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France’s Fabled Fragrances

France’s supremacy in perfumery is believed to have started in the 16th Century when Catherine De Medici, the wife of King Henri II, introduced perfume as a fashion in France.

The art of making perfume developed to become an important industry and by the 18th Century, the town of Grasse, in the hills north of Cannes on The French Riviera, was known as the world’s perfume capital.

Today many perfume brands use chemically produced scents that are considerably cheaper and can easily be mass-produced anywhere in the world.

But what sets French perfume brands apart, is that in spite of technological advancements in olfactory reproductions, their high-quality perfumes are made exclusively from a variety of natural extracts of plants and flowers that provide 2,000 different kinds of scent.

The special methods and techniques involved in French perfume making have repeatedly been handed down from one generation of perfumers to another and cannot be successfully replicated nor effectively replaced.

1. Jean Paul Gaultier, Le Male Le Parfum

Advertising Agency: Mazarine, Paris, France

Production Company: Insurrection Paris

This cinematic and visually stylish fantasy, masterfully directed by filmmaker François Rousselet, features many iconic creations of Jean Paul Gaultier’s famed Paris Fashion Shows and his signature cologne containers of male and female torsos cast in glass.

The seductive charm of the commercial, offers much enjoyable viewing for all aficionados of French Haute Couture.

2. Jean-Paul Gaultier, On The Docks

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Paris, France

Filmmaker Johnny Green directed this cinematic love story, filmed in Barcelona, Spain, for fashion designer Jean-Paul Gautier’s ‘Le Male and ‘Classique’ cologne ranges.

Starring Jarrod Scott and Ten Haken, it is a visually driven story of breathtaking imagery accompanied by a resonant soundtrack of ‘Casta Diva’ from Bellini’s ‘Norma’.

3. Dior J’adore, Absolu

Advertising Agency: Dior Network, USA

Directed by filmmaker Romain Gavras and starring Charlize Theron, the commercial introduces a new Dior J’adore fragrance creation by in-house perfumer Francios Demachy.

His highly successful composition contains Jasmine nectar from Grasse, presented in a beautiful J’adore Absolu glass container, designed by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, and handmade on the Venetian Island of Murano in Italy.

The commercial was inspired by a painting at the Louvre in Paris titled the‘Turkish Bath’ by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, that depicts a group of naked women sensually enjoying the comfort of each other’s relaxed company.

The soundtrack features Kanye West’s ‘Flashing Lights’.

4. Dior, Addict Perfume

Dior’s ‘In-house’ inspired commercial features a delightful performance by Dutch actress and Vogue model Daphné Groeneveld, in a retro-styled scenario that presents a modern take on the classic 1956 French romantic drama, ‘And God Created Women’.

Movie director Roger Vadim’s story about a young girl’s irrepressible sensuality and the art of seduction was an overnight sensation that launched the famous ‘sex kitten’ image of the film’s star, Bridget Bardot.

Directed by filmmaker Jonas Åkerlund, and filmed in the same French Riviera locations of St Tropez as the original movie, this breezy celebration of freedom and feminine self-expression, is seductively entertaining.

The soundtrack song “I Love You Ono” is by Berlin’s electro, punk-pop duo, Stereo Total.

5. KENZO, World Perfume

In 1964 Japanese designer Kenzo Takada moved to Paris to start his fashion career and in 1970, successfully founded the French Luxury House KENZO that bears his name.

Conceived in-house by Kenzo creative directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, the ‘Kenzo World’ commercial was produced and directed by filmmaker Spike Jonez starring actress Margaret Qualley.

The soundtrack of ‘Mutant Brain,’ was specially composed and written for the commercial by DJs Sam Spiegel & Ape Drums with vocals by Assassin.

The story is about a wedding guest in a green dress that leaves her table companions, and begins a surreal dance routine around the hotel. The scenario includes the spectacular symbolism of a prominent ‘eye icon’ that forms part of the brand’s packaging design.

The commercial was universally applauded by fashion and advertising trade presses for its originality, spirit of independence and freedom. It was described as an innovative break from classic impressionism to personified expressionism that created a new benchmark of what perfume advertising should be.

Two million views were recorded within a week after the commercial’s online posting, and the campaign went on to win many awards including an Epica Grand Prix for Film, and 8 Cannes Lions.

The top Cannes honour was a Titanium Lion, an exceptional award that goes to game-changing campaigns that shake up existing norms and rewrite the rules.

6. The Legend of Shalimar

Agency: Guerlain. Artistic Director Benjamin De Lapperent and Advertising Production Director Jeannine Burglé.

‘Shalimar’, which in India’s Sanskrit language means ‘Temple of Love’, was created in 1921 by Master Perfumer Jacques Guerlain, as a tribute to the 17th century Persian love story of Shah Jahan and his Empress consort, Mumtaz Mahal.

The Taj Mahal mausoleum the Shah built for his wife, who died at the age of 37, is a World Heritage masterpiece of Indo-Islamic art and architecture, and a monument of undying love, that is surrounded by a historically designed, exquisite Persian landscape also known as the ‘Shalimar Gardens’.

The spectacularly cinematic love story was directed and filmed by Bruno Aveillan on various locations in India, from Jaipur to Udaipur and the Taj Mahal in Agra, using a 35-mm high-speed, megapixel ‘anamorphic phantom’ camera.

Russian Actress and Guerlain supermodel, Natalia Vodianova stars as Princess Mumtaz Mahal, and the soundtrack was specially composed and scored by Hans Zimmer for this epic short film.

7. CHANEL No 5, Night Train

Directed by filmmaker Jean Pierre Jeunet, this classic commercial with its stylish imagery stars French actress Audrey Tautou. The story about a romantic encounter on the famous Orient Express train from Paris to Istanbul plays out against the haunting strains of Billie Holiday’s ‘I’m A Fool To Want You’.

Conceived in-house by Chanel, the commercial is a fitting homage to the brand’s long heritage of sophisticated French elegance and CHANEL No 5’s legendary seductive influence on passionate affairs of the heart.

8. CHANEL No 5, The Film

This classic, two minute long scenario, superbly directed by filmmaker Buz Luhrman and staring Nicole Kidman and Rodrigo Santoro, was conceived and produced in-house by Chanel to the cost of 27 million US dollars.

Communication industry commentators at the time were mystified about why Chanel would invest such a huge sum of money in what they perceived to be merely a short film with echoes of the movie ‘Moulin Rouge’, also staring Nicole Kidman, rather than a conventional 30 second commercial.

But with hindsight, it is now considered to be a tactically astute marketing initiative of topical cinematic interest that was groundbreaking in effectively providing viewers with a long-form story of romance that greatly heightened the level of rewarding viewing experiences and Chanel No 5’s brand stature.