Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Did You Know? Trivia about Chanel No. 5

I found some interesting tidbits about the perfume Chanel No. 5 in a biography of the designer.  It was created by Ernest Beaux, a Russian émigré and the ex-czar's official perfumer.

... Beaux was just then experimenting with using synthetic compound to enhance various natural mixtures.... Chanel found perfumes of the day, extracted from violets, roses, and orange blossoms and put up in extravagant bottles, banal.  She told Beaux she wanted everything in the perfume -- a scent that would invoke the femininity of a woman.  Beaux's genius was then to add synthetic chemical components to enhance the natural scents and stabilize the perfume so that the scent lingered on the skin -- unlike the natural scents.

    In 1921, Beaux presented Chanel with a series of concoctions, numbered from 1 to 5 and 20 to 24.  At first, she chose the 22nd one and offered it for sale.  But it was number five that delighted Chanel, and she decided it must be introduced in 1921 along with her collection.  She would call the new fragrance of Chanel No. 5 .
    Except to a handful of the initiated, the formula for making Chanel No. 5  remains secret.  It is known to be exceptionally complicated.  The perfume was, and still is, constructed of approximately 80 ingredients.  The most important one is high-quality jasmine found only in Grasse, France.  (Pages 28-29)

From Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret Warby Hal Vaughan.  As the title implies, the book is primarily determined to prove Coco Chanel's collaboration with the Nazis in occupied France during World War II.  However, it does provide a brief biographical background of the rest of her life, a life which I found quite fascinating.

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