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June 12, 2010

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Perfume starts a stink

A FOUL odor is wafting across the Expo site due to a sweet-smelling perfume.

The France Pavilion perfume is generating controversy over where it is made and because many Chinese are lining up for five hours -- three to get in the pavilion and another two to get in the souvenir shop -- for the privilege to buy it.

The bottle takes the shape of the pavilion and the fragrance is inspired by Shanghai's city flower, the magnolia. Both the male and female version of the 50 milliliter fragrance sells for 188 yuan (US$27.5).

However, many are upset after queuing only to buy a perfume made in China.

"My friends told me it is mixed by a Hermes perfumery and produced by the factory that makes Chanel," said Elise Xu, 27.

"But why is it made in China?"

This story has circulated and many believe it, even though it's not true. They think they are getting a bargain for a Hermes or Chanel perfume, which usually sell for 1,200 yuan or more for a similar size.

The packaging clearly states the perfume is made in China by Zhejiang Lowner Cosmetics Production in Hangzhou City.

Some still believe they are getting a bargain even after finding the label and the names of the Chinese company.

France Pavilion Director Franck Serrano told Shanghai Daily that he had no idea how the Hermes and Chanel rumors started. He confirmed that the perfume is made in China. He said he didn't know who developed and produced the fragrance.

Shanghai Daily's investigation found that Ulric de Varens, or UDV, a mass-market French cosmetics brand made the perfume. Other UDV fragrances sell for as little as US$10 for 100ml on

The company's name is printed on a 15ml test version of "Pavilion France," which was given to VIPs at the beginning of the Expo. It is not on the version sold in the pavilion.

Shop assistant Hong Liyun said the product was produced domestically with ingredients from France. She didn't know what company was producing the perfume.

Hong said the perfume would cost much more if it was produced in France, even though the quality is the same

Shanghai Daily has also found a few people selling the perfume on, a Chinese version of Ebay, for about 130 yuan. Shanghai Daily has spoken to six sellers, all claiming to be distributors of UDV products.

"It is not worth it if you are buying the fragrance, especially if you believe in the story of Hermes or Chanel," said one seller who requested anonymity. "You will not like it if you are used to those luxurious and expensive fragrances. To be honest, it is just the bottle (that makes it different)."


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