Celebrating the world’s enduring love affair with a revolutionary fragrance, pioneered by an iconic woman.
The inimitable Coco Chanel was never one to follow convention. A cultural pioneer in every sense of the word, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel turned the concept of feminine style on its head by popularising casual, sporty chic in a time of corsets and stays.
It is in the same spirit that Coco Chanel took on the creation of a new fragrance in 1921; when “respectable women” of the era favoured single flower scents, Chanel sought to design a perfume with a radical new character.
Working with French-Russian chemist and perfumer Ernst Beaux, Chanel designed an avant-garde composition, combining May rose and jasmine from Grasse with synthetic molecules called aldehydes. Thus a modern era in perfume was ushered in.
Since then, the secret formula of Chanel No 5 has been passed down like a torch to a specially selected succession of top “noses”, or perfumers, within the maison – Henri Robert, Jacques Polge and now Olivier Polge. Each perfumer has had the distinct honour of adding his own personal touch.
Today, there exist five different interpretations, including the original Parfum: a lighter eau de toilette version with lively nuances of vetiver and deep sandalwood (1924); an opulent eau de parfum with a distinct Oriental signature (1986); an airy, luminous eau premiere incorporating white musks and aldehydes developed from citrus essences (2008); and a fresh eau de toilette simply called L’eau, with ylang-ylang and a citrus accord (2016).
Through the decades, the famous fragrance has become an enduring icon of femininity – with Gabrielle Chanel, at the height of her notoriety, as the first woman to be the face of her own fragrance in 1937.
In 1952, Marilyn Monroe famously revealed that she wore nothing but “a few drops of No 5” to bed, consecrating an oft-quoted urban legend. Since then, Chanel No 5 has been represented by some of the greatest actresses of their time – Lauren Hutton, Catherine Deneuve, Carole Bouquet and Nicole Kidman.
On June 29, Chanel No 5 will be debuting a completely new reinvention with the Chanel Factory 5 collection – a limited edition range of 17 everyday beauty objects dressed in its original laboratory packaging, so starkly functional as to be practically pop art.
This collection will be presented in industrial pop-up factory settings across some of the world’s largest cities, taking the viewer behind the scenes through the various production line work stations to observe the true life cycle of Chanel No 5.
Images courtesy of Chanel, artwork by Curatedition. All rights reserved.