THE BIRTH OF CHANEL NO. 5

Exactly 100 years ago today, Chanel No. 5, the world's most iconic perfume, officially debuts in Coco Chanel's boutique on the Rue Cambon in Paris, France.
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Lily-Rose Depp for Chanel No. 5 in 2015, following in her mother’s footsteps—Vanesa Paradis in 1991. Depp only 16 years old.

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.”

Vanessa Paradis as the face of Chanel No. 15 in 1991. She was 19 years old.

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.

The very first ad for Chanel No. 5 by cartoonist Sem, 1921.

Featured image via Vogue UK.

• Read also REMEMBERING LEE.

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Rudolf Dethu

Music journalist, writer, radio DJ, socio-political activist, creative industry leader, and a qualified librarian, Rudolf Dethu is heavily under the influence of the punk rock philosophy. Often tagged as this country’s version of Malcolm McLaren—or as Rolling Stone Indonesia put it ‘the grand master of music propaganda’—a name based on his successes when managing Bali’s two favourite bands, Superman Is Dead and Navicula, both who have become two of the nation’s biggest rock bands.

Rudolf Dethu

Music journalist, writer, radio DJ, socio-political activist, creative industry leader, and a qualified librarian, Rudolf Dethu is heavily under the influence of the punk rock philosophy. Often tagged as this country’s version of Malcolm McLaren—or as Rolling Stone Indonesia put it ‘the grand master of music propaganda’—a name based on his successes when managing Bali’s two favourite bands, Superman Is Dead and Navicula, both who have become two of the nation’s biggest rock bands.
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