Chanel No. 5 was the first perfume launched by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel in 1921. The fragrance was compounded by French-Russian chemist and perfumer Ernest Beaux.
Chanel sought a new scent that would celebrate the liberated feminine spirit of the 1920s.
In 1920, when presented with small glass vials containing sample scents numbered 1 to 5 and 20 to 24 for her assessment, she chose the fifth vial. Chanel told her master perfumer, Ernest Beaux, “I present my dress collections on the fifth of May, the fifth month of the year and so we will let this sample number five keep the name it has already, it will bring good luck.”
Chanel No. 5, which was the first to feature a designer’s name. Perfume “is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion… . that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure,” Chanel once explained.
Factors that made it famous:
- Inspiration - Modern liberated women.
- Unique fragrance - It was the first synthetic perfume of eighty components that were not repeating the smell of a particular flower, as it had been earlier.
- Bottle design - Chanel envisioned a design that would be an antidote for the over-elaborate, precious fussiness of the crystal fragrance bottles then in fashion. Her bottle would be “pure transparency …an invisible bottle” as she said. It is generally considered that the bottle design was inspired by the rectangular beveled lines of the Charvet toiletry bottles, which, outfitted in a leather traveling case, were favored by her lover, Arthur “Boy” Capel. Some say it was the whiskey decanter he used that she admired and wished to reproduce in “exquisite, expensive, delicate glass”.
- Celebrities - In an interview in the early 1950s Marilyn Monroe famously said: “What do I wear to bed? Why, Chanel No. 5 of course,” and within days sales of the perfume skyrocketed.
- Advertisements - This perfume’s advertisements were one of the most expensive of its times. It changed the dimensions of advertising fragrances.