L’Artisan Parfumeur has just launched a super-limited edition of Mûre et Musc Extrême scented leather gloves. A great opportunity to take a look at the special relationship between tannery and perfumery, especially during the 16th and 17th centuries: at that time, scented gloves were en vogue and brought the professions of glover and perfumer so close together that a hyphen eventually gave birth to glover-perfumers – gantier-parfumeurs in French.
Grasse gets specialized in leather tanning as early as the Middle age, and the quality of its skins, often exported to Italy, allows it to develop a great reputation. The tanner Galimard is the first to come up with the idea of perfuming his gloves, first in order to conceal the strong smell of skin that bothers the bourgeoisie wearing them. Founder of the glover-perfumers corporation, official supplier of the Royal Court for olive oils, balms and perfumes – he invents the first formulas – he offers a pair to Catherine de Médicis and the whole court gets crazy about this new accessory, scented with the flowers abounding in Grasse: lavender, jasmine, rose, mimosa, orange blossom…
It is not until the competitive development of tanneries in Nice ( just 28 kilometres from Grasse) around the 18th century that Grasse abandons leather to focus exclusively on fragrance : in 1724, glovers-perfumers officially leave the tanners corporation. Less than a century later, Grasse is the international capital of perfume.
As far as I know, you don’t encounter that many scented gloves in the streets today. I started to wonder how the Artisan Parfumeur came up with the idea of getting them back in fashion and most importantly, if the scenting process used today had anything in common with the technique of 400 years ago. I knocked on the door of the L’Artisan Parfumeur store in Paris, rue de l’Amiral de Coligny, where I was able to meet the lovely Justine Lacaille from the communication department, who told me everything about the gloves. I could also put my nose on a pair, and I discovered a discreet by quite present Mûre et Musc Extrême, somewhat milky (probably the underlying scent of leather), which made me think of a berry yogurt – although a little more elegant, I reckon. The glove in itself, made by Causse, is beyond reproach: the leather is supple and shiny, the seams are impeccable, it comes in a nice wrap-up and it is, on the whole, a beautiful product.
Flair: How did L’Artisan Parfumeur come up with the idea of scented gloves?
Justine Lacaille: The gloves are part of our Collection de Grasse, which we launched this October. The house has always drawn inspiration from the travels of our perfumers: we sent Betrand Duchaufour to Bhutan, Panama, Istanbul, and he brought back wonderful fragrances. But now, it is time to go back to France, the birthplace of perfumery, in the capital of fragrance that is Grasse. It is a collection inspired by the Grasse countryside, its mountains and the Mediterranean sea, with the idea of going back to the roots of perfumery, back when perfumers were glovers. At that time, the techniques for perfuming leather, via enfleurage, only made the surface of the skin smell, you had to re-perfume it regularly to maintain that smell.
Here, the innovation is that with Causse, a beautiful French enterprise, we have developed the perfume concentrate and the nourishing oils that let the smell go deep in the glove. The leather is dyed with the concentrate, its bathes for 4 hours, which lets the perfume penetrate every layer of the skin: the gloves will keep on smelling after three years.
So the gloves bathe in a blend of perfume and oils?
The technical term is “nourishing oils”: they make the leather supple and nourish it.
We added the concentrate without the alcohol. It has been a long development process; we didn’t want a leathery version of Mûre et Musc Extrême but something true to the fragrance. It is one of our best-sellers, a little fruitier and sweeter than Mûre et Musc and this is why we chose it. As shown in the video, the leather bathes in a barrel with that concentrate, the dye and nourishing oils.
Was it already the case in the 16th and 17th centuries?
No, they would let the leather bathe but without the movement created by the barrel. Besides, they used flowers so the scent was very superficial.
Has the Mûre et Musc Extrême formula been modified?
Yes, because we had to adapt the concentrate so that it would create a harmonious smell once blended with the nourishing oils. We had to find oils as neutral as possible.
Is L’Artisan the only one to make scented gloves today?
Yes. Francis Kurkdjian made scented gloves for a scented event in Versailles, but is was leather simply sprayed with perfume. With ours, there is no care required, you can always spray them with fragrance and it won’t stain. It is a very supple lamb leather, 100% French, like the whole product: the lambs are French, and Causse makes the gloves.
I believe so, yes. We’ll wait and see. For now, it is a beautiful product that says a lot about our brand: we are not afraid of doing things differently, and we’re using our heritage to put something out there today… It sends a good message about our brand. Causse makes gloves for Chanel and Hermès, it is one of the last glovers in Millau to have survived the crisis and the numerous relocations offshore.
Is L’Artisan Parfumeur from Grasse?
The house was founded in 1976 by Jean Laporte : he was a chemist passionate about raw materials, and he had decided to make perfumery an art. He saw that perfumery was making a wrong turn when brands started to use more and more synthetic and cheap materials, and he decided to launch his own brand to stay true to what he believed in. L’Artisan Parfumeur was one of the first niche brands in France. It has a beautiful story and now is an opportunity to tell it. This year, the house goes back to basics! Our two candles, Automne and Hiver, will come out simultaneously with the gloves, in October, and in March 2013 we’ll launch the Printemps and Eté candles along with a new fragrance.
Gloves available in sizes 6.5 to 8 (S to XL). 150 pairs were made.
Available in Artisan Parfumeur stores (320€).