What is the world of fragrance without the iconic Chanel perfume? In simple terms, it would almost be inexistent! Join us in the journey of diving into the history, secrets, and mysteries of how the first Chanel perfume was born, and how it arguably still remains one of the most iconic creations.
It was once said, “no elegance is possible without perfume. It is the unseen, the unforgettable, the ultimate accessory”. You may have guessed whose words these are… Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel. As an ambitious belle, she fought for her dreams and the dreams of other women in society. She strongly believed in the beauty and power of scent, saying that “a woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.”
By the early 20th century, she was already a phenomenon in the women’s fashion circles, widely renowned for her exquisite and controversial designs. With a series of successful boutiques in Paris, Deauville, and Biarritz, her plans of taking over the world of perfumery were soon to become a reality.
Nevertheless, at that time, the world of fashion and perfume were far from how we see it now. The two arts were greatly separate, never intertwining, with the Maison de Haute Couture’s designing clothes, and dictating the fashion, whilst the perfumers at Maison de Parfum’s created the fragrances.
Nonetheless, 1911 saw a change as French rivalry couturier, Paul Poiret, was first to create his signature scent. Naming it ‘Parfums de Rosine’, after his daughter, his perfume was left almost unnoticed. Contrastingly, Chanel had her name prominently stamped onto each and every bottle, hence enhancing her publicity and linking the perfume directly to her brand identity.
Although the story behind the first perfume creation is contentious; it is believed, the journey of Chanel No.5 began in 1920, when Mademoiselle Coco met Ernest Beaux. A prominent nose in France and Russia, creating masterpieces for the Tsar’s family. Chanel challenged him to create a perfume that would turn the social norms; a scent that would “smell like a woman, and not like a rose”, tailored specifically for the skin of the ‘modern’ woman that she had envisioned.
Taking a turn from the respected, feminine fragrances, that commonly consists of only single flowers, Coco instead, focused on the smell of ‘cleanliness’, and freshness. Despite the citrus families being most effective in capturing these accords and scent sensations, their charming scents evaporate rather quickly on the skin, and thus something stronger was required.
Coincidently, at the time, scientists were already playing around with isolated chemicals called aldehydes, and although many perfumers were hesitant of using them in their compositions, Beaux was fearless, and dared to take the plunge, even taking a plunge too deep... instead of adding only 0.5% of the aldehyde, Beaux instead added a powerful overdose of 5%! Ironically, what was the result? A modern elixir of 80 naturals, including Vetiver, Jasmine (a Chanel favourite), Ylang-Ylang, Neroli, Rose, Muguet, only to name a few; infusion with a very generous dosage of the abstract, synthetic ingredient, aldehyde.
The magic of the aldehydes in the composition lay behind their ability to lift the aromas of the natural floral oils, to create an astounding trail! Erecting even a new fragrance family, the floral aldehyde’s and becoming the first member-ing fragrance, the elixir of these ingredients created a perfume that every woman dreamed of! Noticeable, with a unique and killer personality; an icon, Chanel No.5 was born!
Although the chosen concoction was a lab mistake; the recipe delivered exactly what the visionary Mademoiselle had desired. It was a scent with an unusual complexity; distinctively clean, fresh, and soapy, almost reminiscent of fresh laundry, wrapped in a bouquet of florals. It allowed women to be simultaneously sexy and pure: encouraging a new voice, a new expression; while also being strong enough, to last throughout the day.
As the legend tells it, after several months of creation, Beaux presented a portfolio of 10 perfume samples, numbering them from 1-5, and 20-24, with the chosen formula to be No.5. "I show my collections on the fifth of May, the fifth month of the year, so let's leave the number it bears, and this number five will bring it good luck."
Why do we buy perfume? Very often, our decision lies simply due to brand marketing, with our loyalty for the brand to develop because of the smell and how the perfume makes us feel. Chanel No.5 specifically ticked these boxes. Debuting in 1921, the fragrance was an instant success, with credit partially owed to Chanel’s ingenious marketing tricks.
To celebrate the launch, she invited Beaux and friends to a trending restaurant on the Parisian Riviera, where she sprayed the perfume around the table. As its first debut to the public, each woman that passed the table stopped to ask of the mysterious fragrance, of the potion that hadn’t been smelt before. This had become “the moment that confirmed…it was going to be a revolutionary perfume," reveals T.J Mazzeo, author of ‘The Secret of Chanel No. 5’.
Just like her fashion designs, the perfume bottle was unique and striking on its own. Simple, and similar to a whisky decanter, its head was a diamond stopper, inspired by the geometry of Place Vendôme in Paris. Moreover, in 1959, the perfume bottle alone was added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Following on, even famed artists such as Andy Warhol were similarly enticed and intrigued by the sophistication and the luxury of the flask, and created artwork in 1997, with just the Chanel No.5 bottle as his model.
Moving through the decades and centuries, the scent was admired by all women, including even the legendary, 1960’s sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe. During an interview, in response to the question of what she wore to bed, Monroe breathlessly proclaimed, “Why, Chanel No. 5, of course…”. This marked a milestone in the publicity for the perfume, as from that moment on, nothing could be sexier than the idea of a woman wearing just a few drops of Chanel No. 5 to sleep.
Considered the face of women, the perfume was complemented with some of the most glamorous and memorable advertising campaigns. From the use of taglines, such as "Every Woman Alive Loves Chanel No. 5"; Chanel then shifted to simpler campaigns that focused on the featured actress or model, with the fragrance. Starting from 1970 with Catherine Deneuve, she set the stage for the following eight ladies, including Nicole Kidman, and Audrey Tautou. 2012, however, marked a new campaign, with a new celebrity endorsement, and a first male, Brad Pitt. As the first to represent a female fragrance, this campaign unquestionably created much controversy.
A pillar of style, and elegance, with a rich, revolutionising story. With the help of innovative advertisements, as well as the refreshing more contemporary appeal; even 100 years later, Chanel No.5 continues to be a worldwide bestseller, and is truly a timeless classic, that remains the ultimate symbol of femineity.
Forever a fragrance of the moment, and a visionary bouquet of flowers; it is thus rather unsurprising that our recommended mixes for your Chanel inspired fragrances are blooming and blossoming with our favourite florals, and especially with the Coco-jewel, Jasmine! With a selection of three miraculously feminine and intricate elixirs, it is time you create your No….
Firstly, the mix of our Jazzy Jasmine perfume with the irresistible fragrance of Orris Opera. Although it is a must-have, you at least MUST allure your noses in this duo. Luxurious, irresistible, velvety, creamy, with earthy-woody and root-like back notes, that coincide with the sensuously rich, oily, yet leafy green nuances of the Jasmine. An easy yet powerful fragrance that is ideal for your tout le jour!
For yet another elixir that captures the essence of a woman in motion, turn to Jazzy Jasmine and Tuberose Tribute perfume. A divine dance of white florals, that encourages a supremely sensual, green, warm, and ever so sweet fragrance that will leave your skin wanting for more!
Lastly, yet undoubtedly the least, we recommend Jazzy Jasmine with Rose Ritual fragrance for the ultimate, modern twist on the ‘scent of a woman’. Don’t be alarmed by the romantic floralcy, as in combination with Jasmine, you will be creating a heavenly, and verdant fresh, intoxicating, yet sophisticated, rosy, with tea-like back notes, and overall an absolutely magical potion! Ladies be prepared for heads to turn as admirers will follow your fragrant trace!
Oud - Tuberose | Woody Floral
Rose - Sandalwood | Floral Woody
Vanilla - Raspberry | Oriental Fruity
Ocean - Sage | Aromatic Marine