A History of Fragrance

The word “perfume” derives from the Latin “per fumum” (through smoke). This is because the Ancient Egyptians burnt perfumed resins as offerings to their gods. People would try and attract each other with the use of scent even before taking an interest in their appearance. They would use flowers and herbs, and eventually balms that would intensify with heat.

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Perfume was introduced to Britain when the Romans brought with them fragrant herbs such as bay, which was worn as crowns. It did go out of fashion in the Dark Ages. It only reappeared when the Crusaders brought back exotic fragrances from the Middle East.

The first known alcohol based perfume was created for Queen Elisabeth of Hungary and based on rosemary.

Soon after, the town of Grasse (famous for it’s leather gloves) was looking for something to mask the smell of the urine that softened the leather. The microclimate of the town was perfect for growing and creating aromatic oils and now produces some of the most expensive roses in the world.

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Fashion Timeline

1630 – The stench from the unwashed poor community became so strong, the wealthy found that the only smell to mask it was the Civet cat. Thus, perfumery was reintroduced to Britain.

1712 – Extraction of Citrus Oils was revolutionized with grinding machines and Eau de Cologne became popular.

1882 – In Paris, Paul Parquet created Fougère Royale. The first fragrance to contain Coumarin, a naturally occurring synthetic.

1901 – Queen Victoria dies, the first radio transmition between Britain and America, Einstien’s first papers on relativity and soon to be created was Guerlain’s Le Bon Vieux Temps, (The Good Old Times).

1910’s – The first world war changes womens perceptions of themselves, jersey dresses replace bustiers and the Cyphré accord is created.

1920’sChanel No 5, the fifth fragrance Gabrielle Chanel trialed from perfumer Earnest Beaux. Still baring the name No 5 for luck.

1940’s – The war is coming to an end and society is focused on liberation and youth. Miss Dior is created with Galbanum, taking freshness to the extreme.

1950’s – The decade of rock ‘n’roll. Freshness is replaced with animalic accents. Youth Dew is created for women as an affordable alternative to perfume.

1970’s – The beginning of the feminist movement. Charlie is launched and women want to buy for themselves.

1990’s – A strong sense of escapism and the importance of the freedom of speech. The idea that ‘gender’ is irrelevant lead to the creation of the first unisex fragrance CK1.