It’s May, and we’re in a unique and surprising scenario.
Intense smells, fresh air, and eyes filling with the colors of nature: fighting each other, only the green fields, the deep pink of flowers, and touches of beige, between a country hose and the lanes to walk or cycle through.
Chanel invited us to discover a magical place: Grasse and, precisely, its fields, which, for over three centuries and 5 generations, have accommodated the cultivations of plants for perfume essences with which Chanel formulates some of its most famous and beloved parfums, now iconic as much as the 2.55 bag.
9:45 a.m.: Grasse
We’re soaked in a unique landscape, in an extraordinary micro-climate, with a fresh breeze warmed up by the Mediterranean sun: a perfect combination that, paired with fertile soil, gets to grow flowers of exceptional quality. For over 3 centuries, Grass has been the background and the protagonist of a captivating smell that welcomes us as soon as we enter the first fields
THE MUST-HAVES OF THE COLLECTION
Greeneries of cultivation and tiny pink spots capture our eyes but will soon engage all our senses: our touch will be recruited when feeling the soft rose petals, our eyes will be full of wonder, and our nose will start recognizing in those roses one of the most iconic fragrances of the Maison, our taste will be delighted by a lunch where, once again, we’ll find ourselves surrounded by flowers and their intense smell, our ears will be charmed by the words of Joseph Mul and his explanations of how the harvest comes alive, and we’ll be blown away by the energy of his love for this wonderful plant.
10:00 a.m.: Joseph Mul
The history of Chanel N°5 starts right here.
We’re in the middle of the rose fields, the May rose, which only flourishes during this month; to be more specific, we’re talking about the centifolia rose, so called for its high number of petals. Right here, we’ve had the honor of meeting Joseph Mul, who’s part of the fourth generation of the family that’s in charge of these fields. Here, his story begins, with the encounter between his family and Jacques Polges who, in 1987, sign a collaboration with Chanel. It’s the beginning of a great love and trust story which will link the Mul family and Chanel up until our present days.
THE HISTORY OF CHANEL N°5 STARTS RIGHT HERE.
Right thanks to this unprecedented collaboration, the Maison can count a unique olfactory quality, thanks to the commitment of the Mul family in terms of protecting and cuddling these flowers, also to the sound of music (to defeat a particular fungus of the plant, they make the roses “listen” to classical musical, whose sound waves are good for their health).
The soil is sandy and loamy, fertilized with organic and biological products and irrigated drop by drop, to save 50% of the water which would otherwise be wasted in a regular irrigation process. In this way, Joseph and his family can move with the times, thinking about a more conscious future and with an always watchful eye on the present.
When we ask him how climate change has affected these lands, he answers that it really is a unique micro-climate and that seasons, here, have remained unchanged.
10:30 a.m.: The Harvesting
It’s time for Joseph Mul to explain how the harvesting of May roses takes place: you carefully press beneath the chalice, and pinch it off with a precise movement of the wrist downwards. With precise and delicate gestures, the harvesters surround us and, very swiftly, they pick from the plants all the bloomed roses that they first lay in their aprons, and then sort in the jute bags. Roses will be collected for three weeks in May, every morning, reaching an amount of 5 kilos of flowers per hour, per person.
Right here, we have our little harvesting experience: they invite us to smell our flowers and we’re instantly overwhelmed by their sweet, honeyed, but slightly spicy notes.
Joseph also tells us about how important Chanel N°5 has become for him, on par with a dress by the Maison. The two worlds are now connected and it would be impossible to separate them. Coco didn’t really know what she really wanted to prioritize in her perfume, but she knew she wanted a mixture of incredible essences, as much as to reach an amount of over one hundred olfactory molecules in just one fragrance.
11:30 a.m.: A Small Country Factory
In order to keep the flowers as fresh as possible and the quality of the product as high as possible, in 1988 the Mul family built a small country factory, peeping out in the midst of the flower fields. Here, we’re captured by yet another world: that of the extraction of the essence of centifolia rose, which begins with the weighing of the jute bags, full of rose petals of variously intense colors.
Once in the factory (which is only a few meters away from the end of the harvest), the jute bags are weighted and then distributed on 5 holed plates, stacked on one another. Here, the flowers are brought to a boil, then bathed three times with a solvent, and then everything is brought to high temperatures. When the right temperature is reached, the solvent extracts the essential oil from flowers, turning the small into perfume.
Right at this point, you can obtain the concrete, an amber wax that’s meticulously preserved. Later on, from the concrete, you get the absolute, a liquid that’s used in the formulation of Chanel N°5.
12:30 p.m.: A Chat with Olivier Polge
It’s time to have a chat with Olivier Polge, the son of Jacques Polge, who signed this collaboration with the Mul family, besides being the nose and genius of all fragrances by Chanel.
Let’s move to the country house, a place that seems to be frozen in time, or rather to exist only in that perfume bubble.
Here, Olivier explains the origins of an idea, how he’s developed the new fragrances of the Maison over the years and, above all, he makes us experience all the scents deriving from those fields. So, it’s the turn of jasmine, iris, geranium, tuberose and, last but not least, the extract of the iconic N°5.
13:30 p.m.: Lunch Dans Les Champs de Chanel
We’re in the middle of the rose fields, having lunch with a light breeze that delivers us all the scents of the rose. A surreal place that’s still the protagonist of our chitchats about the smells that have filled our morning.
Thanks to Chanel for the invitation.
Photos by Johnny Carrano.
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