Incredibly, the iconic fragrance Chanel N°22 celebrates its 100th birthday this year – born one year after the legendary N°5 and creating its own enthused cult of olfactory aficionados (of which our Co-Founder, Lorna McKay is a firm member!) Sparkling with way ahead-of-its-time modernity, it seems only fitting to re-explore, and fully appreciate this so-prescient perfume once again…
The story of Chanel herself has become legend. After growing up in an orphanage, Gabrielle Chanel – born 19th August 1883, in Saumur – went on to open her first Paris boutique, selling hats, at 21 Rue Cambon in 1910. She made her name selling clothes that were not just beautiful and stylish, but comfortable, freeing women from tight corsetry through her innovative use of tweed and jersey, tailored with a nod to men’s clothing – including trousers. She’s also widely credited as first to introduce that essential in a woman’s wardrobe: ‘The Little Black Dress’.
Always an innovator, Chanel also designed costumes for plays (Cocteau’s ‘Antigone’, in 1923), and movies, including Renoir’s ‘La Règle de Jeu’. The clothes – and the fragrances – have been loved and worn by stars all over the world, and the silky effervesence of Chanel N°22 remains effortless, timelessly contemporary.
Chanel says: ‘Gabrielle Chanel believed in signs from the universe, symbols, and numbers. This year, 2022, CHANEL is pleased to present you with another major number: N°22, a fragrance created by Ernest Beaux and launched in 1922, one year after the legendary N°5. Though the two fragrances share the same olfactory characteristics, each one is unique in its own right.
An uncanny mirror effect that Olivier Polge, CHANEL’s In-House Perfumer-Creator, has interpreted as such: N°22 is like the surprising alter ego of N°5, so similar and yet so different at the same time. With its accord of tuberose, rose and orange blossom, N°22 is a sensual, seductive fragrance. A caressing trail, like an absolute of femininity. The singular history and craftsmanship behind the fragrance will make 2022 a year as exceptional as the last.’
Chanel N°22 £169 for 75ml eau de parfum / £300 for 200ml chanel.com
Read more of Chanel’s remarkable history in our page dedicated to the house, here; in the meantime, we suggest those of you who already adore N°22 treat yourselves to a birthday gift in honour of the anniversary, and that those of you yet to fall in love with this legendary fragrance acquaint yourselves immediately…
We’re ready to celebrate in more ways than one, not the least by saying Happy Birthday, Chanel. Incredibly, N°5 is celebrating 100 years of being adored by celebrities and fragrance fans the world over. We urge you to join in by spritzing some, now, while watching the fragrantly-themed full-length film and resting your eyes on gorgeousness awhile…
‘Its name is universally renowned. Its wake, a revolution. Its bottle, an unmatched masterpiece,’ says Chanel. ‘Created in 1921, N°5 is the best-known perfume in the world. The new episode of Inside CHANEL looks back over 100 years of celebrity.’
Delving deeply into just what makes it so enduringly special, Chanel explains that:
‘From the start, N°5 threw habits and conventions to the wind. At the beginning of the 1920s, Gabrielle Chanel had already changed people’s views on fashion by suggesting a new allure. Her first perfume is consistent with her pioneering designs, simple yet well thought through. Revolutionary in its composition, N°5 is also the first perfume imagined by a woman for women.’
N°5 has spawned many iconic scent memories over the decades, ‘Whether it be Marilyn Monroe turning it into a myth by confessing she only wore a few drops in bed, or Andy Warhol screen printing it as a pop art icon.’ And did you know – N°5 was the perfume to be advertised on TV!
The visual images accompanying N°5 have always been swoonsome, too (just cast your eyes around this page for proof) – inspiring some of the greatest names in photography and cinematography — including Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Ridley Scott, Jean-Paul Goude or Baz Luhrmann — and has truly ‘become a visual symbol that has never lost touch with the contemporary creative scene.’
The muses have been meticulously chose over these years as well – only those women who can emody the character of the fragrance without overshadowing it, such as Catherine Deneuve, Carole Bouquet, Nicole Kidman or (current ‘face’) Marion Cotillard have been ‘…among the ambassadresses who, by their spirit and modernity, lift N°5 into the eternal feminine pantheon for posterity.’
From being included in museum exhibitions to countless scent memries we all share, we certainly agree that ‘It is a perfume which, like a coat of invisible armor, gives the strength to face life. Backed with its 100 years of celebrity, N°5 will always be one step ahead.’ That’s why we chose to continue the celebrations, while asking trend forecasters and fragrance experts how they think Chanel N°5 will sashay forth in the next 100 years – with a stunning spread in the just-published Perfume’s Bright Future issue of The Scented Letter Magazine.
Chanel Perfumer, Olivier Polge, is a man imbued with many artistic passions. Perfumery, of course, but his first true love was actually music, and in an intriguing film we find out how he came to realise they shared the same language…
In the utterly gorgeous film, entitled ‘I am a Nose’, on Chanel’s official YouTube channel, perfumer Olivier Polge describes his childhood, and the passions his parents passed down to him.
Polge’s parents had met and fallen in love at perfumery school, and ‘I was four when my father became the nose of Chanel,’ Polge says, his words overlapping footage of him working, now the ‘nose’ of Chanel himself, and grainy, atmospheric and incredibly personal archive family films.
Describing the smells that dominate his childhood memories, above all else, it’s ‘the smell of turpentine in their friends’ studios.’ Enthusiastic artists, it might be expected that painting would transfer to young Olivier, along with the love of perfume, ‘but above fragrance and painting, music was my first passion,’ he admits.
Olivier came to realise that music and fragrance were two loves that entwined, without his even having made the connection. ‘When I was 20, I started learning the craft,’ he explains, ‘and I discovered that music and fragrance spoke the same language. I would have to compose and write formulas made of notes and accords.’
Watch the film right here and be carried away by the memories and music, yourself…
One can only imagine how nervous he must have been on being asked, as the ‘nose’ of Chanel, to ‘rewrite a contemporary version of No5…’ A sensation akin to a musician being asked to whip up a new version of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, perhaps? Whatever his feelings were, for me No.5 L’Eau is a mellifluous mingling of those aldehydes, now with a cedar and sandalwood hum in the base. It feels familiar but new all at once – a harmony of modernity and homage…
Chanel N°5 L’Eau, £113 for 100ml eau de toilette Sun-drenched, thirst-quenching and filled filled with freshness, this is a beautiful modern play on the classic, with a fizz of aldehydes dancing on lemon, mandarin and orange atop a honeyed shimmer of jasmine and luminescent ylang ylang. As the opening chords drift away and the floral heart warms on the skin, a thrum of warm cedar and vetiver mellow to a harmonious trail of soft white musks. Quite simply: a virtuoso performance… chanel.com
The Chanel Les Eaux de Chanel Le Voyage fragrance set is just the most desirable scent package to pack, for so-chic travellers who know they’ll need more than a couple of fragrant hits along the way.
Each of the fragrances evokes times and places that were precious to Chanel – snapshots of scent memories captured in olfactory form. Presented in a trio of travel-friendly 50ml bottles, the set includes three postcards to send to people you wish were there (perhaps you might wish to really want to rub their noses in the fact they aren’t!) and a darling little pouch to carry your chosen bottle around in for the day.
If you absolutely cannot wait to set sail with these scents (and who can blame you?) then take a moment to watch Chanel’s swoon-worthy short films to set the scented scene for each…
Paris-Venise: ‘1920. Gabrielle Chanel fell under the spell of Venice – the glimmer of the Byzantine mosaics and precious gems of St Marks Basilica inspired the design of her first jewellery collections. Between freshness and sensuality, PARIS-VENISE evokes this legendary city that marks the boundary between East and West.’
PARIS-VENISE is a composition of shadow and light, in which essence of neroli illuminates the warm tones of an ambrée accord with notes of vanilla and tonka.
Paris-Biarritz: ‘1915. Gabrielle Chanel was taken with the sporty, fashionable atmosphere of Biarritz, where she opened her first couture house next to the casino, the luxury hotels and the beach. Inspired by the pure air of the Basque coast, PARIS-BIARRITZ captures the energy of this founding city in a fragrance full of lively freshness.’
Vibrant and delicate, Sicilian mandarin highlights the radiance of a lily-of-the-valley accord. A lively fragrance that’s as refreshing as a splash of sea spray.
Paris-Deauville: ‘1913. Gabrielle Chanel opened her very first fashion boutique in Deauville. The marinière striped shirt, tweed, and jersey: Deauville marked the beginning of a simple, bold style that has become iconic. Inspired by the bucolic landscapes along the Normandy coast, PARIS-DEAUVILLE is a fragrance inspired by the fresh air.’
Teaming the aromatic green facets of basil with the sparkling top notes of Sicilian orange, PARIS-DEAUVILLE unleashes a lively, naturally radiant freshness.
Altogether, we think this trio form what are quite possibly this season’s most covetable jet-set selection, and the only question remains: which will you use most often, whenever you feel the need to escape with fragrance this summer (and beyond)…?
Chanel Les Eaux de Chanel Le Voyage £195 for 3 x 50ml eau de toilette
If you were a CHANEL perfume, which would you be, and what would it reveal about your personality? For fragrance lovers, the perfumes we wear inevitably become part of our personalities – invisible messages that may give passers-by clues to your character, inviting intrigue; or they may serve as a scented cloak, beneath which you can protect yourself from the world’s gaze. For CHANEL, ‘…fragrance is considered and composed as an invisible item of clothing.’
Gabrielle Chanel’s vision and perfumer Olivier Polge’s contemporary interpretation of it are woven through each of what they rather wonderfully call ‘olfactory garments’ – adhering to Chanel’s vision that went beyond fashion and trends. We love that CHANEL is exploring this theme of asserting your presence, expressing your personality and creating your style with the scent you choose to wear that day. We certainly find that’s how we wear perfume – do you want to magnify the mood you’re in or change it completely? Do you ‘match’ your scent to your outfit and your plans for the day, or use it to give a hint at what lies beneath…?
The new campaign uses deliciously dreamy imagery – bodies dressed in shadows or bathed in sunlight, interwoven with archive clips of skilled artisans at the atelier, of vintage fashion shows, and the iconic image of Marilyn Monroe insouciantly entangled in white sheets, all with Vanessa Paradis lending her voice as narrator. And even if you don’t undertstand the French commentary, goodness it just sounds divine! We’re delighted to share the film with you, below, so dive in to the glamour…
The first chapter in this narrative is named “I am an idea”, presented as a scented ‘manifesto’, and laying the foundation for CHANEL fragrance creation, as they say in their own words…
‘I AM AN IDEA
A CHANEL perfume is an idea Grasped, developed, expressed Like an item of clothing Imagined, assembled, tailored.
A CHANEL perfume is a precious material A fabric woven from images, spun from landscapes.
A CHANEL perfume is a play of shadows and light Which reveals nudity and protects intimacy A set of jewelry and an abstraction A suit of armor and a construction. A CHANEL perfume is an invisible negligee, one that Marilyn chose to adorn her nights.
A CHANEL perfume is the scent of the self Reminiscence of childhood.
A CHANEL perfume is a style, an allure An elegance, a signature. An item of clothing.
A CHANEL perfume is a perfume that chose me For what I am, for what I want. A perfume that says “I.”
I AM A CHANEL PERFUME.’
So now, we wonder… which CHANEL perfume would you be…?
If anything can revive flagging spirits, it’s the sniff of a new CHANEL fragrance – this time the classic Chance fragrance getting reinvigorated with a new interpretation of Chance Eau Tendre in eau de parfum form.
One glimpse of the gloriously colourful advertising campaign, and we rather think you’ll be joining us in wanting to whirl around in a pretty sugared-almond coloured skirt, while performing joyful dance moves on a velvet chair! OK, given that it’s January and we’re all still easing our way back to reality, perhaps it’s better to enjoy watching it, below, instead…
So what can you expect from this new addition to CHANEL’s scented wardrobe? Well, each evocation of Chance takes on a special character of its own, while of course adhering to the spirit of the original. So, let’s think back to when Chance was first launched back in 2002 – the name, as always was no mere chance in itself: it was chosen because, as CHANEL remind us:
‘Chance is a way of being,’ said Gabrielle Chanel, who believed in her lucky star as much as she cultivated it. With confidence and determination, Mademoiselle seized this chance throughout her whole life. Attentive to all the signs that marked her path, a woman who loved chance encounters and the unexpected, she smiled at fortune and fortune smiled on her in return.
With four current versions of that original, it’s not simply about adding power to a perfume by increasing its strength, or adding freshness to what was already there – each transition marks a new fragrant chapter in the life of the fragrance.
CHANEL say: ‘With CHANCE EAU TENDRE Eau de Parfum, perfumer-creator Olivier Polge, in cooperation with the CHANEL Laboratory of Fragrance Creation and Development, reinterprets the floral-fruity signature. More intense, more enveloping, this version expresses a radiant and confident femininity. Its oral heart accentuates the fullness of exotic jasmine absolute, enriched with an essence of rose that shines a soft light at the center of the composition.
More feminine than ever, this oral equation is draped in just the right dose of smooth and creamy white musk notes to create a clean, cottony effect. Immediately illuminated by the tangy whirl of the grapefruit-quince accord, CHANCE EAU TENDRE Eau de Parfum brings a feeling of absolute tenderness. Delicate and profoundly poetic, this new composition evokes a woman whose joy and inner glow gives her instant charm.’
To visually express this new fragrant interpretation, the gold neck takes on a silvery hue for the eau de parfum, and in many ways, wearing it feels like a whole new fragrance. The notes are beautifully rounded, like layers of tulle or the petals of a flower, enveloping you in waves of deliciousness that seem to float around you in a fragrant cloud. A softly powdered elegance follows your every step, but that opening zing of the grapefuit and quince really adds energy and lifts the composition to above and beyond, and so it never feels heavy or too swaddling to wear all day.
Really, it’s just the thing for this time of year – characterful, of course, and with a depth that feels comforting, but with enough get up and go to shake you from the doldrums. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get those pastel skirts on* and twirl to our heart’s content!
*[Though we might be adding something longer that a crop-top, while it’s still a bit chilly…]
This season, the iconic glass bottle of CHANEL N°5 donned a fiery cloak of red, and perfume lovers have been going wild collecting their favourite fragrance in this newly hued flacon.
CHANEL say: ‘A symbol of ultimate femininity and synonymous with this festive time of year, the emblematic colour evokes a dynamic sense of confidence, desire and indisputable opulence…’
Now, in celebration of this limited edition, CHANEL focus once again on Mademoiselle’s lucky number, ‘with five breathtaking red fragrance bottles lighting up locations around London in the lead up to Christmas.’ Definitely the most sophisticated take on Christmas lights we’ve ever seen!
‘Beginning with its debut in Berkeley Square on the 14th of November, the five bottles will then intermittently appear on New Bond Street, in Spitalfields and Duke of York Square, before concluding the adventure in Covent Garden.
Designed in 1921 by Mademoiselle Chanel before subtly evolving over the 20th and 21st centuries, the simple, geometric lines of the bottle and facetted stopper are as distinctive as the scent it holds. A model of minimalism and modernity, N°5 stands up to the test of time, adding to its mystery and depth each year.’
They really do have to be seen in person to be fully appreciated – we certainly welcome this sophisticated take on Christmas lights (and, of course, they’re the perfect backdrop for an ultra-stylish seasonal selfie!)
Location dates 14th – 16th Nov: Berkeley Square 16th Nov – 3rd Jan: New Bond Street Boutique 26th Nov – 27th Dec: Spitalfields 3rd – 16th Dec: Duke of York Square 9th – 23rd Dec: Covent Garden
Olivier Polge has time-travelled through Coco Chanel‘s lifetime to create this new trio of fragrances. A jet-setter long before there were jets, the couturier liked to hang out with her friends in some very beautiful and inspiring places – and it is these Olivier revisits, in this completely new collection: Biarritz, Deauville and Venice. (Each is linked back to Paris – her true home – in its name.)
As Olivier told us in London during a visit to launch the fragrances, he began with the idea of ‘creating a very fresh scent – in fact, a collection of fresh scents. I began with the idea of an Eau de Cologne, but developed from there – so these are eaux de toilette, created with the idea of Eau de Cologne in mind. Les Eaux de Chanel have a much longer sillage than a Cologne.’
There is, of course, an incomparably rich heritage for Olivier – who works alongside his father Jacques Polge, and the other member of the perfume ‘triumvirate’, British perfumer Christopher Sheldrake – on Chanel fragrance creation and production. ‘We had the idea of linking to the destinations where the Chanel cruise collections are shown, and with which Chanel had links. We anchor our memories of scent through people and places – so it felt very natural.’ Having the unique history, he adds, ‘gives us a framework – more than simply history, we have a strong identity and a rich atmosphere. One of the great joys of being a perfumer at Chanel is that there are so many threads you can pull together.’
And now, about those fragrances – and the locations which inspired them…
As her biographer Edmonde Charles-Roux writes, ‘The pleasures of the Normandy coast in around 1913 were available only to the well-to-do.’ But there, Gabrielle Chanel invented a whole new style – for relaxation and outdoor living, using easy-to-wear fabrics like jersey (until then reserved for men’s underwear…) The up-and-coming designer chose the resort of Deauville to open her very first boutique, on Rue Gontaut-Biron, the town’s chicest – initially offering hats, then jumpers, jackets and the sailor-blouse that went on to become the wartime garment for all well-dressed women. She had become a woman-to-watch.
Chanel Paris-Deauville invites us the Normandy coast via a gust of green notes, with a tie of orange rind, petitgrain and basil leaf. As that ebbs, white flowers and roses drift in, before the signature Chypre character emerges via an undertow of patchouli.
Chanel first travelled to Biarritz, near the Spanish border, in 1915. She was whisked there from Paris, where she was based, by her lover Boy Capel, who had seen action in the French army. Away from the tanks and ‘the menace of the first warplanes’, as Chanel’s biographer Edmonde Charles-Roux put it, in Biarritz, ‘nothing had changed, couples danced every night, forgetting the bad times while doing the tango.’ Despite the threat of war, people craved beauty and luxury – and the affluent Capel advanced Chanel the money to open a maison de couture in Biarritz; soon, orders were flowing in from the Spanish court and from other wealthy clients in Spain, as well as France. She was so successful, she soon found herself able to reimburse Boy Capel – gaining her independence.
Chanel Paris-Biarritz is the most aquatic of the trio, beckoning us the Côte Basque with the testiness of mandarin and grapefruit, an aqueous breeze running through it, those citrus notes giving way to the incomparable beauty of lily of the valley, in a stunning floral accord.
Chanel developed a passion for Venice, returning time and again – most often with artist’s muse and patron extraordinaire, her BFF Misia ‘Jojo’ Sert, illustrator Christian Bérard and Ballets Russes impresario Sergei Diaghilev. Originally, Chanel went to Venice to get over a broken heart, after the death of her lover Arthur Capel. The city seems to have worked its legendary magic – because it emerges that Venice is also inextricably linked with so many the ‘signatures’ still worn by Chanel-loving fashionistas today: the lion emblem, the chunky Byzantine crosses she recreated as costume jewellery (inspired by the gold adorning Venice’s churches, especially St. Mark’s Basilica with its emerald and sapphire-studded screens).
Chanel Paris-Venise is the most ‘exotic’, sun-drenched of the trio, taking the sumptuousness of the Orient and enfolding that in a cottony warmth. Shards of light run through it, via citrus notes, with a subtle neroli alongside touches of red berry, Grasse geranium and soft iris. On the skin, we find this the longest-lasting, with a rich, sensual accord of amber and cedarwood.
Along with the trio of fragrances, a beautiful new flacon has been created – with tactile, sculpted edges, inspired by a hip-flask. It makes the process of spraying – and re-spraying – even more of a pleasure.
There are, Olivier Polge tells us, other Les Eaux de Chanel to come. Paris-Westminster, perhaps (marking the time she spent here with her lover the Duke of Westminster)? Paris-Scotland? (She loved to holiday on the moors there, with the Duke.) Or Paris-Côte d’Azur…? His lips are sealed, but we can’t wait.
Les Eaux de Chanel launch officially today (13th July). We recommend making your own journey, in Chanel’s footsteps, to check out the places she loved.
It’s rare for Chanel to release a new fragrance, so when we heard there was an intensified of Coco Mademoiselle launching, we were hoisting the flags. Ushered into their suave Bond Street showroom, we were taken through the fragrance journey and got ready to plunge into the deeper, darker and even more captivating version of the original…
Perfumer Oliver Polge has constructed his composition around a far higher proportion of patchouli leaves atop a richly resinous amber base, swirled through with toasty tonka bean and addictive vanilla in their absolute (strongest) form.
Lovers of the orginal need not fear – your dose of Sicilian orange and Calabrian bergamot is still there, as are the fullsome garlands of rose and jasmine in the heart. It’s a tribute to Polge’s mastery that each element can be identified, but the character is definitely more mysterious, wavering between the freshness and a mischeviously seductive trail that lingers all day.
While in the showroom – surrounded by balloons and a grand piano, no less! – we were honoured to be among the first to see the new advertising campaign, once again starring Keira Knightley (incredibly, the muse of the iconic perfume for more than a decade, now) who cavorts and pillow-fights her way through what looks like the best party ever. Embodying the spirit of Coco Mademoiselle Intense, the film shows Knightley effortlessly transitioning from sophisticated modernity to exuberantly playful – just as we feel while wearing it…
Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Intense from £82 for 50ml eau de parfum
Reminding us of our beloved leather jacket, a stack of books or the wood-panelled, boozily infused surroundings of a members’ only club, leather fragrances are generally not for the scent-shy. Scintillatingly smoky, they evoke a particularly voracious and luxurious sensuality, favouring deep base notes that linger the whole day long.
Russian leather fragrances have a long heritage, recently enjoying something of a revival as we crave perfumes that are bigger, badder and bolder than before, and it’s the intense, relentless smokiness of birch that’s the vital scent ingredient giving Russian leather it’s characteristic smell.
In order to process birch for perfumery, the bark of the tree is peeled off in papery strips and soaked in a water/alcohol mixture until it forms a ‘liquor’, which is then evaporated to leave the oil behind. Perfumers can use any number of ingredients along with birch to compose a ‘leather accord’ – echoing the history of the leather trade and tanning process itself, when animal hides are treated with strong-smelling oils to mask their naturally foul odours.
Over time, the smell of ‘Russian leather’ became shorthand for luxury goods and an exoticism lusted over by wealthy travellers who wanted to waft forth their fortunes in scent form, too. And this eventually led to a piece of that history being present in practically every bathroom in the UK, including, perhaps, your own…?
The Russian soap-opera in your bathroom…
Cussons’ Imperial Leather soap has been a staple of British bathrooms since 1938, but you might well wonder where it gained the name. According to their heritage story, ‘In the 1700s Bayleys of Bond Street were challenged by Count Orlof to create a perfume which embodied the distinctive aroma of the Russian court, and as a result they developed the scent of Imperial Leather.’
In 1921 Bayleys was acquired by Cussons Sons & Co, and it wasn’t until 1938 that Cussons conceived the idea of launching a soap based on their archive scent, initially called ‘Imperiale Russian Leather’, but soon renamed to ‘Imperial Leather’.
During the 40s, soap was heavily rationed in Britain, so Imperial Leather was marketed as being the best choice because it lasted far longer than other brands, with the world’s tallest man apparently being a fan, presumably because, well, he got through a lot of soap!
In 1975 the Cussons Group was acquired by Paterson Zochonis, now renamed PZ Cussons – currently boasting an extraordinary range of fragranced body products (along with the ever-popular Imperial Leather), including soaps and shower gels scented like sherbet lemons and even cherry Bakewells, for perfume-lovers of a certain age, the name of Cussons will forever evoke the comforting smell of Imperial Leather.
Six Russian Leather scents we love:
We think winter is the perfect time to explore this fascinating fragrance family, and we’re certainly not short of recently released scents to try. Read on to see how the many moods of Russian leather can go from the masculine to feminine, from the softest caress to the sizzlingly opulent…
Curls of smoke swirl through a Siberian pine forest, leather-bound books infused with a campfire’s glowing ember scent.
Molton Brown Russian Leather £45 for 50ml eau de toilette
Buy it at moltonbrown.co.uk
Butter-soft leather liberally dusted with baby powder, the comfort of warm skin embraced with an open heart.
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