The luxury brand Christian Dior has rolled out its new perfume and the scent takes its name from the balmy southern seaside destination of Pondicherry. This is the second major perfume named after an Indian city, the other being Boucheron’s Jaipur.
Jasmine, tea, summer, spice and the sea — all the smells that waft through Pondi have been captured and presented in this fragrance, Escale à Pondichéry, launched in that city recently. Its creator François Demachy explains the concept behind the Escales perfumes — Portofino and Pondichéry. The range “is directly linked with the Dior Cruise Collection and inspired by the raw materials that are found in exceptional regions of the world”. Why not Goa, the sun ‘n’ sand capital of India? Because Pondicherry is “a distant and exotic destination, an ideal of escapism and travel”, says Demachy. And, of course, there is the French connection from its colonial days.
Four major Indian ingredients went into the making of this perfume — Demachy lists them as Cardamom Essence en tête; Jasmine Sambac Absolute en Coeur; Sandalwood Essence en fond; and Black Tea Extract as a fil rouge (common thread).
If this perfume is Dior’s 2009 tribute to India, the house looked eastwards as far back as 1947. That year, Christian Dior, then an unknown couturier, presented his first collection and became a force to reckon with. Next, Chandernagore, or Chandannagar, another Indian city with a French past, found a mention in his Fall-Winter 1947 collection. In 1962, Dior held two shows in Delhi and Mumbai; the last creation presented was ‘Voyage en Inde’.
Demachy visits India once a year to source raw materials. His impression of the country is: “In the city, you feel the noise, the movement, the animation but also an impression of serenity, the food is both spicy and delicate, the people smiling and respectful. You can feel a palpable spirituality and sensuality.”
Scents of India
While Dior and Boucheron have fragrances named after Indian cities, other top fashion houses have launched India-inspired perfumes. Un Jardin après la mousson (A garden after the monsoon) is the name of a scent by Hermès, inspired by rains in Kerala. Amour Indian Holi is a perfume by Kenzo, and the bright red bottle even has ‘holi hai’ written on it in Hindi!