The House of Dior recently released in French (for the English subtitles click on the ‘cc’ button under the video with the other controls) a series of short films entitled The Quest for Essences. The series features some of the classic raw materials used in Dior’s perfumes and beauty products, the countries that Dior acquires them from, and the process undertaken to grow and acquire them. This one features jasmine from India, and the other two films feature bergamot from Calabria in Italy and rose from Grasse, France.
The Jasmine in India film shows Dior’s perfumer visiting fields of jasmine flowers in India, explaining the differences between the two main varieties of jasmine, and also exploring a flower market.
The film is only two and a half minutes long so of course impossible to cover everything. But it’s important to remember that films like these highlight only a miniscule portion of what is a whole chain of events that make it possible for us to obtain and enjoy these rare and precious natural perfumery materials.
As the price of not only flower essences like jasmine and frangipani, but also spices, coffee, tea and chocolate continues to skyrocket, we should also remember the human and environmental cost. Cultivating jasmine is an extremely labour-intensive process. Around 12,000 pounds of jasmine flowers are required to produce two pounds of jasmine oil, and the flowers must be picked by hand.
I think it’s also imperative that the voices and perspectives of those who work extremely hard to grow and cultivate these natural materials, often under the most unfair and difficult labour conditions, are not erased. In the video the perfumer does all the talking and although there are many shots of the workers and flower vendors smiling as if they were asked by the director to pose, they are all voiceless – this makes them and their real-life stories invisible. I would very much like to have heard and learnt something from the actual workers and what they experience in growing, cultivating, and bringing the jasmine to market.