For over a century, this lavish and exclusive perfume house was the preserve of the elite. Philippe, the third generation of the Charrier family, the founding family, shares his family’s scented love affair and Faîr's soulful journey with Luxiders. As a little boy, Philippe Charrier grew up in and around his family’s perfumery. His memories are adorned with all things perfume.
For Philippe, perfume is in his blood, it is the Charrier legacy—something that shaped him. His grandfather and father paved the way, and Philippe wants to continue their legacy.
The story of Faîr Parfum reads like a fairy tale, it has romance, hardships and a happy ending. In the summer of 1884, a French nobleman fell in love with a Russian dancer, Anna Karpova, who worked in the circus. While their love was strong, Francis' family didn't approve; they couldn't cope with the idea of having a common circus worker enter the blueblood family. Against his father’s will, Francis married Anna and left the family's fortune and aristocratic life. Penniless and homeless, Francis worked as a perfumer’s assistant, and that was how the story of Faîr began.
"One of my most profound memories I have is when I was nine, I went to the perfumery, and saw colourful petal's being tossed high into the air from huge linen sheets, each sheet held by four people. The scent was intoxicating.”
"My grandfather dedicated Faîr to my grandmother in 1888. And I could say that I am here as the result of that love," recalls Philippe. Love is built into the fabric of Faîr: when Philippe’s mother struggled to find a perfume that suited her taste, his father tried all types of concoctions to please her. Finally after years of toil he found a scent to match his wife’s elegance, beauty and sophistication; Bisou was born. It was a labour-of-love. Hence, Bisou has a special place in Philippe's heart, "it holds the memory of my mother's style and grace."
Faîr is not merely a perfume brand. It is a philosophy forged through hardships and difficulties. Suffering hardship after he was disowned, Francis was committed to make the world a better place, starting from the one around him. He was a visionary. Long before the sustainability issue rose, he built Faîr on principles of sustainability and fairness for workers, suppliers and the environment. Faîr, since the beginning, paid their employees higher salaries, reduced working hours and used profits to fund the education of their employees’ children. "I want to continue to make the world a fairer place and ensure that perfumery is not lost to corporatism," Philippe says. It's not just about selling perfume, for the founders—Francis and Anna—it was a way to fight industrialisation, inequity and greed.
Today, Faîr pays growers in developing countries 50% above the market rate, and their lowest salaries are at least 25% above the French minimum wage. Many of the employees have been with Faîr for many generations.
He feels today we live in a soulless and faceless age, where mega-corporations use-up all the planet's resources carelessly. Thus, he thinks it is crucial to honour and sustain Faîr's heritage and legacy.
Philippe believes that most brands overcharge customers, evidenced by the soaring profits in the industry. Furthermore, he notes, people have grown up with expensive but low-quality scents, to educate them on what a good perfume is and how to distinguish between good and bad perfume, this is the big challenge Philippe has taken on.
"Perfume is about making people feel good, giving them aspirations, spreading joy; and not about profit."
Faîr’s perfumes were sold exclusively to Le Club 1888 members for 130 years, now the public can also enjoy the aromatic blend of Faîr. For Philippe to launch the perfume to the public was both exciting and challenging: "we had to convince all the Le Club 1888 members, all the staff and the family. We needed everyone to buy into this new concept of selling ultra-luxury perfumes at accessible prices so that more people could benefit and appreciate fine perfumery."
Le Club 1888 was established seven years after Faîr was founded. Membership is exclusively by invitation and recommendation. Members of Le Club have signature perfumes handcrafted just for them, with extravagant lengths taken to determine the perfect blend of fragrances for each individual buyer. Every perfume has its own bespoke bottle, handmade locally and engraved in gold. The Charrier family and the membership work hand in hand to ensure the success of Faîr and to ensure Francis' legacy continues. Up until now, they only produce 5.000 bottles for each variant. This is because of the brand's aversion to mass production, everything is still handcrafted, and it will remain that way.
Faîr opts to preserve the technique of artisan perfumery. They believe perfume is about soul and passion. According to Philippe, it is essential to consider the customers emotions and aspirations when they use perfume. This leads to a journey of exploration, finding the most refined ingredients worldwide to match the emotions and qualities we want to imbue into the perfume. Paul Cassio, the chief perfumer, has been working for the company for over 40 years. He spends months configuring the ingredients to achieve perfection. To create a signature perfume by hand takes six to nine months. Indeed, it takes time and dedication to create an exquisite perfume and this is why many brands choose to use synthetic ingredients.
At the break of dawn pickers start to pick the flowers. At dawn, the flowers are relaxed, and the fragrance is at its most intense. Each flower needs to be detached one by one, delicately. The flower requires gentle-handling; thus, manual work cannot be replaced by machines. The harvesting is a long process; they pick two-kilos, this is about 16,000 flowers, on any given day. One litre of perfume requires 650 kilos of petals. Some flowers like Centifolia Rose only grow in Grasse—blooms for only two weeks in May. Faîr admits that it is a time and labour-intensive process, but the result is rewarding. Bisou, Dawn Rose, Gallant and Royale are the epitome of this labour-of-love. Bisou and Dawn Rose are created for women and available in 50 ml. Gallant and Royale are designed for men.
Bisou, which comprises black pepper, bergamot, and cardamom, represents the natural beauty, sophistication, and elegance of a woman. The scent is subtle, calming but ever present.
Dawn Rose carries top citrus notes all the way to its base. It announces womanhood with pride and vigour.
Gallant's fragrance is a combination of bergamot, pineapple, apple and blackcurrant. It aims to bring together the raw aspirations of a man: brave, chivalrous, valiant yet kind, caring and compassionate.
The last from Faîr's collection is Royale. This perfume is about integrity and the confidence it brings. The top notes announce you, the heart notes capture your audience, and the base notes captivate them. The aroma is a blend of vanilla and benzoin.
The world has changed but Faîr's values remain intact and relevant, passed down through the generations. Arguably, the inequity Francis saw in the world around him still exists today in different guises. The entire process from flower picking to bottling is all based on kindness and mutual respect. The raw materials are sourced from trusted sources; most of the ingredients come from local sources. Faîr's perfumery is nestled in Grasse—the historic centre of the world perfume industry—the region is perfect for growing perfume botanicals, such as jasmine and roses. All the production process is manual. The packaging, including the delivery box, is all FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified, and the bottles are recyclable. Not to mention the company is certified by IFRA (International Fragrance Association).
To enhance the customer experience, Faîr encourages customers to try the perfume for an entire day. This allows the customer to fully understand the complexity and depth of Faîr’s scents. If they are not happy, they can return the perfume and get their money back. The perfume contains less alcohol than other perfumes and is kinder to the skin.
Tradition and heritage carry sophistication and elegance, values which transcend generations. The brand prides itself on handcrafted quality and on the use of natural ingredients; this is what sets Faîr apart from other perfumes on the market. For his next goal, Philippe shares with Luxiders that he, aims to make ethical-luxury mainstream by educating people about quality and sustainability issues in the perfume industry. "This will hopefully force other perfume brands to implement sustainable practices."
+ Words: Alvia Zuhadmono, Luxiders Magazine
Sustainable Communication student | Sweden-based writer
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