The Best French Fragrances for Women
Indissociable from France and, more particularly, from Paris, there are countless iconic and brand-new perfumes that let you work your femininity, assert your character, and single yourself out.
30 January 2018
The Best French Fragrances for Women
The essential fragrances
“Chanel n°5” by Chanel
Probably the most iconic of all, thanks to the famous Marilyn Monroe who had confided wearing only her “Chanel n ° 5 to sleep”. This perfume was created in 1921 by Ernest Beaux at the request of Coco Chanel, and it’s probably the best known of all French perfumes around the world.
The biggest stars have all taken turns, since its creation, to play the role of this exceptional perfume; Carole Bouquet and Catherine Deneuve to Gisele Bundchen or Nicole Kidman.
Classic, opulent and with floral head notes, you absolutely need to smell this perfume at least once in your life.
“Angel” by Thierry Mugler
It seems as though Thierry Mugler has something of the Midas touch, everything turns to gold!
Recognised for his talents as a stylist, he decided to launch his own crazy project, that of his own fragrance. For this, he worked with Olivier Cresp to develop an original scent.This is how the perfume “Angel” was born, in 1992.
Naomi Watts, Eva Mendes or Georgia May Jagger have each powerfully played the muse of this unique fragrance.
“Angel”, with its sweet and rich scent, with hints of fruit, caramel and honey, is something out of this world, and it always ranks among the best French sales.
Its iconic blue bottle, in the shape of a crystal star, undoubtedly also contributes to its notoriety and success.
“Classique” by Jean-Paul Gaultier
In 1993 Jean Paul Gaultier imagined the essence of women, a real olfactory challenge.
Jean-Paul Gaultier, the enfant terrible of the fashion world, and visionary of genius, wanted a perfume for women which smelled like the toilet bag of her grandmother, that’s to say of powder of rice, lipstick and nail varnish.
He created an enchanting perfume, incarnating rose, orange blossom, vanilla and amber wood.
And where better to keep this mist than in this glass sculpture (see below) with its sensual curves, representing the body of women.
An iconic bust in which Jean Paul Gaultier roots his iconography.
For 20 years, “Classique” has continued to evolve, and Jean Paul Gaultier has some fun dressing up bottles in a humorous and refined way. Summer variations or Christmas variations, collectors wait for and hope to get their hands on these ephemeral corsets.
As for the can, Jean Paul Gaultier had the idea of diverting the rays used to scan barcodes in order to make this precious bottle, it has a pink hue, giving it a subtly pearly flesh, as well as an engraved relief of the dress. It’s as though the hips are shaking on the packaging.
Called “Belle en Corset”, this universal bottle concentrates all the philosophy of the Jean Paul Gaultier House.
“Classique” is an ultra-feminine, ultra-sensual and ultra-heady perfume.
“Shalimar” by Guerlain
“Shalimar” is a true philter of femininity.
Created in 1921, it was only in 1925, during the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris, that Jacques Guerlain finally decided to present his perfume.
It was inspired by the story, four centuries ago, of Emperor Shah Jahan who fell head over heels in love with Princess Mumtaz Mahal in India.
He created the wonderful gardens of Shalimar for, dedicated the Taj Mahal to her; one of the seven new wonders of the world. This incredible story sparked the imagination of Jacques Guerlain who created “Shalimar”, the first oriental perfume in its history.
Shalimar, which in Sanskrit means “Temple of Love”, symbolises the essence of desire, the promise of eternal love. Its perfume is almost sulphurous, always incandescent, it embodies sensuality on the skin, a hint of the forbidden.
“Wearing Shalimar means letting your senses take over,” says Jacques Guerlain.
Very intimate, it’s applied by hand, perhaps applied to where we want to be kissed.
“Opium” by Yves Saint Laurent
There are perfumes that change mentalities. “Opium” is one of them!
Indeed, when it was released in 1977, the fragrance created controversy both for its controversial name and its innovative design. Why, you ask? The bottle is openly inspired by the Japanese inro, in which samurai were known to store their opium.
So, it was against this backdrop of controversy that the perfume was offered to the general public, a public who embraced it immediately.
“Opium” is more than a perfume, it’s a myth, an unmatched success that encompasses the entire history and values of the Yves Saint Laurent brand.
It is a perfume dedicated to women who push the boundaries of propriety, who dare to explore the forbidden, leaving behind inhibitions.
With its amber accents of jasmine and spicy carnation, this scent of success and scandal allows women to express their sensual and voluptuous personality.
On the skin’s surface, the fusion is mesmerising.
“L’air du Temps” by Nina Ricci
Considered as one of the best known perfumes of its time with Chanel’s N°5 or Guerlain’s Shalimar, “L’air du temps” continues to appeal to women of all ages.
“My goal has always been to give reality the colours of dreams,” confided Robert Ricci, for whom the creation of a perfume was an act of true or imagined love, which needs to reflect something about the woman who wears it. In 1948, he created “L’Air du Temps” which celebrates femininity, the sense of pleasure and the discovery of the carefree. That’s to say, so many of the feelings that were eclipsed during the dark days of the war.
The bottle has also been thought of as a tribute to the end of the war, with its dove, a symbol of peace, at its head.
It’s the perfect example of a perfume belonging to the classic period of perfumery, composed around a well defined structure of top notes, heart and background.
“L’Air du Temps” has indeed inspired a myriad of other perfumes including those of Guy Laroche Fiji, Charlie, Gucci…
“Amor Amor” by Cacharel
Created in 2003, “Amor Amor” is love as seen by Cacharel – the scent of passion and love at first sight, sensual and intense, a game of seduction.
More than a perfume, it’s a love story between a man and a woman.
But it’s also the story of a meeting, several even.
First of all, that of two great perfumers, Laurent Bruyère and Dominique Ropion.
Laurent Bruyère considered Dominique Ropion as his mentor and admired him deeply. He will offer “Amor Amor” his passion for perfumery, his talents as a magician who worked with animalistic and sensual raw materials.
As for Dominique Ropion, he was the master of a flawless art, in which encyclopaedic and scientific knowledge of his materials made him someone who cut and broke down everything until he found the perfect companions.
Together they will imagine a new perfume for a young woman, which will go further than the traditional romantic flower or the acidulous candy.
To the Iberian ear, “Amor Amor” sounds like a declaration of love.
Symbolised by a bright pink, a passionate red, this perfume tells the story of life or the story of a night. The lover’s perfume, it reminds us that the sense of smell is the essential meaning of sensuality. Like a love potion, the composition is coloured with a vibrant red and combines the magic notes of flowers and fruits. Let yourself be tempted…
“Joy” by Jean Patou
Rare are perfumes that, without being refreshed, remain up to date, yet this is the case of “Joy”, the signature fragrance of Jean Patou.
Jean Patou’s “Joy” has long been declared “the most expensive perfume in the world”.
Even if this is no longer the case today, the perfume accomplished a mean feat being launched under this slogan in 1930, a year on from that which was synonymous with financial crisis and stock market crash.
Provocative, this selling point has also created the craze. Behind this paradoxical marketing argument lies a liquid that requires, for every ounce, more than ten thousand Grasse jasmine flowers (originally hand-picked) and twenty-eight dozen May roses.
The bottle that contains this fragrance has been the same since its creation: it’s filled by hand and the cap is affixed “à l’emeri”, an ancient technique.
In Baccarat crystal, the gold elements are hand-painted, the signature gold wire that tops the cap, and completes the creation of Jean Patou.
Today, this perfume remains the olfactory finery of luxury par excellence, a timeless mark of prestige and opulence.
“Arpège” by Lanvin
There’s a beautiful story behind creation of this exceptional perfume.
In 1927, the designer of the haute couture house, Jeanne Lanvin, wanted to give her daughter Marie-Blanche a wonderful personalised gift. For her daughter’s 30th birthday, Jeanne Lanvin decided to make her a perfume to show her all her love. Jeanne wanted perfection for her daughter.
This is where “Arpège” was born. Since then, it has become legendary, its composition marries exceptional floral essences of subtlety, prestige and nobility.
Its bottle is of the same ilk.
It’s a black ball topped with a golden ribbon. More importantly, it also sports a gold print, created by Paul Iribe, representing the founder of the brand holding hands with her daughter. This print has since been used for the branding of the fashion house.
In a nutshell, it’s an internationally remarkable perfume.
“Femme” by Rochas
“Femme” by Rochas represents sensuality and femininity. Often considered a masterpiece of perfume, this fragrance perfectly combines chypre and fruitier notes.
The early 1940s is marked by a meeting between Marcel Rochas and his future wife, Helen. She quickly becomes the muse of the creator who will go on to dedicate a perfume to her, “Femme”. The fragrance was released in 1944 and it was an immediate success.
Rochas’s “Femme” is a sensual and very seductive fragrance. A single spray is enough to soak up the fruity smell present in its top note. Its originality lies in the presence of plum and peach, which bring a warm and velvety touch.
It almost feels like jam.
If the name of the perfume is somewhat mundane, leave it to the fragrance itself to disrupt and disturb.
Even though it was launched in 1944, Rochas’s “Femme” remains a classic and an ode to femininity. Know that this fragrance was reformulated in 1989, but it remains one of the biggest chypres in the history of perfumery.
“Femme” by Rochas even inspired the famous pastry chef Pierre Hermé, who created a tart, taking up the “ingredients” of the perfume (plum, peach and rose).
“COCO Mademoiselle” by Chanel
Created in 2001, the perfume “Coco Mademoiselle” has embodied the modern spirit of Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel nicknamed Coco Chanel, the incarnation of haute couture since the creation of Chanel in 1910.
It was Chanel’s perfumer at the time, Jacques Polge who’s at the origin of this fragrance, an ode to romanticism.
The floral bouquet of “Coco Mademoiselle” brings freshness and sensuality. It’s the essence of a free and bold woman.
Freshness and lightness compose this perfume, accompanied by amber peach, which brings the fruity scent. The whole gives a feminine oriental flavour with an assertive character and yet a surprising freshness.
“Coco Mademoiselle” draws all her inspiration from the unusual personality of Gabrielle Chanel. The fragrance asserts itself as the olfactory echo of an independent spirit that freed itself from social codes to create its own.
The shape of the bottle calls to mind that of the perfume Chanel N ° 5.
“Coco Mademoiselle” is the perfume of a woman ready to write her own destiny, with her own audacity.
“J’adore” by Dior
Calice Becker and Ann Gottlieb would probably never have imagined the resounding success of their composition when it was born it in 1999.
So that the new perfume reflected Dior, it had to contain floral notes; flowers being one of the great loves of Christian Dior, who said one day “After women, flowers are the most divine creations. ”
The Eau de Parfum “J’adore” is in turn a feminine floral scent with a generous and balanced bouquet, a perfect blend of sensuality and elegance, whose richness is a source of inspiration.
The glass flask, easily recognisable thanks to its bottle-shaped amphora was devised by Hervé van der Straeten, a famous jeweller who had previously worked for Dior. The bottle was inspired by the Massaïs necklaces, used by John Galliano for his collections. It’s a bottle reminiscent of the voluptuous female figure.
And more subtley, if you’d never noticed, the bottle has no label.
“J’adore” was first on the podium of the best-selling women’s fragrances in France in 2013, dethroning the illustrious Chanel “N°5”.
A refined and sensual perfume turned myth.
“La vie est belle” by Lancôme
This perfume was only launched in 2012 but is already an absolute essential.
“La vie est belle”, a true philosophy of life that frees itself from constraints and diktats. Every woman is free to choose the path she wants to take to achieve happiness, to be oneself and to live life to the full.
Lancôme created the first iris gourmand. “La vie est belle” is a perfect balance between the nobility of the iris, the depth of patchouli and delicious rich chords.
However, this perfume is not the work of one, but of three perfumers.
It was developed by Olivier Polge, Dominique Ropion and Anne Flipo, these three noses are among the most renowned on the planet.
Its unique design bottle represents a crystal smile, a simple symbol of happiness.
It’s mainly due to this detail that the history of this perfume becomes particularly interesting.
Indeed, the story of the bottle of “La vie est belle” dates back to 1949. At that time, Armand Petitjean asked Georges Delhomme to make a bottle. He imagined a flask called “The Crystal Smile”, because of its base, which formed a broad smile. It wasn’t very well received at first, and eventually placed in the archives of the Lancôme house.
It remained there until 2012, when it was modernized, with the addition of a gray organza ribbon tied around his collar, to contain “La Vie est Belle”.
Today, this perfume is Lancôme’s bestseller.
The design conveys the values of the brand as well as representing it throughout the planet.
The new must-haves
“Nina” by Nina Ricci
Released in 2006, this fragrance is a modern fairy tale, a magical scent for romantic princesses.
An enchanting fragrance with fruity and gourmand accents: lemon, apple, strawberry … A bottle full of fruit!
The second wave of scents is sweeter again with scents of lemon meringue tart, crème brûlée, and floating island.
The contrast is well orchestrated between the freshness of citrus and fruit, and the delicacy of vanilla, praline, and milky, caramelised notes.
Nina is an object of absolute lust that stays irresistible on the skin. A deliciously enchanting elixir, inspired by the apple, between soft flesh and crispy exterior, to seduce and charm. You will fall for this enchanting scent.
“La Petite Robe Noire” by Guerlain
“La petite robe noire” is always first pick.
This creation delivers an embroidered perfume of the most beautiful “black” notes of perfumery: black cherry, patchouli, bergamot, black tea.
Second scent, rose enters the scene.
Then finally the tonka beans reveal themselves, leading you into an almond seduction.
The mythical bottle, the “inverted heart” of Guerlain, is revisited with audacity and modernity. In its crystalline transparency, degraded from black to powder pink, a little iconic black dress is revealed.
“I’m absolutely indispensable and totally irresistible. I’m Guerlain’s chic perfumed creation, and I’m terribly glamorous. I’m La petite robe noire. Wear with delight!”
“Black Opium” par Yves Saint Laurent
“Black Opium” is a perfume by Yves Saint Laurent, noble descendant of the iconic “Opium”.
A dose of adrenaline, made for a heroine as glamorous as impertinent in the search of ecstasy.
For a woman who follows her desires and her instinct, goes against norms and assumes her differences.
Charismatic and unique, “Black Opium” embodies the spirit Yves Saint Laurent.
The energy of black coffee electrifies an armful of white flowers with assertive femininity. A vibrant, sensual and addictive chiaroscuro.
Sparkling black, incandescent heart, radical lines… Troubling, fascinating, with a unique glittery texture, the bottle of “Black Opium” is the object of desire par excellence: terribly glamorous… Addictive? Definitely.
“Very Irrésistible” by Givenchy
Givenchy pays tribute to its roots in the world of sewing and film by creating a unique combination of elegance and spontaneity: “Very Irrésistible”.
Born under the prettiest of stars… A star split into 5 roses, like a faceted rose with 5 branches, stitched with celestial anise.
It’s the first aromatic floral perfume. A sparkling fragrance and infinitely feminine, since we all dream of being irresistible.
“Gabrielle” by Chanel
Chanel’s new feminine fragrance is a luminous composition.
A solar flower imagined around four white flowers and inspired by Gabrielle Chanel.
In its square bottle with ultra-fine glass walls, the fragrance levitates as if weightless. The four transparent faces seem to disappear letting the sunny juice inside shine.
It’s purely floral. An exotic creamy and enveloping jasmine heart. The green, fruity notes of ylang-ylang sparkle by its side. Then the orange blossom vibrates, fresh and sparkling. Finally we catch a glimpse of the tuberose Grasse, caught at its best.
It is THE absolute flower, a radiant and sparkling flower, purely feminine.
“Gabrielle” is the perfume of a solar woman.
“Mon Paris” by Yves Saint Laurent
Just like an impulse that one tries in vain to repress, the Eau de Toilette “Mon Paris” is a challenge to impatience.
Between dizziness and light, instinct and ecstasy, the tangy notes of blackberry, raspberry and pink pepper illuminate in an airy and delicate bouquet of white peony and Datura flower, and then surrender to the carnal and animal impulses of patchouli and white musks.
A new lavallière in Plumetis, combining the casual and the light, comes sealed in the faceted bottle of “Mon Paris”.
The hovering scent of a Mad Love that leads you beyond.
“Yes I am” by Cacharel
“Yes I Am” is the perfume of bold and independent women, ready to assert themselves. Its shape is inspired by lipstick, and it will become your new essential. Take it with you wherever you go and succumb to its aphrodisiac powers. An explosion of femininity thanks to its spicy and creamy cardamom milk, called “Spicy Cremoso”. The Raspberry and Mandarin accords bring something delicious to the fragrance, enhanced by Ginger, Gardenia and Jasmin flower accords; softer notes.
Discover the last born of the house Cacharel.
Your new perfume is waiting for you
After the golden age of master perfumers, we have seen in recent years a massive advance in marketing that, whilst it does not detract from the quality of the fragrances offered, changes the image of traditional French perfumery.
To find real perfume artisans, you can go to the Fragonard Historical Museum for a visit full of truly stunning scents.
The trade of personalised perfumes, making them oneself with the help of professionals, has also developed a lot since its last years.
Ladies, you now have everything you need to know to go and choose your next 100% French perfume!