September news: Jasmine & Tuberose

How time flies!  In our last post, we spoke about the roses of May, one of the important ‘Fleurs d’Exception‘ that make Grasse famous.  Now here we are already in September, the season of the Tuberose, and since last month until sometime in October, (depending on the weather), it is also the season of the Jasmine grandiflorum.

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Polianthes tuberosa- Tuberose blossoms

These are all highly fragrant flowers, and are used extensively in the fine fragrance industry.  They are considered ‘noble’ raw materials.

These flowers, amongst others,  are still produced in the Grasse region (the Pays de Grasse), and are often picked by teams of Gypsy (Gitane, Roma) women, who arrive early every morning at the farms to pick only the flowers that are newly opened.  For the rose and jasmine, this means every single morning throughout the blooming period. I have picked with these women, and they joke that only they are willing to do this hard work.  They laugh and tell me that the French are not willing to work so hard.  The pickers are paid per kilo, and to give an example, it takes about 800kg of jasmine blossoms to make 1 kilo of absolute- each blossom delicately picked by hand in the early morning before the sun gets too high or too hot.

For the extraction, all is done by solvent (hexane) extraction, to produce a waxy concrete, followed by an alcohol wash, which is then vacuum distilled off, to yield the final purified absolute.   In Bulgaria and Turkey, roses are also steam distilled to yield the precious essential oil, but Grasse is producing for the perfume industry, so absolutes are the most economical and complete extracts.

Next post I will talk about the art of grafting… something that is a big part of the rose and jasmine plants of Grasse.

In other news:  as you know, I have been developing a new collection of fragrances for 1000 Flowers.  Of course, being an independent artisan company, that means wearing the hat for all stages of creation and production.   Even the graphic design is all my own work, since design is my secondary passion, behind perfume creation itself.   So in the lab, in the middle of the old city of Grasse, all stages of the Blue Collection are being developed and refined.

We first spoke about this almost 10 months ago.  At the time, I had become a client of the amazing Biolandes for some of our key natural raw materials for the collection, and had anticipated launching the collection in May.   However, I made the mistake of trying to work with local printing companies for the labels, and, very long story short, lost the whole summer and several hundred euros in being run-around by one local company in particular.  I have learned a very valuable lesson: in France, if you are a small company, working on a shoestring, you will not be taken seriously.    Sadly, the concept of ‘starting small’ is not yet respected or understood here, as it is in Canada or the UK.   In the end, I had to go to the UK for my labels, and these are expected to arrive next week.

The advantage to these delays, is that I have revisited the perfume formulae many times, and as the samples mature, I see what small changes can be made, and how to improve them.  So I suppose, it’s for the best that the project has taken longer than anticipated to realize.  Art can’t be rushed.  ūüôā 

In conclusion, to be a good perfumer, as much as it is very romantic,  is not at all an easy path. It is an exceptionally challenging career, and one that takes an amazing amount of work and sacrifice and perseverance, where one NEVER stops learning and improving.  Sometimes I question having given up everything to be where I am now.   But then I open my cupboard of pure materials, and bring out the precious naturals from the fridge, and dive back into a creation, and realize there is nothing else I would rather be doing…

in-the-lab

The Blue Collection explained

It is an interesting & challenging balancing act to be an independent perfumer and an entrepreneur.    One must wear many hats, and life becomes very full.   This is why some time has passed since the last fragrances were launched from 1000 Flowers.. (Ode for Him and Love is Sweet, Dec 2012).  However. the time has come to talk about a new collection that is soon to be released, called the Blue Collection.

This time, I have chosen to write (in scent) about my surroundings, and that is the Mediterranean region.¬† I love this place, and it’s been four years that I have lived and worked here full time.¬† Here, the intensity of the sunshine illuminates everything, the plants and flowers, the blue sky, and the blue sea.¬† It gets inside the soul, and is like no other place I have ever been.

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So the new collection of perfumes will talk about the plants and flowers that one finds in the region- like the heady scent of blooming orange trees, the pink pepper berries that one can pick, the smell of ripe fruit in summer at the beach, and wild carrot near the sea, the smell of pine and other conifers in the mountains behind Grasse, and roses and roses and roses…

There will be four fragrances, housed in cobalt blue glass.  The bottles are refillable, and the labels are big, bright and colourful interpretations of Mediterranean tiles.  I have developed connections with some amazing French suppliers, a couple of them artisan distillers, who grow, harvest, and extract essential oils and absolutes.  And since the Mediterranean climate is so perfect for growing everything from jasmine to roses to clary sage, with many wild fragrant plants like labdanum and various herbs, the region is a veritable treasure trove of perfume ingredients.

So with all that at one’s fingertips, it is natural so to speak, to focus on these raw materials in the context of perfumery.¬† That is not to say that the collection is ‘all natural’. It is not. I do work with a palette of man-made molecules, and as an artist, I really appreciate their importance in perfume creation.¬† But I do not use polycyclic musks, (non biodegradable molecules that are used extensively in commercial fragrances), or phthalates. And I do adhere to IFRA safety standards.¬† (You can read here about what IFRA is).

Also this way, you will have precious molecules from Mediterranean plants and flowers, bottled, and delivered to your door….

 

Going Mobile at 1000 Flowers

Happy November everyone!    After a lot of work and a big learning curve, we have just beta launched the new site for 1000 Flowers, and it is now mobile friendly!

30ml set

In 2010, when I was last in Canada, I attended a number of small business training courses to deepen my knowledge of the Adobe design programs, and also of web design.  Our amazing teacher told us then how mobile capability was going to be one of the most important things for successful online business.  And one can see how digital life has changed in general just in that 5 years since.  Everyone is mobile, either by phone or tablet, and the home PC is now being used less and less.  I have also seen several longtime dedicated bloggers discontinuing their work, since amongst other reasons, the mobile readers are less likely to follow a full length blog entry than the short little blurbs on Instagram or other more mobile friendly, fast-paced platforms.  Also, people have definitely become more comfortable and confident shopping from their mobiles.  So we are very happy to have joined the mobile world with 1000 Flowers! (SITE)

You will see a few changes in the boutique:  our 15ml splash version is discontinued, and all fragrances are now available in 30ml, with Reglisse Noire available in 30ml and 50ml format.  In about 1 month, we will be announcing a brand new collection of fragrances from 1000 Flowers, inspired by the Mediterranean region, with all new packaging and a sunny, vibrant theme. And in the coming days, we will tell you how you can be part of the launching of that collection.

To celebrate the new site, for the next 7 days (until Nov 7th), we will offer a coupon worth 15% from your purchase- just enter the code: ‘sunshine’ on the checkout page (all lowercase). ¬† Also, since we are still beta, feel free to comment and let us know how you find your experience navigating the site.

Also, you will be seeing some informative posts appearing here on the blog, written by a guest writer, an intern here at 1000 Flowers, who will be exploring various subjects relating to Grasse, perfumery, and the region.¬†¬† So sign up if you haven’t already, and stay tuned!¬†¬† Have a happy day!

Becoming French… (creating a French business)

Actually, I am joking a little when writing the first part of the title for this post. ¬† As much as France (and its culture) is charming and amazing in so many ways, ¬†I will always be la Canadienne! ¬†Integrated, yes- but comfortable with keeping¬†my own cultural identity. ¬† However, ¬†the same can not be said for my company. ¬†While strongly identified¬†with its roots, 1000 Flowers has officially made the transition to becoming French. ¬†Making this happen has been a challenging process in some ways (nothing is simple in France), and relatively easy in others. ¬†I decided to start small, and to begin in the category of ‘autoentrepreneur’. ¬†I attended the 3 hour training session at the Chambre des Metiers et des Artisanats, in order to fill in the registration form correctly, and then compiled the stack of documents that are required to complete the application. ¬†The first submission was rejected, due to several missing said documents, but round two, was accepted, and yesterday I received in the post, my certificate of inscription with the Repertoire des Entreprises¬†et des Etablissements. ¬†As such, I am the proud recipient of a ‘Identifiant SIREN et SIRET’.

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The journey to arrive to this point has been long, and has taken many steps to complete. ¬†Normally, for a foreigner to create a company in France, it is a complex and very expensive process. ¬†But since I entered on the ‘Talents et Competance’ Visa, after having been validated via the acceptance into a business incubator (Pepiniere), I was given permission to create my project in France under this particular visa. ¬†Having done my formal training here was also very helpful. ¬†I don’t have the right to work outside of my own field, ¬†and will submit my taxes here, plus qualify for the medical system. ¬†Technically at this point, (five years of living in France), I could also apply for citizenship….but this isn’t a priority at the moment.

Also, just as a follow up: I wanted to address the subject of the InnovaGrasse incubator.  As I had reported in a previous post (Grasse- Being in Perfume ), I worked for months to write a comprehensive business plan to be accepted into this program, and subsequently in 2011, I was accepted.  This was an incredibly exciting prospect, and a great experience in the process, but in the end- I did not enter the program, and decided to continue my project independently.  (Still adhering to the requirements of my visa in doing so).  The reasons for this were simple- cost, and practicality.  Primarily, it was only an office space, without the basic requirements of a lab- ie a sink with running water.  I had been told at the onset, that I would have access to a small lab on the main floor- but when I arrived back in France, this was not the case.  So all in all, I made the decision to create my own lab in a large and airy room in my apartment in the centre of the old city of Grasse.  This is where I have been happily working ever since.

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Return to the Perfumed Pilgrimage

I don’t know if I’m the only one who feels this way, but it seems like 2013 flew by in the blink of an eye! ¬† I had the strangest feeling the whole year that I was running behind, and it was with some horror today, when I checked into my blog, to see that the last entry was December, 2012!

Clearly, this is indicative of losing the rhythm of reporting on and sharing the ‘perfumed pilgrimage’ that has been my life here in Grasse! ¬†And a big part of the reason for writing less, is that life has a way of becoming ‘normal’ no matter where we are. ¬†Even life in the south of France takes on a certain normalcy after a few years, and reporting on the events that come and go becomes less motivating, since the events are less and less a novelty.

However, I am realizing (even just this week),  how important it is to look at life more objectively more often, to see how magical it really is, and to appreciate what a lot of hard work and sacrifice has been involved to arrive at the present moment. (and to be very grateful to be there)

So here is a first of more frequent reports to come… to once again share some stories of life here in the Alpes-Maritimes region, and specifically to fragrance related topics/events here in the Pays de Grasse.

Enfleurage