Chanel No. 5, a love story

The perfume that launched a thousand ad campaigns? Perhaps, but Chanel No. 5 has been in continuous production since its 1921 launch, and the company estimates that somewhere in the world, a bottle is sold every 55 seconds.

It was the Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia, who introduced Coco to the perfumer Ernest Beaux in 1920 on a trip to Cannes, where the couple visited his laboratory. Originally intended as a Christmas present to her best clients and limited to 100 flacons, Chanel understood the marketability of exclusivity. The hard-to-find scent soon became the most coveted perfume for her devotees, and bottles poured off the production line.

The bottle’s shape was a departure from the norm, as most perfumes of the time were packaged in ornately decorative bottles shaped as birds, or flowers. Chanel’s art deco minimalism has never been changed, and it is purported that the flacon’s origination was inspired by a men’s toiletry item belonging to Chanel’s only love, Arthur “Boy” Capel.

Why the 5? Some say it was the 5th concoction during testing that ended up being the right combination of scents for Chanel’s taste. Others insist Chanel herself chose 5 because it was her lucky number — she staged her fashion shows on the 5th day of the 5th month.

The scent — a mix of jasmine, May rose, ylang ylang, iris, sandalwood and vetiver — remains one of the most recognizable in the world. Perhaps the most famous Chanel No. 5 quote ever was uttered by the legendary Marilyn Monroe. When asked what she wore to bed, her response was, “Five drops of Chanel No. 5.” And it was Coco herself who said a woman should wear her perfume “wherever she wishes to be kissed.”

(This blog entry is dedicated to my first bottle of Chanel No. 5, received last week, and my instaneous infatuation for it).

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Published in: on January 19, 2010 at 7:23 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. When I was 16, I spied a bottle of Chanel 5 on my grandma’s dresser. “Oh, can I try it ON?” I begged. She let me try some on.

    I thought it smelled great. Grandma GAVE me the bottle. Unbeknownst to me, she didn’t like it. She preferred Emeraude.

    I think Chanel at 16 is the reason I am really picky about my fragrances today.

    • I love this story, there is something distinctly multi generational in the smell of Chanel No. 5 – sometimes it smells baby powder girlish, and sometimes it smells musky old lady, but mostly it smells feminine and divine.


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