As the creative director of Lilou et Loic, you’d think that my holidays would be spent escaping from the heady world of fragrance, but I have to admit that even on vacation, I am constantly searching out new inspiration.
Take a recent family jaunt to France. Our holiday home is situated in the beautifully romantic heights of Grasse, in the South of France. Every year we visit and every year, without fail, myself and my girls, Elle and Malou, make our annual pilgrimage to Molinard, which is one of the most famous factories for perfumes and scent. It offers a genuinely interesting tour, providing fantastic insight into the history of fragrance, a must-do for perfume fanatics! On reflection, I guess my visits here were one of the main inspirations for launching Lilou et Loic. I have always been passionate about fragrance, but my regular trips here made me see it was possible to launch a brand that truly captures the scents I was always searching for.
This area is really close to my heart. Fragrances have been created here for hundreds of years and the history is incredible and definitely worth exploring. Maison Molinard was launched in 1849 and it is the world’s oldest perfume factory and it is still a family run business, which shows the commitment and passion that has gone into this incredible venture. Historically only wealthy clients came, mainly from England and Russia, to visit and to purchase their exclusive Eau de Cologne. Even today, their most famous perfume is Habanita, considered the most tenacious perfume in the world. It is a Tabaco fragrance that was initially created to hide the smoking habits of ladies of the time. However, essences such as rose, jasmine, and tuberose are the most famous fragrances of Grasse and they still constitute the core of the famous Grasse fragrance industry.
When visiting the factory, you are guided through the rooms of Maison Molinard with its gigantic old-fashioned machinery and barrels. It is like being transported back in time and the contrast to the newer machines also on display is incredible. More efficient of course, but I am a hopeless romantic, who loves the French heritage and traditions captured by the old machinery.
Making perfumes and scents is a mixture between science and art. Sometimes up to 600 components are included in one perfume alone, and every single one will have to work in harmony. Volatility, tenacity and how they react together and marry all need to be taken into consideration, an art that can take years to perfect before it goes through to final testing. As much as 3 to 4 tons of roses are used to make 1 kg of rose oil, so it’s not surprising perfume comes with a hefty price tag. Eau de Perfume is the most expensive as it is more concentrated. Followed by Eau de toilette that is less concentrated and the least expensive is the Eau de Cologne, as it is the most diluted. Regardless of strength however, your nose eventually gets used to your perfume and you can only smell it when you first apply it on your skin. Did you know the best place to spray your perfume is in your hair? This is because of the oiliness of the scalp which help conserve the scent longer than the skin can. Our hair is also in constant movement so it will also diffuse the scent better. I have often heard people say to store perfumes in the fridge. I even did it myself as a teenager. But this is an old wives tale to be ignored! The best way of conserving fragrances is to keep them away from humidity and sunlight.
The tour is finished off with the option of creating your own perfume, at a cost of course but I strongly recommend it. And with some assistance from the professionals of Molinard it is actually not that difficult. Base notes, heart notes and top notes have to be considered separately but this is made easy by the staff and me and the girls managed to create some really interesting perfumes after a few trials. You have the chance of creating that special scent that uniquely represents you. No one else will smell the same and it is very satisfying, when asked, to respond that it is in fact your very own creation. You can also reorder your perfume if you hang on to the reference number they give you. I love the idea of personalisation. And this has given me lots of ideas for a new Lilou et Loic fragrance line – so watch this space….