How Grasse, France, Went From a Smelly City to the Perfume Capital of the World
Around the 1500s, tanners settled in Grasse, a sun-soaked hillside town above the French Riviera, to produce leather. The area soon became known across Europe for products made from the material—but the tanning process caused the air (and the leather products) to stink of dead animals and lye, which was used as a cleaning solution. Grasse’s glove-makers were the first to try to improve the smell of their goods, and did so by combining animal fat and flowers to create a perfumed pomade that they used to scent their gloves. After taxes on leather increased, the tanners pivoted to making fragrances exclusively, and paved the way for Grasse to become the “perfume capital of the world” that it’s known as today. Scents are concocted there for a wide variety of aromatic products, from laundry detergents to shampoo.