In its history, Perfume has taken many forms since its appearance in Antiquity. But did you know that perfumers and glovers have long shared a common passion? Do not be surprised and discover the story of the masters glovers-perfumers…
From Grasse to the Sun King’s court
From the Middle Ages, tanners settled in the Provençal town of Grasse. They can easily trade with Genoa and Pisa to export their leathers. But the smell of the skins, despite their quality, remains unbearable. The enthusiasm of the nobility for the gloves thus decreases significantly while the perfume knows a resounding success. A real frenzy as the cleanliness reduces and the perfume is used to mask unpleasant smells. Powders and scented waters then perfume the faces and wigs of the Court.
The perfumed glove tradition would come from Italy. At the end of the 15th century, the Marquis Pompéo Frangipani invented an almond-based fragrance to hide the strong smell of leather gloves. Thus was born the idea to perfume his gloves… but also the frangipane cream that Frangipani’s pastry chef used to brighten his cakes up! Sorry, our olfactory memory carried us back in time to gourmand memories…
In France, a tanner from Grasse named Molinard would have offered a pair of scented gloves to Catherine de Médicis. In its composition, he picked up plants and flowers directly in his environment, mixing lavender, orange blossom, rose or mimosa. Delighted by this gift, the sovereign brings it back to the Court and this new accessory spreads rapidly among the French aristocratic classes. Regarding their success, manufacturers from Grasse develop essences to perfume luxury leather, making this new handcraft their specialty. Thanks to this know-how, the small town of Grasse is rapidly gaining a worldwide reputation in the glove and perfume industry.
But perfuming the gloves is not an easy task and the manufacturers achieved this through a long and delicate process. After several tedious steps, Simon Barbe, one of Paris’s famous glovers-perfumers, said he obtained “gloves that smell of natural flowers” (1699).
To achieve this result, the skin must first be treated and rid of its unpleasant smell. After many rinses, the skin is immersed in a bath of scents: a scented water with the trendy essences. Once this step is over, the gloves are cut, sewn and dyed. Then comes what we call in french “mise en fleurs”, a milestone in the tradition of the perfumed glove. It consists of placing gloves on top of flowers on several layers in a closed box. This operation must be renewed every twelve hours. Between each “mise en fleurs”, the gloves are hung on a rope to dry. This process takes at least eight days to reach the expected result. Finally, the inside of the gloves is also powdered to remove all traces of bad smell and make the glove easier to fit.
The perfumed glove: a new trend
This new trend invades France and abroad and manufacturers distinguish their gloves by the power of the fragrance used. In France, the chosen notes are rather soft with a base of violet, iris or even orange blossom. While in Spain, more intense fragrances such as musk, cedar essence or camphor are preferred for perfuming leather.
Mastering the manufacturing method, glovers-perfumers take advantage of this savoir-faire to progressively acquire the monopoly of the distribution of perfumes. At the expense of apothecaries, distillers, alchemists and druggists, under the authority of Louis XIII and Louis XIV. The glovers-perfumers thus work the skins to make real accessories of luxury.
In 1651, Louis XIV issues the patent of Masters Glovers-Perfumers which authorizes manufacturers to boast a title of honor. The corporation of glovers-perfumers was born. It has 21 members, to reach the number of 70 twenty years later! They are then the only authorized to make perfumes and are well established since the 17th century in Saint-Honoré district in Paris.
Glovers-perfumers: the end of a love story
From 1759, leather became extremely taxed and Masters Glovers-Perfumers face a new competition settled in Nice. At the same time, perfume becomes a real beauty ritual for the French: the perfume is no longer used for the sake of convenience to hide bad smells. In this context, the trades of tanners and perfumers separate and a real perfume commerce arises. The corporation of glovers-perfumers is finally dissolved in 1791 after the French Revolution by the Law Le Chapelier, which forbids all professional associations.
After the perfumed leather, the leather in perfume
Since Catherine de Medicis, leather and perfume have always been linked. And if the first leathery notes were created by the Masters glovers-perfumers, the leather has gone through the ages, becoming an olfactory family in its own right. The leather facets are distinguished from other families by a powerful character with wild and smoked notes. Notably used in oriental fragrances, it has seduced both women and men as it combines perfectly with amber, fruity, chypre or flowery notes. Leather still remains one of the noble materials of perfumery… and sticks to your skin from the hands to the neck!
What do leathery fragrances inspire you? Besides your skin, do you perfume your clothes?