Before the year comes to an end, I wanted to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of Chanel No. 5 perfume, which debuted on May 5, 1921.
Chanel was introduced to Ernest Beaux, by her lover, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich. Although Beaux, was a Russian perfumer to the tsars, he had relocated to Grasse, the world’s perfume capital. In Grasse, he created the formula for Chanel that would become the most popular scent for years to come, using May roses, jasmine, as many as 80 different flowers as well as a healthy dose of aldehydes (synthetic components of scent).
Like the fashions Coco Chanel designed, she wanted a different kind of scent…one envisioned by a woman for women…a floral scent, but unidentifiable…not a single floral fragrance that was the scent du jour. Instead, she wanted it to smell of “freshly-scrubbed skin” (possibly a nod to her austere upbringing in a convent)…an artificial, composed, abstract fragrance.
“In order to be irreplaceable, one must be different.” …Coco Chanel
Ernest Beaux presented Coco Chanel with a number of variations of the scent in simple glass flasks. She chose the 5th bottle as her favourite. When he asked what will you call it, her response was simply Chanel No. 5. She would present it on the fifth day of the fifth month…on the same day as her couture collection…5 was her lucky number.
The bottle has not changed noticeably in the past 100 years. The stopper, however, has gained prominence over time with its octagonal shape…possibly reflecting the geometry of the Place Vendome, the square where the Ritz Hotel is located…and where Chanel called home.
Hollywood celebrities from Marilyn Monroe to Brad Pitt have been the face behind Chanel No. 5 perfume since April 7, 1952, when Monroe was featured on the cover of Life Magazine. When asked in the interview what she wore to bed, she famously replied, “just a few drops of Chanel No. 5.”
Chanel No. 5 had reached iconic status. In 1954 the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) included Chanel No. 5 as part of its permanent collection and the simple, classic bottle was also the subject of a pop art series by Andy Warhol (in 1985).
Chanel No. 5 perfume remains the most popular scent worldwide with a bottle selling every 30 seconds.
“This is what I was waiting for. A perfume like nothing else. A women’s perfume with the scent of a woman.” …Coco Chanel
A special holiday perfume and makeup collection are now available to commemorate “100 years of Chanel No. 5″.