fashion history: coco chanel No. 5 perfume

Fashion History: Coco Chanel No. 5 Perfume

In Fashion & Culture, Student Mingleby Sarah Rabiah

Many people refuse to leave the house without applying some sort of perfume or fragrance. It’s as much a part of their outfit as shoes or accessories. Coco Chanel, a French fashion designer and brand known for its fragrances, dominates the market with iconic scents like their No. 5 perfume

It must be hard to believe, yet Chanel No. 5 is the most iconic perfume even a century after its release in 1921. It revolutionized the fragrance industry. Ernest Beaux developed a portfolio of samples from which Chanel chose the fifth proposal — and so the No. 5 was born! Since then Ernest Beaux remained the brand’s exclusive designer for perfumes till 1952. 

So what made Chanel No. 5 stand out from the perfumes of that time? Was it the more abstract construction or the generous use of aldehydes that give the fragrance a champagne-like sparkle when you smell them? The legend has that Chanel was definitely bewitched by the whiff of No. 5. 

To be honest, the fragrance of No. 5 is unique to each individual; it used to smell differently on each woman’s skin. The complexity of the fragrance resonated in a personal way to the one wearing it. It was Chanel’s unique ambition to make sure that people would say “You smell good” instead of “You smell like rose or jasmine.” The only thing she had in mind was the woman who’s carrying the unique fragrance.

It was not just the abstract nature of the perfume that made it stand out among the perfumes at the time. During the 1920s, most of the perfumes were given a fancier name and housed in sophisticated carved glass bottles. The No. 5 came in a unique geometric, sleek bottle, and Chanel kept the name simple, making it easy to remember. Quickly, the name caught on. We can say she made life easier for people with a relatable and sleek brand. Through a unique instinct that allowed her to stay one step ahead of her time, Chanel kept the simplicity of the brand’s identity and changed the world of perfume forever. 

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