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Saturday, 8 March 2014

Chanel No. 5

Coco Chanel commissioned French Ernest Beaux to make some perfumes. When presented with small glass vials containing sample scent compositions numbered 1 to 5 and 20 to 24 for her assessment, it was bottle No.5 that was to Chanel's liking and became the chosen formula.

Chanel reportedly told Beaux: “I present my dress collections on May 5, the fifth month of the year, and so we will let this sample number five keep the name. It will bring good luck.”

Chanel No. 5 was the first perfume ever to be named after its designer.

Chanel introduced the new perfume to some of her friends on the fifth day of the fifth month (May) in 1921. Initially, it was given to good clients for free at her boutique. The fitting rooms in Chanel's boutique were  scented with No. 5 to create an ambiance unmatched by her contemporaries.

At the time of its inception, the most expensive perfume oil was jasmine due to the expensive distilling process (which still holds true today). Chanel wanted to create the most expensive perfume in the world, and as such No. 5 relies heavily on jasmine.


The bottle, over decades, has itself become an identifiable cultural artifact, so much so that Andy Warhol chose to commemorate its iconic status in the mid-1980s with his pop-art, silk-screen titled “Ads: Chanel.

In late 2004, Buz Luhrmann directed the world's most expensive advertisement for Chanel No 5, a 4-minute short film titled No 5: The Film starring Nicole Kidman and Rodrigo Santoro. The film ad, about a fairy-tale romance in which Chanel is part of the story but is not what the story is about, had a budget of $42 million and made Kidman a Guinness World Record holder for highest paid actress in a commercial (she was paid $12 million for her role). Varying length versions of the film ad were shown on television, and - a first for Chanel - in movie theaters.

According to Chanel, the formula used to produce No. 5 has changed little since its creation, except for the necessary exclusion of natural civet and certain nitro-musks.

Chanel claims that every 30 seconds, somewhere in the world, a bottle of Chanel No 5 is sold.

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