Maison Chanel holds a special place in the hearts of perfume obsessives – that much is clear.
Its inimitable founder Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel was not only keen to break boundaries in her design work, indeed her disruptive, forward-thinking spirit extended into the fragrance world.
More than a century since the brand released its first composition, Chanel perfumes are still today perceived by many as the pinnacle of luxury scent.
How we chose:
Chanel has created some truly momentous fragrances, and we've picked out some of the brand's standout scents based history, perception, notes and general buzz. All the perfumes have been tested by Hello! Fashion's resident beauty obsessive Orin Carlin to give you an insight into what they actually smell like.
Hello! Fashion shares the history behind some of Chanel's most iconic perfumes:
An olfactory icon, N°5 requires no introduction. Radical to the nth degree, its bottle design broke tradition with its clean lines and rounded corners. The scent is capped with an emerald-cut stopper – a shape reminiscent of the Place Vendôme, a sight visible from Gabrielle's Hôtel Ritz Paris suite balcony.
Created by Ernest Beaux in 1921, the scent revolutionised traditional approaches towards perfumery. Seeking "a woman’s fragrance that smells like a woman", Gabrielle bypassed the idea that a scent had to be wedded to the scent of a single flower. Instead, she requested "an artificial fragrance like a dress, something crafted", a composition that had been carefully designed.
"I am a seamstress. I don’t want rose or lily-of-the-valley, I want a composed fragrance," she explained. Painstakingly superstitious, it is said that Gabrielle named the scent after the fifth sample that was presented to her, as she thought of the number five as her lucky charm.
Launched one year after N°5 in 1922, N°22 is a variation of its predecessor, possessing a splendidly smooth soapiness. It was part of the original line-up from which Gabrielle picked out N°5 as the brand's first perfume launch.
Directly inspired by the camellia flower, in 1925 Gardénia paid tribute to one of the maison's emblems. The camellia had always been present in Gabrielle's design work – worn in buttonholes, pinned to hat brims, and immortalised in jewellery – making it the perfect floral muse, despite it bearing no scent.
Bois des Iles
Created in 1928, Bois des Iles is warm and sensual, with an enchanting energy that is inspired by the heady frenzy of Roaring 20s jazz clubs.
The last fragrance launched and worn by Gabrielle Chanel, N°19 pays tribute to her birth date: 19 August 1883. Unfazed by protestations by those around her, in 1970 the brand's founder asked Henri Robert for a composition with a personality equal in strength to that of N°5.
A decadent ambery composition created by Jacques Polge, Coco, launched in 1984, symbolises Gabrielle's multi-faceted outlook on life. Her propensity for all things baroque starkly contrasted her understated fashion designs.
Fresh and clear, the immensely popular Coco Mademoiselle was released in 2001 with the intention of reaching a younger audience. Keira Knightley was the face of the fragrance for many years. The scent has a certain duality to it, it's sparkly and bright on account of the citrus elements, but the base is creamy and comforting, composed of tonka bean and Bourbon vanilla.
The first Chanel fragrance to be presented in a round bottle, Chance Eau de Toilette was introduced in 2003, again created by Jacques Polge. Paying tribute to Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel's superstitious nature, the scent is inspired by the idea of fortune and unpredictability.
As it goes, only Gabrielle's close friends had the privilege of referring to her by her nickname Coco, otherwise, the brand's founder was addressed as Mademoiselle by her seamstresses.
Released in 2021, Le Lion (part of Chanel's Les Exclusifs collection) was directly inspired by Gabrielle's star sign. Exuding protective power, Chanel's majestic motif is alluded to via Olivier Polge's distinctive amber elixir.
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