Coco Chanel created the most famous perfume in 1921 named after her lucky number 5. Since Chanel N°5 was created, it has remained as the most famous perfume of all time. We take a look at the history, the advertising and the ideology behind the world's most famous fragrance and the launch of the new Chanel N°5. L’Eau.
We also take a look at some of the iconic advertising campains including the Chanel N°5 "share the fantasy" television commercial made by film director Ridley Scott, which became iconic in its time but required immense work to create.
BIOGRAPHY OF N°5.
Back in 1921 Coco Chanel ran a popular and successful fashion business in Paris, she was a clever and modern woman and had done well for herself, notably backed by the textile business man Etienne Balsan whom she was his mistress. But back in 1908 Coco began an affair with Captain Arthur Edward 'boy' Capel, a wealthy member of the English upper class who financed her first shops.
One must not forget that Coco Chanel was not only successful from being well backed, she worked very hard and had exceptional talent as do many creative minds. But Coco had not only talent in design but great influence, winning support from her socialite Parisian contacts, high society connections were part of the day and night work in molding the Chanel name. Note-bally with many famous designers its simple to see the "event" or the success, and not see the hard work and lifelong determination that had been sacrificed. Coco was not only a fashion designer but a qualified Milliner, expanding her designs not only from fashion but hats, handbags and eventually perfume.
What is remarkable is how it has taken fashion brands decades to realise the potential of using an established name to break into the fragrance market, and yet in 1921 Coco was establishing not only a fragrance, but an iconic trademark perfume which would become timeless. Remarkable maybe not for Coco was the success, owing to the work put into creating the perfume.
What is true in image and the creation of anything is the value put upon it. For anything to have its value and place in society depends on its worth, take for instance the Rolls-Royce Coco Chanel used to drive around in, craftsmanship at its finest and the image it portrayed was not earned with ease. During an era of decadence also Coco would have to not only create an exceptional perfume, but the way it is packaged and sold was equally as important.
CREATION OF THE MODERN SCENT
Coco Chanel had an idea to create a perfume for her finest clients, however back in the 1920s Coco would complain that women often smelt dry and musky and body odour was difficult to discuise. What Coco wanted was a fresh scent which lasted, a scent which represented the modern women she was. Coco's creation would have to be a fresh scent which lasted.
For Coco her biggest problem lay in finding a perfumer, A Nose (le nez) who could deliver what she wanted, a scent which was fresh but not old, a scent that lasted and a scent that stuck out from the rest. On occasions using fresh smelling scents like acidic based lemon, orange or citrus this delivered the punch but did not last long and faded.
In 1920 Coco met a certain perfumer named Ernest Beaux, famous in the fragrance industry having worked with the Russian Royal Family. Ernest interested in the challenge agreed to work on the fragrance for Coco.
PICKING THE 5TH FRAGRANCE, THE N°5.
Having worked on the creation for several months, Ernest presented several samples for her review, they were numbered 1 to 5 and 20 to 24. She picked number five. What had actually happened was reputed to be a mistake, Beaux's assistant had added a dose of aldehyde in a quantity never used before in the 5th sample. Aldehyde was a chemical that was known within the industry as artificially created scents, but it was often overwhelmingly strong and was not fully adopted by perfumers. This mistake would surprise Coco and she instantly took a liking to the scent, fresh, strong, modern and vibrant.
modern women on the French Riviera in the 1920's
During visiting a restaurant with friends on the French Riviera, Coco decided to invite Ernest Beaux along with friends. To celebrate the creation of the fragrance Coco reputedly sprayed the perfume around the table and women who passed by were captivated by it and would stop to ask what it was. Coco knew she had something special, "the scent of a woman" as she described it.
THE CLASSIC N°5. DECANTER
The creation of the N°5 bottle was a stroke of genius, based on the design of a whisky bottle owned by Capel. The feel was crystal, even the lid was glass and with the simple N°5 Chanel on the bottle became not only a timeless fragrance but a timeless design.
Note how the design of the decanter has remained the same over time, but the corners of the bottle have been updated to almost represent a square cut diamond. A masterpiece in design and the psychology of the value put on items by the consumer.
In the latest designed decanter the bottle still has the cut diamond glass lid, but the rounded shoulders have been sharpened to represent that cut diamond image.
As time moved on the fragrance would see changes in styles and fashions as but the bottle and and overall design as well as the etiquette on the cover and the fragrance would remain the same.
In 1937 Coco Chanel created her fragrance advertisement as herself as the ambassador or the brand and the image which was pure chic. In 1954 when Marilyn Monroe told the press all she wore to bed was 'a few drops of Chanel No.5' put Chanel truly on the planet.
A NEW ERA OF CHANEL No.5'.
The new era of Chanel No.5' in the coming decades of the 70s, 80s and 90s would see the perfume reinvented and most recently even further changed. Our second favorite face of Chanel No.5' was the French influence of Carol Bouquet. Being so quintessentially French the timeless image of Carol Bouquet fitted Chanel No.5' in such a way that it spoke aloud the image and ideology of the perfume. But as a French face how would other countries pick up this "oh so French" image, unquestionably Bouquet had such an understated style and the appeal of a young French woman, attractive and shy with eyes among other things which would captivate the screen and print. But was this the decades of the Chanel No.5' cliente buying into their own past? Buying into a young shy and understated woman portrayed as a woman who could not be bought, a woman with values but not money motivated, with youth, beauty and love delivered in this portrait of Chanel No.5'.
The making of the television commercial with Carol Bouquet was something of a motion picture all together. Chanel brought in renowned film director Ridley Scott to shoot the 30 second commercial in the south of France. The location was the famous Hotel Eden Rock, a must watch is the full making of the commercial and the attention to detail that Scott demanded, with light not being exactly as Scott had wanted it, remarkably with budgets no object the whole shoot was moved a mile down the road to a small cove setting where the film crew would be able to reconstruct the whole hotel again exactly as it was a mile behind them. The plan was genius as it required the light from the ocean and mirrors to deliver the most spectacular portrayal of the blue French Riviera and set the scene for one of the best commercials of all time. Later down the line another commercial would be made featuring Bouquet driving her Ferrari 308 out into the desert to meet her lover, was this an escape the city ideology of money mixed with a fantasy of travel and the exotic - who knows, but again it worked.
For the absolute purist there is no more an image of french sophistication with the innocence that is Audrey Tautou. A french actor who won over hearts with her role in the French film Amelie, where she sets out to solve other people lives, and also her own. Amelie was the epitome of romantic Paris and the silliness of a mad love story, but the film would not be the film without Tautou, who you can fall hopelessly in love with in less than an 15 minutes. Our choice of all advertisements and faces of Chanel No.5' has to be Audrey Tautou. Was Chanel really that clever enough to go one step further with Tautou, a French face so pure of beauty but one that could never be bought with money, a face from the film Amelie, a young woman who was more facinated with poeple's photos taken in photo booths, a desperate romantic with no interest in men with money or power - could this be the women all women want to be?
In 2009 Audrey Tautou would play Coco Chanel in the film Coco Before Chanel, Tautou seamlessly perfect for the role and uncanny in the way Tautou would both be the face of Chanel and also the face of Coco in the acclaimed film.
THE NEW CHANEL N°5. L’Eau.
Sharing the fantasy with today's youth is now what the New Chanel N°5. L’Eau. is about. Today's youth meaning the generation of 18 to 40 year old's. Women or mothers of sophistication are also great ambassadors of the famous N°5. My mother's most treasured item on her dressing table. It was far out of reach of my hands and yet interesting enough for me to risk climbing on her chair and picking it up when she was gone, just to play with the all glass heavy bottle, an object of desire which was only worn on special occasions. The scent, I can tell you in a flash, N°5.
Developed by Olivier Polge, N°5. L’Eau. is a light and fresh interpretation of the sophisticated original. Polge having worked on the new fragrance for several years, and finally released in September 2016.
The new face of N°5. L’Eau. is Lily-Rose Depp, unmistakably the daughter of Vanessa Paradis. Has Chanel gone and done it again with the new face, a mix between Paradis, and a nod to the 60s Twiggy, with French innocence in abundance. Whatever the outcome, Lily-Rose is both young, beautiful and sophisticated and has the appeal of Hollywood, as well as the heritage of her mother's fame in France - and of course those eyes.
Chanel N°5. L’Eau. is available now http://www.chanel.com
Written by Max Young