Created in 1921 Chanel No.5 is the best-known perfume in the world and was the first perfume imagined by a woman for women.

Gabrielle Chanel had already changed people’s views on fashion so it was no surprise that her first perfume was consistent with her pioneering designs, simple but well through  and revolutionary in its composition.

The first couturier to give her name to a fragrance she sought “a woman’s fragrance that smells like a woman”

Gabrielle Chanel and perfumer Ernest Beaux created No.5 in his laboratory in Grasse, a small town on the French Riviera and a major centre of French perfumery since the 17th century.

She didn’t hold with the idea that a perfume had to be directly associated with the scent of a single flower and asked Beaux for “an artificial fragrance like a dress, something crafted. I am a seamstress. I do not want rose or lily-of-the-valley, I want a composed fragrance”.

Beaux created a bouquet of 80 scents, whose precious notes of May rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, sandalwood etc were blended for the first time in history, with aldehydes in proportions that exalted fragrances and thrust perfume making into the modern era.

Unlike early 20th century perfumers, she forsook a more poetic name for a simple registration number:5. It is said that the number stands for the fifth sample Beaux presented to her, but it is also the figure that Gabrielle Chanel – who was interested in signs and symbols had chosen as her lucky charm and the date she presented her collections, usually on February 5 and August 5.

As for its presentation she chose a minimalist bottle that allowed the amber colour of the fragrance to take centre stage. The flat shape, similar to that of a hip flask, was designed for movement and speed, for a pocket or travel kit. For the first time, the stopper featured the interlocking double C logo. The label was simple and consistent with the spirit of the times and throughout the decades, the understated elegant design of No.5 has remained mostly unchanged.










Gabrielle Chanel posing in front of the fireplace in her apartment at the Ritz, Paris in 1937. Picture by Francois Kollar

No.5 is also highly regarded in the art world. In 1959 the No.5 box was made part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and in the 80s Andy Warhol dedicated a series of nine screen prints to the fragrance cementing its status as a pop culture icon.

Chanel No.5 is loved by millions of women all over the world and  has been helped along the way by a lineup of famous faces from Catherine Deneuve to Nichole Kidman and the current star Marion Cotillard  but not forgetting Marilyn Monroe who declared with only wore a few drops of Chanel No. 5 in bed.










Chanel No.5 is a mystery, the best known yet enigmatic of perfumes with a formula that is Chanel’s best kept secret.




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