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In some moments Grasse can really feel a bit like Fragonard Town. A fairly large part of the old town is dominated by Fragonard’s museum and various shops offering not only fragrance but also clothes and linen. My impression is that their business seems to be going quite well.

Of course. And it rhymes.

It is unquestionable that the Fragonard family do take their role as providers of knowledge about the perfume making history very seriously. I decided to save the Fragonard museum for my last Saturday in Grasse and took not one but two tours – one in Italian and one in English. As a former tourist guide and more recently communications and marketing professional I was very interested to see how the guides of Fragonard tell the story, what tools they use and how they incorporate sales into then tour. I also had the privilege of getting some VIP guidance through the range from my friend Daniela who works there.

 
Enfleurage Süskind-style.

The Fragonard factory tour is really well-designed. There are only guided tours, no walking around on your own, so anyone who visits is more or less guaranteed to leave with more knowledge. During the tour the guides use pedagogic graphics, scents, interactive moments and go through rooms that really give the visitors the feeling of getting a backstage perspective. Very well-organised all this. The tour ends with an olfactive test where everyone guesses what notes can be found in some of the fragrances offered in the gift shop. Very clever.

Enormous raw material bottles to smell during the tour – fun!

Étoile – a nice fresh fragrance that I ended up buying.

At entry level there is the obligatory history of perfume exhibition. In comparison to the one at the International Perfume Museum next door this one is lighter and more focused on objects. I like them both, as I wrote in an earlier post I found the International Museum very informative and ambitious. In both places there are some truly exquisite objects to admire. After these two collections I am now rather obsessed with antique perfume flaçons… Especially 19th century. I leave you with some favorites of mine from the Fragonard collection.

If you see something like this at an auction do please let me know?

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The Fragonard museum(s) offer much insight and value but it is only natural that a town like Grasse should have a really good museum about perfume and perfumery that is not linked specifically to one company. In this case, it is the Musée International de la Parfumerie (just next to Fragonard). It is an impressive must-go-to that takes you through the history of perfume from the Egyptian masters to contemporary niche and mass-market brands including descriptions of work processes, production and noses.

A perfumer’s “desk” with raw materials and scales. 
The path through the museum is designed in a very pedagogic way that starts with some basic scientific facts about our sense of smell, some raw materials and other facts.
Raw materials: encens.
Vanilla.
As you proceed through different rooms you can learn about the masters of religious scents in ancient Egypt and how our use of scents and perfumes can be traced back to their processes and rituals. Scent has been used as a way to connect to higher powers, as medicine and remedy and as seduction throughout the course of history. 
In the museum you also see all the accessories and tools that have been used for scented rituals and habits.

There is an extensive space dedicated to information and installations about the production of raw materials and fragrances, This of course given as this industry has been the spine of the history and development of Grasse. 

Chanel use flowers from Grasse in their perfumes. 
Musée International de la Parfumerie is a destination really worth the time. It covers many aspects of the world of perfume and it is obvious that there is a genuine ambition to cater to the needs of many different kinds of visitors so the exhibitions feature both objects, graphics, interactive elements and informative texts. 
Interactive smell machines.
There is a big space dedicated to perfume packaging with bottles from all eras and styles you can imagine. This part is very inspiring and impressive and rewarding for anyone interested in either perfume or design generally. I leave you with some of my favorites. 
Perfume jewellery, ring and container.
Beautiful work on perfume container.
Elsa Schiaparelli. Sensational!
Poison packaging. The bracelet!!
Amazing muguet glass work.
Why do we never get this anymore?
Epic cologne.