Fashion History: Chanel №5

Fashion history #6: Chanel №5 was purposely made to look masculine as it represents something more than just smelling good.

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

Chanel №5 is arguably an iconic perfume that many people still admire today. According to NPR, due to Chanel’s enticing ads, Chanel №5 sells every 30 seconds (2011).

However, very few people know the history of this timeless perfume. So today, we’ll dive into how and why Chanel №5 became the most iconic of all time.

Disclaimer: The following information may or may not be historically accurate due to Chanel and Chanel №5 complicated history. Therefore, I’m only sharing information that I feel is accurate that I read from multiple sources.

The Beginning of Chanel №5

In the ‘20s, Chanel asked her perfumer, Ernest Beaux, to create a scent that smells ‘more like a woman and not like a rose’ (Fashionista, 2016).

To Chanel, she felt that the smell of a flower was too strong. It didn’t give the natural essence of what a woman should smell like.

According to the BBC, “the smell of soap and freshly scrubbed skin” lingered with Chanel for a long time (2011). Therefore, she wanted a scent that reminded her of her childhood and youth.

Also, this “fresh” smell wasn’t a popular scent for women back then. So, this was a new game field for Chanel too. During the ‘20s, many sources have claimed that respectable women wore perfume that had strong roses and musk smell. (Fashionista, 2016).

Why the number 5?

As time went by, Chanel had several samples of the perfume. Legend says, she chose the fifth sample as her favorite scent. However, it’s not exactly a coincidence as to why she chose the fifth sample for her perfume.

According to Wikipedia, Chanel has a history with the number five as it symbolizes many aspects of her life and faith. She also resonated with the spirit and general meanings of the number 5 too.

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

What Does Chanel №5 Smell Like?

According to The Zoe Report, There are more than 80 ingredients in Chanel №5 (2019). Many sources have claimed that Chanel wanted a perfume that had a smell of “blended” scents. She didn’t want just one kind of flower.

Also, the perfume contains aldehydes, which is an organic compound that enhances the smell of perfume.

Other sources, like Byrdie, have described the scent as:

(A combination of) “rose, ylang-ylang, jasmine, lily of the valley and iris — layered over a warm, woody base of vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla, amber and patchouli” (2019)

However, it’s good to note that a perfume may have slight changes to its smell based on the room temperature and body heat.

An accident gone, right?

During the creation of Chanel’s new perfume, Beaux’s assistant or Beaux himself had accidentally added a heavy quantity of aldehydes into one of the samples (Alpha Aromatics, 2019 and BBC, 2011).

Although it’s unclear who made the quantity mistake, their accident satisfied Chanel because the scent was exactly what Chanel wanted in her perfume.

So, why did Chanel use aldehydes in their perfume? A perfume editor named Frederic Malle had shared to the BBC that the only way to have fresh fragrance in the 20s was by using lemon, bergamot, and orange. Although they smell fresh, they do not last long on the skin. So, the best way to artificially create that smell was by using aldehydes (2011).

What are Aldehydes?

It is a versatile and organic compound that you’ll typically find in cologne, detergents, and soap. It’s good to note that aldehydes have subgroups. Within those subgroups, they contribute to different smells, risks, non-risks, and everything in-between.

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

What does the Chanel №5 bottle look like?

According to #legend, the bottle was designed by Chanel and it has been modified eight times due to the changes of time and era (2016).

In my opinion, the bottle mimics a flask or a glass bottle that holds alcohol. It has a masculine style compared to other perfume bottles on the market.

Funny enough, many sources have claimed that Chanel №5 was purposely made to look masculine as it represents something more than just smelling good. Some say it’s a balance between masculinity and feminity. Others have said that the style has innocence but it is sexy at the same time.

Ultimately, it’s up for personal interpretation based on how you feel when you use the perfume.

Present Day

According to The Zoe Report, Chanel №5 (in the present-day) smells differently compared to the 1920s version. The subtle changes and tweaks are due to evolution and time. Also, the ingredients that are used in the perfume have grown differently in the present-day too (2019).

As of 2016, Chanel №5 L’eau is a “younger” version of Chanel №5 and it pays homage to the original scent. So, it’s not a surprise that the spokesperson for this scent was Lily-Rose Depp (Fashionista, 2016). If we’re focusing on the “original” Chanel №5, as of 2020, Marion Cotillard is the face of the Chanel №5 campaign.

As time goes by, we continue to see the evolution of this iconic perfume. It wouldn’t surprise me if 100 years later, this perfume continues to stand the test of time.

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