We love a beauty launch; but what’s truly fascinating are the crazy processes that go into making a product the iconic beauty hit it is today. True to the visionary direction of Coco Chanel, Chanel N°5, born in 1921, was all about firsts.
Each 30ml bottle of N°5 Parfum contains 1,000 jasmine flowers and 12 May roses from Grasse, France.
The first artisanal blend
Before Chanel N°5, perfumes tended to be single-note and heavy – women wore scents that smelled like a single flower or bolder scents like musk and jasmine to attract men. Coco Chanel specifically asked for “an artificial fragrance”, being sure to clarify that “I say artificial because it will be fabricated. I want a fragrance that is composed.” The result? A blend that’s made from no fewer than 80 synthetic and natural ingredients, which means there is a lot of rich floral notes, but no dominant one.
The first partnership of its kind
While beauty brands have worked with producers and farmers to develop ingredients exclusively for them for some time, Chanel is one of the first to establish such an exclusive partnership to ensure the quality of the two key ingredients in Chanel N°5: jasmine and the delicate May rose. Working with the Mul family (the largest family-run flower producer in Grasse, France; the birthplace of the perfumery), 100 percent of the jasmine and May rose production is reserved for Chanel to this day.
The first fragrance for the modern woman
Before vacuum-tight seals, craftsman used a fine membrane of animal origin to protect the liquid inside the glass bottles, and tied it with thread before sealing it shut with a drop of wax. Today, a different material is normally used; but Chanel employs craftsmen who specialise in this technique, and can seal up to 100 bottles an hour. While most perfumes of that time were elaborate, Coco Chanel opted for a minimalist design.
Images: Chanel / Text: Cheong Kamei.