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Fragrant history and fashion - ‘La Grande Histoire du parfum’ (2019) by Élisabeth de Feydeau

Dear readers, stepping into the month of May through June, it’s all about French art and culture, at least in my city which a series of French related programs can be found in the entire month, from musical performance, art exhibitions to French gourmet market and wine tasting. While these programs are made for entertaining the mass, I have a much particular interest to celebrate the month of French art and culture, starting with, getting a copy of a French book titled ‘La Grande Histoire du parfum’, written by a French perfume expert, writer and historian, Ms. Élisabeth de Feydeau, published by a French publishing house – Editions Larousse. Although this book was published back in late 2019, it intrigues me immensely as I only realize its existence only a couple of weeks ago through a coincident, and I think it comes in a perfect time to my hands given it’s right on the month about French culture and art.

The French author herself has been a fragrance expert for more than a decade, having been worked at Chanel and Bourjois, as well as being a professor at ISIPCA, a reputed French perfume institution for perfume experts and professionals; she has also appeared in numerous national TV in France to share her expertise about history of perfume, the know-how about French perfume, and her experience about perfume making. Élisabeth also established her own consulting firm in 1997, specializing in olfactory and cultural development called Arty Fragrance, located in Versailles, not only providing perfume related workshops for fragrance enthusiasts, she also created perfume products under her brand included a series of luxury scented candles, home diffusers and of course, Eau de parfum as well, which are all inspired by the spectacular baroque spirit of the 18th century and the Palace of Versailles.

A relatively easy reading copy, this book takes us back to the origin of perfume from ancient Egypt to Medieval times, and show us how it influence the east and the west. Of course, it also covers the history of French perfume, including its significance in the French royal court during the time of King Louis IV to Marie-Antoinette; something that intrigues those who wants to understand how a perfume was made; with its precious historic photos and resourceful information, this book illustrated the French perfume history that can be comprehended easily even for those without any knowledge about perfume, also, it offers the reader a brief guide to Grasse, the capital of perfume in the world, then leads us to experience the glamour and fashionable facts about the inseparable relationship in between high fashion and fragrance, who is who behind some of those esteemed perfume and fashion houses, what are their signature perfume creation and so on.

There’s a couple of chapters in this book that I find it very interesting, that included the history of the first men’s perfume, and how did perfume associates with seduction; I am not going to reveal the answer here as I think it will be more interesting if you can find out more by reading this book yourself, but for sure it’s one of the sumptuous and resourceful copy of perfume book that I have come across recently, especially for those who are keen on learning a bit more about fragrance given one has relatively basic (or no) knowledge about perfume; although it’s only in French, it is a nice copy to have.

To enjoy your French savoir-faire experience to the fullest, why not grab a couple bottles of your beloved French perfume, listening to the music ‘Le Parfum’ by composer Philippe Lhommet, and do some perfume sniff session your own while reading this book and sipping a glass of champagne? It might be the best enjoyment and celebration in the French cultural month, don’t you think?

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