Dior celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. In Paris, the frequently visited Musée des Arts Décoratifs is currently housing Christian Dior, Designer of Dreams, a must-see exhibition on all there is to know about the maison’s different universes, its founder and the string of designers who came after him, including the house’s newest and first-ever woman designer, Maria Grazia Chiuri (the Italian creative director debuted her first collection for the house in September 2016, which was very well received). And last month, Parisian shopping emporium Galeries Lafayette Haussmann showcased 12 blue looks from Dior’s archives designed by Christian himself.
However, the year isn’t over yet – and the French powerhouse has a lot more to celebrate. In the cosmetics and fragrance department, Dior has introduced a bundle of mesmerising make-up products and perfumes, including a redesigned bottle of J’Adore L’Or. The J’Adore fragrance, which was originally created as a tribute to Mr Dior’s passion for flowers, first introduced L’Or to us in 2010. In 2013, the brand released a limited-edition Baccarat crystal bottle adorned with a bejewelled gold-plated necklace. Now, a newer version of J’Adore L’Or has arrived on boutique shelves with a revamped design (the timing couldn’t be more perfect), but rest assured, the scent remains the same.
On a morning spent in Grasse, the perfume capital of the world, I had the golden opportunity to walk through Dior’s breathtaking jasmine flower fields at the Domaine de Manon plantation with the house’s perfume creator François Demachy and flower grower Carole Biancalana. Biancalana, who is also co-founder of Les Fleurs d’Exception du Pays de Grasse (Exceptional Flowers of the Grasse Region), has been growing top-quality flowers with her family in the area for more than three generations. The jasmine and may rose absolutes, grown in this private estate, are key ingredients in J’Adore L’Or, along with vanilla, patchouli and tuberose.
“It’s a perfume where you have more jasmine and may rose from Grasse and a new [bottle] design [compared to J’Adore],” says Demachy. “The eau de parfum in itself, is very good, but I’ve just worked on it differently. Both the rose and the jasmine have a certain quality which lends a naturalness to Dior, which I feel is very important to the body of the perfume. Since that has changed the balance, what I did was, I’ve added an oriental accord, so there’s vanilla and a touch of sandalwood.”
A chance meeting at the World Perfumery Congress in 2006 triggered the business partnership between Biancalana and Demachy. Soon after, Biancalana accepted Demachy’s offer to reserve the entire Domaine de Manon Rosa centifolia and Jasminum grandiflorum crop exclusively for Dior. She’d been approached by other perfume houses previously, but had never felt comfortable enough to accept their proposals.
On an informal walk around the picturesque estate, she lets us in on some of the secrets to growing extraordinary flowers. “When you live on a farm, you have to be very passionate and you have to adapt your work to every situation,” she says. “Our production is organic, because the perfume is more intense and exceptional when flowers bloom in a natural way, without chemical sprays and fertilisers. We also have to wait for the best time in the morning to make the harvest.
“In July and August it’s very hot, so we have to pick flowers from 6am to 11am, and then deliver the fresh flowers to the perfume factory immediately. When it’s cold, in September and October, we’ll usually have to wait until 9am to make the harvest and finish at 12 noon or 1pm.”
Like other Dior J’Adore perfumes, the shape of L’Or references the silhouette of a woman and the number eight, Christian Dior’s lucky number. (Throughout his career, the founder had many good-luck symbols and a lot of them have been incorporated into Maria Grazia Chiuri’s ready-to-wear collections and accessories for the house.)
Despite the fact that the stunning golden neck on J’Adore L’Or’s glass bottle is heavily inspired by the 2013 jewellery bottle necklace, other design features have been modified to match this sensual, spicy scent. For instance, the neck collar is engraved with fine curving ripples to give the fragrance a more fluid, feminine and rich feel.
“The idea behind J’Adore L’Or was to make a perfume which would be a lot more intense, almost like an extract. What we’ve tried to do is take a slightly more oriental path,” Demachy explains. “This oriental chord – it’s a blend of many ingredients, but mainly patchouli and vanilla. We’ve made it slightly richer and we’ve tried to orientate it a bit differently.
“It’s very easily accessible and it smells good – that’s important. You can just spray and use it. There are certain perfumes that have an overwhelming personality and sometimes it goes beyond the person who is wearing it, so it’s very difficult actually to use it, but J’Adore L’Or isn’t like that. To me, what’s really important is that it has a signature and an identity of its own, and that is what makes it so great.”