Gabrielle Chanel, the famous French fashion designer, known as Coco CHANEL, was a woman way ahead of her time. She was a dressmaker, a designer and a business woman managing her own stores. She was always extravagant, be it while driving her blue Rolls Royce, spying for the Germans during World War II or living in the luxurious Ritz Hotel in Paris. Chanel was a lady in French high-society and a lover of powerful men.
Tribute to a visionary woman
In 1921, she created a perfume that – 100 years later – is still considered the World’s most iconic fragrance. Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe used to say that she slept with a drop of CHANEL No.5 and
nothing else. Andy Warhol, the king of pop art, created colourful paintings of the perfume bottle, which are on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Gabrielle CHANEL, from rural and humble background, was sent to a convent to be educated by nuns when her mother died. She once said that her main olfactory memory from those times as a teenager in the convent, was the fresh smell of soap in the bath water.
In the early 1920s, the great trend for fashion houses was to create their own perfume for loyal customers. Gabrielle Chanel decided to do it and immediately thought of the fresh soapy scent of her youth.
In the summer of 1920, CHANEL went on holiday to the Côte d’Azur with her lover, the Grand Duke Dimtri Pavlovich. She has met there Ernest Beaux, a perfumer with a sophisticated personality who had worked for the Russian Royal Family. He was then challenged by Gabrielle to create a different fragrance and in the spring of 1921, after several months of work, Beaux presented 10 samples numbered from 1 to 5 and from 20 to 24. Gabrielle chose No.5, without hesitation.
The Secret of Chanel No.5
Rumour has it that sample No.5 is the result of a laboratory mistake, as Beaux’s assistant carelessly added an excessive quantity of aldehyde, a chemical ingredient used in perfumery, and one of its versions smells like soap.
The fashion designer then stated: “This is exactly the perfume I was looking for. The fragrance of the emancipated woman”. It was the aroma that symbolized the balance between the smell of her adolescence in the convent and her luxurious adult life as a lover of powerful men.Gabrielle Chanel was a bold and visionary woman. She secretly planned a marketing gimmick. To celebrate having found the perfume she so desired, she invited her lover, the Grand Duke, perfumer Ernest Beaux and a group of friends for lunch at an elegant restaurant on the French Riviera. Then, with a spray bottle of CHANEL No.5, she perfumed the room, around the lunch table. All the ladies who passed by would go to the table and ask what enigmatic perfume that was. Coco CHANEL was then reassured that she had achieved a revolutionary fragrance. A unique moment in the history of perfumery.
But Gabrielle would have never imagined that this scent would celebrate a successful centenary.
Over one hundred years as an object of desire!
Bravo, CHANEL Nº5