Thursday 20 August 2020


When we think of Grasse the first thoughts that come to our heads are of idyllic flower fields, women collecting blooms in their aprons, and the thrill of working in perfume’s spiritual home. We’ve had this story recounted so many times to us that it’s become the accepted narrative of the town, but it’s literally this “rose tinted glasses” view of the scented destination that often means we miss the challenges that they actually face. This was the reason that Parfums de Vie was founded and why, ten years later, the charity launched their wonderful duo of non-profit fragrances under the name of Villa des Parfums.

Nicole Derieux was born in Scotland and, back when she studied English and French at the University of Glasgow, could never have dreamed that she would eventually co-found a charity in Grasse and launch two fragrances. After marrying her husband Vincent, who was born in the area, they realised that there was another side to the town that was often overlooked. “Far too many disadvantaged children grow up excluded from the resources to succeed, and with a lack of hope for their future.” The pair founded Parfums de Vie and, through education and mentoring, started to give hope and encouragement to the children of the town.

Fundraising is always an issue with any charity but, taking inspiration from the area, Nicole and Vincent decided to create two fragrances that could be sold to contribute to the finances. They approached Molinard, who have been based in the town for more than 170 years, and that were still most famous for their ground-breaking Habanita fragrance. Managing Director Célia Lerouge-Bénard helped them to realise their ambition and Toujours Espoir along with Étoile Céleste were finally launched in 2018. The challenge of any fundraising fragrance is that it still needs to be a fantastic scent, and these two certainly don’t disappoint.

Toujours Espoir is described as “a declaration of modern femininity” and opens with a peppered citrus blend before allowing the floral heart to come into focus. The starring combination of jasmine and rose is carefully balanced here so that it has a relaxed delicacy, which is a tricky thing to do with these powerful florals, and there’s even a touch of freesia hiding within the bouquet. The development of the scent sees a beautiful patchouli and sandalwood duo come into play, which gives a woodiness to the fragrance, before a final note of moss gives a modern nod to the classic French chypre.

Étoile Céleste promises “a tribute to timeless French elegance” and it definitely delivers. The opening rush of bergamot and violet has an almost powdery edge, but this gives way to a citrus-enhanced orange blossom that blends perfectly with the darker jasmine. Also, the rose in this fragrance feels darker, more like a Guerlain Turkish rose. Before the floral is given chance to dominate, the combination of cedarwood and vetiver arrives to add an earthy dryness that puts you in mind of the smell of vintage fur stoles. A final touch of sweetened musk provides an understated elegance that is irresistible.

Toujours Espoir and Étoile Céleste are available from the Villa des Parfums website at priced at €135 for 50ml. [Samples provided by Nicole Derieux]

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