Chanel No 5 100th anniversary Factory 5 collection

The Chanel Factory
Tom D Morgan / Courtesy of Chanel

Isabella blow would clear her desk with it. Marilyn Monroe famously wore it – and nothing else – in mattress. And Andy Warhol created 9 screenprints of it that hung in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. But what’s it about Chanel No5 that transcends perfume and trend?

The immediately recognisable No5 bottle

(*5*) Chanel (or Coco, as she was identified) was a disrupter, and very like the boundary-pushing Dadaist and Surrealist actions of her day, her first fragrance, which was launched a century in the past this 12 months, burst onto the scene and shook up the established order. At that time in her profession, (*5*) was already a revered couturière and owned a number of boutiques in France. But it was No5’s golden elixir, crystalline bottle and minimalist emblem that catalysed a cultural phenomenon and made her a world star.

The bathe gel
Courtesy of Chanel

According to Justine Picardie in her biography Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life, (*5*) was launched to perfumer Ernest Beaux by her Russian lover, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich. Beaux had been born in Russia and was a perfumer to the tsars; he had not too long ago relocated to Grasse, the world centre of perfumery, within the South of France.

The physique cream
Courtesy of Chanel

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Soliflores, a perfume made up of a single floral observe, was then the scent du jour, however (*5*) wished one thing extra. As she as soon as stated: ‘In order to be irreplaceable, one should all the time be totally different.’ To that finish, (*5*) requested Beaux for ‘a synthetic perfume. I don’t need rose or lily-of-the-valley, I need a composed perfume.’

The tub tablets
Courtesy of Chanel

The completed mix is ‘notably wealthy and voluptuous, with a sure complexity’, says Olivier Polge, Chanel’s in-house perfumer, the fourth nostril within the firm’s historical past, who took over from his father, Jacques, in 2015. Chanel’s world-famous fragrance is made up of 80 totally different scents, together with Grasse jasmine, May rose, ylang ylang and neroli, however as no single observe is identifiable, the mix is taken into account summary. This abstraction comes partly from the addition of aldehydes, a chemical compound that Jacques Polge described as ‘a bit like placing lemon juice on strawberries’ with the intention to improve their flavour. It’s additionally accountable for giving the fragrance a glowing, champagne-like fizz. And whereas aldehydes had been used earlier than in perfume, they’d by no means featured in such giant portions. It was this unconventional formulation that gave the floral bouquet its trendy edge – which it retains in the present day.

The physique oil
Courtesy of Chanel

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Mystery is one other very important part of No5: there are such a lot of tales surrounding its enigmatic inception. Some say that the usage of aldehydes in such giant quantities took place by a fateful accident – that Beaux (or his assistant) tipped an excessive amount of of the aldehyde formulation into the combination by mistake. It has additionally been reported that (*5*) concocted the perfume herself in a lab when visiting Grasse to grieve the demise of her lover Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel in 1919. Perhaps these tales are integral to the mystique and attract of the scent – a deliberate a part of (*5*)’s technique. She was, in spite of everything, a gifted marketeer.

(*5*) Chanel with Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich

Some years later, Beaux gave his model of occasions: ‘Mademoiselle Chanel, who had a really modern couture home, requested me for some perfumes for it. I got here to current my creations, two collection: numbers 1-5 and 20-24. She selected just a few, one in all which was No5. “What ought to or not it’s known as?” I requested. Mademoiselle Chanel replied, “I’m presenting my costume collection on the fifth of May – fifth month of the 12 months; let’s go away the identify No5.” This quantity would deliver her luck.’

The physique lotion
Courtesy of Chanel

Choosing a quantity because the perfume identify was a break from custom – as was the angular, flask-like bottle. It was typical then for fragrance flacons to be extremely ornate and for the identify to be one thing poetic. But the transfer paid off in spades, as the straightforward numerical emblem and minimalist bottle turned a beacon of luxurious, immediately recognisable in lots of cultures, and a standing image to be proudly displayed on vainness tables all around the world.

The bathe gel
Courtesy of Chanel

Coco Chanel’s different life

Part of the fragrance’s aura of luxurious stems from the richness of the substances. ‘In one little bottle of No5 parfum, there are over 1,000 flowers, which reveals its opulence,’ explains Olivier. To be precise, one 30ml bottle of No5 accommodates 1,000 Grasse jasmine flowers and 12 May roses. These blooms are grown by Joseph Mul, the biggest producer of flowers in Grasse; his household has equipped fragrant flowers to Chanel because the start of No5. Now the Muls’ irises, jasmine, roses, tuberose and geraniums are completely grown for Chanel.

An enormous robotic bottle of No5 appeared at Paris Fashion Week in 2013
Bertrand Rindoff Petroff / Getty Images

The Mul household have a stellar popularity in Grasse for the standard and perfume of their flowers. They have farmed sustainably for generations, lengthy earlier than it was in vogue – no chemical fertiliser has ever been used to develop their crops. ‘We proceed to enhance our strategies to get the perfect out of our crops, with out ever taking the chance of exhausting our land,’ explains Fabrice Bianchi, Joseph Mul’s son-in-law and protégé. ‘We purpose to provide essentially the most aromatic flowers and make sure the identical high quality sooner or later.’

The thriller field
Courtesy of Chanel

It is the mixture of those thoughtfully grown flowers, the scent’s revolutionary debut and its glamorous, celebrity-filled historical past that has, over the previous 100 years, cemented its place in popular culture and as a world image of prosperity. More merely, it’s additionally a beloved scent worn by generations of refined girls. ‘It is the perfume of the emancipated lady,’ says Olivier, one in all ‘femininity, class, refinement, a sure richness, and that component of thriller’.

Chanel No5 impressed the AW 2001 collection
JEAN-PIERRE MULLER / AFP through Getty Images

For extra in regards to the 17-piece restricted version Factory 5 collection, go to chanel.comThis is an edited model of an article initially printed within the July issueSubscribe now to get 3 problems with Tatler for simply £1, plus free residence supply and free immediate entry to the digital editions

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About the Author: Jessica