December 22, 2014

Coco Chanel's world of perfumes

When the opportunity arose to join a perfume workshop, I jumped at it, of course!

It was to be all about Chanel. What inspired Gabrielle Chanel’s olfactory creations? Who are the noses behind the great CHANEL perfumes? What sparked the olfactory revolution that is CHANEL N° 5? Why is N° 5 so mysterious, so timeless, so iconic?

The workshop - led by a charming, petite lady with a dark-haired bob - gave us an in-depth portrait of Chanel as one of the greatest and most innovative perfume houses in history. We learnt about the unconventional cubist packaging and Gabrielle Chanel’s unique artistic vision back in the 1920s. We discovered an ingredient called Alderheist on this intimate olfactory journey and sampled both classic and exclusive Chanel fragrances. My personal favourite has to be No.19.

We analysed the most enigmatic and famous of all CHANEL creations, N° 5, a scent that could be described as an abstract painting of its time. Labelling a perfume after a number was innovative in an epoch when figurative and romantic names were more common.

Perfumers in those days were chemists as well as artist who were able to create exquisite composition from scratch without technological gadgets. Did you know that Coco Chanel chose the number 5 because it was the 5th vial that her perfumer Ernest Beaux proposed to her when seeking for this groundbreaking perfume?

Another fact that stuck to my mind, was that the Lilly of the Valley ingredient is - and always has been - a synthetic component because its scent cannot be extracted from the flower.

I had known about top notes and base notes but I never actually sat down and waited for a scent's true identity to unfold. Beware, you might not fall in love with the perfume immediately but adore it after wearing it for a while.

And don't forget what Coco Chanel used to say: "Dab it anywhere you want to be kissed"

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