On this date in 1921, the world’s most iconic perfume, Chanel No. 5, officially debuts in Coco Chanel’s boutique on the Rue Cambon in Paris, France.
It was one such romance that led to the creation of Chanel No. 5—while vacationing in the South of France with Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, an exiled Russian nobleman who had taken part in the killing of Grigori Rasputin, Coco Chanel, who already established herself on the fashion scene, met the perfumer Ernest Beaux. She began to work with him on a fragrance that would bear her name, allegedly challenging him to create a scent that would “smell like a woman, not like a rose”. According to legend, Beaux accidentally added an “overdose” of aldehydes—chemical that helped a scent last longer but which were used sparingly by perfumers of the time, who preferred natural ingredients and fruity scents—to one of the samples he prepared for Chanel. A number of reasons have been posited as to why Chanel settled on this scent: many argue that the aldehydes reminded her of soap, a scent that took her back to her mother’s laundry. Chanel later said the concoction, “was what I was waiting for…a woman’s perfume, with the scent of a woman.”
Even before it debuted, Chanel No. 5 caused a stir. Chanel hosted a party for some of her most fashionable friends, sprayed the perfume around the table, and, according to legend, was asked about the scent by every woman who passed by. The fragrance was an immediate hit, considered the “cleaner” than many of the most common perfumes but also more “mature” and adult, in keeping with Chanel’s public image. Now Chanel No. 5 considered by many to be the first modern perfume and remained popular for a century.
Featured image via Vogue UK.
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