Coming from the world’s capital of perfume, a French woman, Clemence Barbier, is charmed by Vietnam’s simple fragrance of pomelo and citronella.
On her first trip to Vietnam Barbier realised that her life would change.
A small house on the bank of Hanoi’s West Lake is Barbier’s perfume “enterprise”. From this small house, hundreds of perfume bottles bearing beautiful names like “Dong Xuan Market’s Secret”, which uses cinnamon and ginger as major materials, Sauna a Sapa, using citronella, or Da Lat’s Leaves, using lemon fragrance, are produced.
Five years in Vietnam is enough for Barbier to have absorb Vietnam’s aromas. In this house, she has created the juice of Can Tho’s fruits, cool Sapa and peaceful Hanoi.
“I’m hypnotised by this land. Here nature favors me too much and I only need to keep them and send them everywhere so international friends can understand more about Vietnam,” she said.
The French woman is familiar with the scorching sun in Vietnam, the burning sensation on the face because of hot and dry westerly winds from Laos and wet days of early spring. Early discomfort with the hot and wet weather in Vietnam has disappeared and she is attracted by the animated life and friendly Vietnamese people.
Weather complications have created an abundant and diverse system of plants in Vietnam. In this tropical country, Barbier waits for pamello flowers in spring, jasmine in the summer, milk flower in the autumn and cinnamon in the winter.
The French women’s passion for fragrances is satisfied in Vietnam. Each trip is a new discovery for her.
Barbier doesn’t remember how many trips that she has taken in Vietnam. But her small house is now a world of Vietnamese aromas.
Sensitive to scents
When she was a little girl, Barbier was very sensitive to fragrances. She and her younger sister liked to play the game of guessing fragrances whenever their parents organised parties at home, with around 20 guests.
In the cold weather, guests wore big coats. When they came, they took off their coats and left them on the rack in the family’s dining room. Barbier was always the winner in these games when she could name the owner of any coat after smelling the perfume fragrance from the coat.
At the age of 13, 14, she wandered for hours around perfume stores. once she tried 20 kinds of perfume and she could distinguish them easily.
With the passion for fragrances, Barbier became a chemistry engineer. She only studied fundamental knowledge at the university and she learnt to distill perfume herself.
However, the perfume industry in France is a closed industry, with family companies. After two years, Babier couldn’t find a job in the fragrance industry. She decided to go to India to work as a French teacher.
Returning from India, she studied further in chemistry and went to Laos. She met a Frenchman who produces perfume in Hanoi by chance, and she went to Vietnam.
She has been working diligently to produce perfume from Vietnamese plants. She hopes that through her products, many people will learn about Vietnam’s wonderful natural treasures.
Come to Vietnam to feel!
The French woman was surprised that Vietnam has many materials for making perfume but it imports a lot of perfume products. Vietnam is a hot and dry country but Vietnamese people are fond of using French perfume, which is suitable for cold and dry weather.
In the northern province of Hoa Binh, Barbier met with some people who grow and distill perfume from pamelo flowers. However, Vietnamese plant pamelo for fruits, not for flowers to process perfume.
Clemen travelled around Vietnam to feel the difference of weather in each region. She has produced different kinds of perfumes which are suitable for the weather of various areas.
She plans to market her products, branded Dame Clemence, in HCM City, not only in Hanoi. She said users can buy a famous perfume brand in Los Angeles or Shanghai, but Dame Clemence products from Vietnam will only be found in Vietnam. People will have to go to Vietnam to enjoy “Dong Xuan Market’s Secret”, “Sauna a Sapa” or “Gourmandise Can Tho,” she said.