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Thursday, December 11, 2008


Chanel is No. 1

The House of Chanel is designer to some of the most coveted high-end clothes, accessories and perfumes. Its founder, Jeanne Gabrielle Chanel was born on August 19, 1883. Somewhere in between, she became a singer at La Rotunde where she crooned the likes of “Ko Ko Ko Ri Ko” and “Who's Seen Coco in the Trocadero.” From then she was lovingly dubbed “Coco,” a nickname that she would be known by, for the rest of her life.

Chanel began her designing carrier in millinery. She had set up her own workshop by the age of 26 and had a workforce of three by the time she was 27. By 1901 she had out grown her small workshop, and obtained a loan to open her first shop at 21 Rue Cambon. In 1914 she opened yet another shop at Rue Gautaute, this time a boutique that carried both hats and clothes. It was not until 1915, when Chanel extended her business ventures to Biarritz that the brand really took off, her dresses priced and 3000 francs and employing over sixty workers.

Chanel entered the perfume industry by releasing the timeless Chanel No.5 in 1921. Chanel No. 5 was born out of a collaboration between Coco Chanel and Ernest Beaux, a Russian perfumer. The result was the first of its kind, an artificial perfume that smelled of itself and did not imitate any floral scents. The perfume immediately became a bestseller and continues to be, almost a century later.

The technique used to formulate Chanel No. 5, involved incorporating findings from painstaking experiments that Beaux had done in earlier years. He experimented with aldehydes, strong smelling organic compounds that had not been used in perfumes before. The difficult formula was a combination of about eighty ingredients. The bottle used for Chanel No.5 mimicked the simplistic style of Chanel's clothing designs. It moved away from the elaborate style that most perfume houses settled on. It resembled a cube with rounded corners, the words Chanel No. 5 elegantly placed on the back of the bottle.

L'eau de Chanel followed. In the period 1925 – 1927 three more perfumes were added to the range. Gardenia, Bois des iles and Cuir de Russie. After the death of Coco Chanel in 1971, Gaston Berhelot, from Christian Dior, was appointed to fill her shoes. Under his leadership, the House of Chanel released a ready-to-wear clothing collection, and Parfums Chanel released Cristalle in 1974.

In 1966, Parfums Chanel decided to tackle the challenge of adding men's fragrances to their range, and released Pour Monsieur, Antaeus in 1981 and Bois Noir in 1987. The perfume house continued to shake off its feminine connotations in 1991, and Egoiste debuted. In 1994 its alter-ego, Egoiste Platinum was released.

The success of Parfums Chanel continues to soar to new heights. Elegant fragrances continue to be added to their range, and continue to grace the dressing tables and purses of many women. Their sensational recent releases include No. 18, Eau de Cologne, 31 Rue Cambon, Bel Respiro, Coromandel and 28 La Pausa. These recently released perfumes, perfectly embody the reason Chanel is so revered by the industry: It is consistent and willing to stand out from the crowd.


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