The Scent of Chanel: N°5 – How It All Began


You might be familiar with the world’s bestselling fragrance, Chanel N°5, which is a celebrated icon in its very own right, but less so on the actual story behind how it all came into creation. In fact, the iconic scent dates back to almost a century ago, born in 1921 from a selection of 10 different fragrances numbered 1 to 5 and 20 to 24 that Ernest Beaux presented to Gabrielle Chanel. Naturally, she picked ‘5’. Not only was she drawn to the scent, she had an affinity with the number ever since her days in the convent, with the paths leading to the cathedral laid out in circular patterns that seem to repeat the number. In addition, she presented her fashion collections on the 5th of May, the 5th day of the 5th month, which only made sense to have her very first fragrance named N°5.

To create demand and allure of the scent, Gabrielle Chanel started spraying N°5 all over her boutique in Rue Cambon and gave bottles to a selected number of her high society friends. Everyone wanted in on a bottle, which was only retailed at high-end department stores in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1955, Marilyn Monroe mentioned that she only wore N°5 to bed and nothing else, which turned it into the icon that it is today. A year later, Chanel began using television as a means of communication (it was the very first perfume brand to do so), starting with an advertisement of the iconic scent in the United States.

In 1968, Catherine Deneuve was selected as the first actress to be featured as the face of N°5, while Brad Pitt became the first (and only) male to ever front the iconic scent back in 2012. And while the shape of the bottle has changed slightly over the years, its scent composition that was what made N°5 so special to begin with has never been tweaked, only updated. It was one of the first perfumes to ever feature a wide mix and variety of flowers, without focusing on one in particular. Not to forget the unique (and unexpected) dosage of aldehydes, which gave the perfume a lift and enhancing the ingredients within, creating an abstraction and complexity like never before.

In 2018, Chanel decided to give a spin to the iconic fragrance by releasing N°5 L’Eau, which was created by Olivier Polge, one that came with a lighter and fresher composition that aims to complement the original. This brings the total number of variations in the N°5 range of fragrances to 5 today, which includes the sensual and intense N°5 Eau de Parfum, the woody and warm N°5 Eau de Toilette and the airy and delicate N°5 Première. A fragrance that’s truly made for everyone, with 5 distinct personalities that will complement anyone.

Have you discovered the N°5 that’s truly the one for you?


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