Today marks a pretty special day for the House of CHANEL—the first new fragrance pillar in 15 years officially launches and it may just tell one of their most important stories yet. GABRIELLE CHANEL is quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen (or smelled) from the brand and that is exactly what they wanted to do.
Most people, whether they are into fashion or not, know the name “Coco Chanel.” It’s an iconic, legendary name that has influenced the world of fashion arguably more than any other in history. But what many people don’t know, is that Coco wasn’t born “Coco” and that her birth name was Gabrielle. The new fragrance was inspired by Gabrielle, the woman, before she became Coco, the designer. She was rebellious, determined, passionate and courageous and that is exactly what perfumer Olivier Polge set out to express with the fragrance.
This particular fragrance already has a special spot in my heart because I had the opportunity to attend the reveal party in Paris earlier this summer. I was first immersed in Coco Chanel’s world when I toured her apartment at 31 Rue Cambon. Yes, I sat on the infamous mirrored staircase where she would watch her shows and also at the dining table where she hosted her guests (apparently they still have dinner parties there). Then, as I walked through the fragrance exhibit, I discovered who she was earlier in life, as Gabrielle. The entire experience gave me a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the new fragrance—and of the history of CHANEL in general.
As with all things CHANEL, symbolism is at the heart of every detail of the fragrance. First, the bottle. At first glance, it may look quite simple, but it actually took years to develop. While most people feel like a heavy object conveys the concept of luxury, CHANEL decided to do the opposite (ah ha, there’s that rebellion).
The thin-walled glass is incredibly lightweight and bevels inwards slightly to allow for maximum light reflection. The clean lines were also important; the label is the same size as the cap and the legal information is printed on the back of the label so it doesn’t distract from the name. Lastly, the brushed lamé colour—not quite gold but not silver either—was directly inspired by vintage fabrics preserved in the CHANEL Heritage department. So clearly, a lot of thought went into the details of such a simple bottle.
I have to admit, I was a bit nervous to smell the fragrance for the first time. I was offered to smell it before the reveal party, but I wanted to have the full experience and walk through the exhibit first. As a beauty editor, it can be quite daunting to smell a fragrance in front of other people for the first time, because let’s be honest—not everyone is going to like every scent. I can appreciate a scent which may not be for me, knowing there are others out there who will love it. But, I really wanted to like this one, so I was nervous.
As I walked through the exhibit, I first learned about who Gabrielle was as a person, then I discovered the intricasies of the bottle and experienced the singlular notes of the fragrance. After that, I walked down a dark hallway leading to the final fragrance and I could smell it right away. Immediately, I was in love (also a bit relieved) and that held true throughout the evening as I wore it on my skin as well.
Olivier Polge set out to create “the ideal flower” for the fragrance, picking from all of the floral varieties CHANEL ever used. He began with ylang-ylang, jasmine, orange blossom and tuberose, then tweaked as needed with white musk, sandalwood, mandarin and grapefruit. The result is what CHANEL calls a “solar vibration” and it’s—hands down—my favourite creation of theirs to date.
To me, it is a luminous floral with hints of freshness to balance it out. It’s incredibly vibrant, but still sophisticated and feminine. It’s the kind of fragrance you can wear all year round and while it does have a youthfullness to it, it isn’t defined by age either.
CHANEL No.5 will likely forever be the brand’s most iconic scent, but I think GABRIELLE CHANEL will be right there alongside it for years to come. It might sound like an oxymoron, but I describe it as a “new classic” because although it just launched, it smells timeless. In 30, 40, 50 years from now, I think people will attribute the same iconic status to GABRIELLE as they do today with No.5.shop this story