer blooms.

One of my projects from this past year of 2010, was to grow lavender plants from the seed I had collected 2 years ago from the same spot.  I successfully raised about 65 plants- and by the time I left Canada 3 weeks ago, they were hearty little shrubs of about 5cm in height.


So now what’s next for 2011??

First off, I’ve begun the major project of building another website for a new branch of the entreprise.¬† This will be the site for all things natural that I create or that I find while traveling in France and beyond.

After all, I first began with naturals back in 1994 by launching a collection of 5 massage oils composed of essential oil blends and almond oil.  These were very simple and even the labels were hand-painted and then colour-copied!  This was followed in 1996 with a collection of pure essential oils and several skin care products, including a gel moisturizer and a scrub inspired by (and utilizing) the dried hibiscus flowers and copal resin that I found in Mexico.

It was also at this time, that I applied for and received a small business development grant from the government.

Three years later, in 1999, the Body Bar was born- a collection of cocoa butter massage bars that were ‘good enough to eat’.¬† These were quickly ‘discovered’ and were soon distributed across Canada and into the US.

Sometime during the huge success of the Body Bar, I came across an article in the New Yorker about the creation of an Herm√®s perfume, and the light went on for me.¬† I had no idea the career of ‘perfumer’ existed, and I was smitten with the possibilities.¬† I began to research like mad all that I could find about perfumes and the companies who created them.¬† Jo Malone and Lyn Harris of Miller Harris, among others were huge inspirations for me at the time.

Having already worked with the natural raw materials for almost a decade, this  was a medium that was very familiar.  Clinical aromatherapy had been the path I was exploring for years.  I had completed a year-long certification program through the Australasian College of Natural Sciences in Portland- but I was craving to be more artistic and even abstract.  The art of perfumery was the natural direction to take.

For four years, (while also manufacturing the Body Bar), I worked away in the little studio at the back of my garden, and created 4 natural perfumes.¬† These I marketed only to my community, Nelson, British Columbia, where I had lived since 1995.¬† These were exceptionally well received, but I was reluctant to launch them out into the world.¬† I felt there was still too much to learn and I didn’t want to make any mistakes.¬† I knew then that formal training was a necessity.

As it can sometimes do- life broadsided me when the sole distributor of the massage bars copied the product, thereby reducing my income to almost zero.¬† I was devastated.¬† This was a classic case of David vs Goliath and I really didn’t want to take on a huge fight like that. This was a very difficult and emotional time.¬† It was then that I made the dramatic decision to sell my house, (including the studio), to fund my dream and go to perfume school in France.

From this point on, the story can be picked up in detail at the beginning of this blog.  I came to Grasse in January of 2007 and have been here a good portion of the time ever since.  This blog has followed the journey.


In April of 2010,  I went to New York City to present my fist perfume, Reglisse Noire, to the Sniffapalooza group. This garnered some great reviews and enthusiastic support.  As well, at year end last week, the same group of supporters in New York awarded Reglisse with the award of being in the top 25 picks of the year in perfumery.

I am not trained in advanced business, but I am keen to learn and continue to explore my own vision as 1000 Flowers expands and grows.¬† I have been reading the book ‘Business as Unusual’, written by the founder of the Body Shop, the late Annita Roddick.¬† I’ve always found her hugely inspiring. ¬† I believe, and always have, that there are many different ways to find success- and forging new paths that are positive and inclusive, and that take into account the health of the planet- are particularly important.¬† Of course, one must play by certain general rules, and take counsel whenever possible, but one’s approach and attitude to life (and business) can be defined individually. Rebelliousness can be rewarding when expressed creatively.

During the last week of 2010, I had distribution inquires from several countries- including China- and so now…. I am seeking counsel and working hard to make good decisions that will¬† bring all this long journey to another level of fruition.¬† The fact that it happens to also be a new year, is perfect and couldn’t have come at a better time!¬† So onwards we go on this fragrant adventure called life… ¬†¬† xoxo

Black Liquorice for Sale

Here we are in November already! This Autumn has been flying by, as time does when one is busy every waking hour.

Since first launching in the summer, I’m happy to report that Reglisse Noire has been enthusiastically received by perfumistas everywhere.

In Canada, Reglisse is available in a stylish little boutique in Nelson called Habits.

And in the US, Reglisse is now sold at the Scent Bar at 8327 Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles as well as on their new site dedicated to niche and artisan perfumers… Indie Scents.

Recently, I was interviewed by Michelyn Camen from Cafleurbon… ¬†you can read it here. ¬†As well, please leave a comment following the article as 5 names will be drawn to win a 5ml pocket-size decant of Reglisse Noire eau de toilette.

It’s been fun to google Reglisse just to see what it being said out there. ¬†It’s such an adventure to launch a perfume and then to watch its solo adventures out into the world as it’s discovered and experienced and shared by people whom I have never met. ¬†Here is an example- a sweet little review from the perfume blog- Perfume Smellin’ Things.

There is also a listing here at Fragrantica,  and Basenotes Sniffapalooza Spring Fling recap.

One of the things I have been asked recently is- ‘What’s next?’ ¬† Since I have been in Canada for most of this year, I have been yearning for Grasse with those sunny Mediterranean days and the perfume-infused culture. ¬†My heart is always there and so I will be returning next month to explore some new ideas.

I have two perfumes on the drawing board and while one is still secret, the other will be dedicated to the well-being of the honey bee.   This is a subject close to my heart and one that is of grave importance.

The pollinators are suffering and dying, due to many human activities especially (super)pesticide use both in home gardens and on the large agro-farms.   Without these little creatures, we will suffer major consequences to food production.   So I would like to dedicate a portion of sales to really push for positive change.  If any of you have suggestions as how to most effectively do this, I would love to hear your thoughts.

All images and content copyright by 1000 Flowers -2010

R√©glisse Noire and the Art of Packaging

This blog began in January of 2007 with my journey to Grasse, France to study perfumery.   Since then, following my studies and internships there,  I have been focusing all my attention on the subsequent portion of the dream- to create beautiful perfumes, and to realize a successful career at the same time.  No small feat!!

I returned to Canada 7 months ago, and have been working day-in and day-out on all the details of launching the first fragrance.  To say the least, this has involved an enormous amount of work.  More facets than one can even imagine!! (although, such a wonderful challenge!)

Since being back,¬† I have also been taking classes in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to learn graphic design so that I can fully express all visual aspects (that accompany imagining of the perfume formula itself) of this creative process.¬† To be honest- more and more, this project feels like an artist’s installation.¬† Such a multi-faceted creation that involves digging deeper into my creative depths than I ever have in my life.

So, subsequently introducing the new outer packaging (as developed in Canada) for Reglisse Noire- the perfume that was born in France¬† ….

Cedar box

The box is solid British Columbia cedar (from off-cuts, leftover from home building), stained pure white with titanium dioxide powder and water, and sealed with a cigar-box style label to guarantee the purity and hand-made nature of each batch of perfume.

My goal has been to create an outer packaging that is an item of beauty to be kept…. thereby having a super light footstep on the Earth.¬† (‘recyclable’, in my humble opinion, just doesn’t cut it anymore…)¬† Refills will be available soon.¬† The lockable vintage-style atomizer is removable, unlike most perfume bottles.¬† Standard perfume bottles, even from luxury and niche brands, have what is called a ‘crimped’ spray top.¬† These are permanently attached, therefore making the bottle, once empty, impossible to recycle or to reuse.¬† For years I have struggled to find a solution to this problem… and finally, the technology has been developed- an atomizer that threads on, that also has a locking mechanism.. so it can be sealed for transport and to prevent evaporation of the precious juice inside.

Réglisse-50ml bottle

So there.¬† Years of work at the drawing board… with the goal of bringing into the world a product that represents beauty and that has a light environmental impact….

If you’d like to order this perfume- please go to the 1000 Flowers website…. http://www.1000flowers.ca

As well, your feed-back is greatly appreciated… I like to think of this as a work in progress….. Merci!

Réglisse Noire

Just a little update amidst the long hours to say that Réglisse is expected to launch at the end of this lovely month of June.  It has been a long haul to cover all aspects of production on my own (and luckily also with some amazing work from my graphic designer Minn).

At this point, I am awaiting the outer packaging and the final labels.  Otherwise, the bottles, the atomizers from Austria, Canadian distilled grain alcohol, and all the raw materials have arrived.

Little 5 ml bottles of the perfume will be available almost immediately….. a single for $25 or a love pair (one to give away) for $40….

The online store at http://www.1000flowers.ca will be open by the end of this week for purchases.  You can also contact me from here.

Ok must get back to work!!