• Mohan Dewan


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The Chanel No. 5 perfume is one of the most iconic fragrances in the world, and its origin story is just as intriguing. The perfume was launched in 1921 by the legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel, who was inspired by her desire to create a scent that would embody her vision of modern femininity. But did you know that Chanel No.5 has a deep connection with Russia and soap?

It all begins with French couturier Gabrielle Coco Chanel's love affair with a Russian aristocrat, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich. The two met in Paris in the early 20th century and quickly fell in love. 

Around this time, Coco wanted to create a layered scent that unfolds with time and doesn’t wither away fast, but she was struggling to find a perfumer who could achieve this, as the only way to create fresh fragrances at the time was to use citrus scents such as lemon, bergamot, and orange. These scents were charming but didn't last on the skin. 

Hence, Pavlovich introduced Coco to a Russian chemist and perfumer, Ernest Beaux, who was a master of his craft. He was known for his meticulous attention to detail and his ability to create complex and layered scents. Beaux worked for the Russian royal family and lived in Grasse, the center of the perfume industry. Beaux was a curious and daring craftsman who took up Chanel's challenge to create a fragrance that would embody freshness.

Beaux spent several months perfecting the fragrance and eventually presented Chanel with 10 samples numbered one to five and 20 to 24. Chanel tested all but settled at number 5, and the rest is history.

However, what was special about sample number 5, and why Coco chose it amongst all is also an interesting story. 

The secret to Chanel No.5's success lies in the use of aldehydes, a class of organic compounds that are commonly used in perfumery to give fragrances a clean, soapy smell. Beaux had added a large amount of aldehydes to sample number 5 to create a scent that was fresh and modern. The use of aldehydes was a breakthrough in perfumery, as they allowed perfumers to create fragrances that were both fresh and long-lasting.

Coco chose it over the others as sample number 5, as it had a soapy smell because of the high concentration of aldehyde. This soapy smell reminded her of her childhood, when she would help her mother, who was a laundress, and the scent of soap and clean laundry was a constant presence in her childhood days and was deeply ingrained in her memory. The scent was both familiar and modern, and it perfectly captured Chanel's vision for a perfume that would embody modern femininity.

The perfume was an instant hit, and it quickly became a symbol of luxury and sophistication. It was worn by most famous women in the world, including Marilyn Monroe.

Today, Chanel No.5 remains the most beloved fragrance in the world. It has inspired countless imitations and has become a cultural icon in its own right. But story of its origin is a reminder that even the most glamorous and luxurious things can have humble beginnings. It is also a testament to the power of collaboration and the importance of paying attention to even the smallest details when creating something truly special.



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