November 20, 2014

3 legendary perfumes – stories for seducing women and men…

Some stories are so rich with magic that it’s hard to picture them being true. For then to turn out that they’re linked to a perfume, and the explanations to start materializing like through a miracle…

Chanel No. 5 is a fragrance of legend, that next to the 80 aromas it contains seems to be mixing also just as many legendary stories.

First come the undisputable premieres: it belongs to the first couture House to make its own perfume. It has introduced the use of Chanel especially engineered parfumerie chemical compounds that allow the intensification of the perfume of each of its ingredients while also contributing to their indecipherable character. It made history as the first ever fragrance being promoted by its very creator, Coco Chanel posing in a Harper’s Bazaar dedicated material at the Ritz. And it became the world’s most prestigious and best sold perfume – from 1921 until today!

Then the countless extraordinary tiny details that it has been collecting throughout its miraculous career or nearly 100 years. Women have been and continue being crazy about Chanel No. 5. Coco Chanel used to say that she had captured ‘’A woman’s perfume with a woman’s scent.’’ and that it should be sprayed on the places where she would like to be kissed. Marilyn Monroe admitted in a famous interview that in bed she just wears a few drops of Chanel No. 5. Decades later, in 1937, Catherine Deneuve would describe in a whispery voice her own relationship with the No. 5, in a Chanel short film. And in 2012, Brad Pitt was to be the first man to declare his sentiments for Chanel No. 5 and the woman wearing it.

In fact, No. 5’s actual creator was a man: Ernest Beaux, the perfumier of the czars of Russia that was bestowed by Chanel to have created for her dense, complex and unexpected fragrances. In his searches for essences that would make up the perfect abstract perfume, he literally reached all the way to the Arctic Circle. And this is just one of the stories Chanel No. 5 put into motion. There are those linked to the geometrical shape of the bottle that is said to reflect the proportions of Place Vendome, about the luck of having Chanel’s favourite sample be her magical number – 5 – and about the first use of the future iconic initials CC on the perfume’s seal. About the American GIs that after the liberation of Paris, in World War II, were buying Chanel No. 5 for their fiancées and wives. About the canvas representations of the No. 5 made by Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol. About the outlandish sight of a Chanel No. 5 ad during the famous break during the Super Bowl.

And all of these are just a few. Since Coco Chanel not only had the gift of transforming everything she touched into a style landmark, but also into myth and, consequently, into product extraordinaire with included legend and marketing!

Another perfume whose impact has been travelling the meridians as well as the dreams and powers of attraction of millions of women is Opium from Yves Saint Laurent.

Considered a statement perfume, with a potency of scent and aura of passion and unleashed attraction to match its name, Opium was the very first perfume to be created this way. First came the idea, the name and they were only later followed by the corresponding essence and bottle. And YSL was very specific and determined in each of these respects. Asked what is it that the Orient evokes for him, his answer was ’’Flowers of fire.’’ Flowers of fire similar to the explosion of lights you see when, with your eyes closed, you press down on your eyelids – he explained – and the chromatic and aesthetic palette of Opium’s packaging and image.

An image and sensation of amazement and ecstasy – “Opium, for those who are addicted to Yves Saint Laurent.” And the extraordinary party he threw for the fragrance’s debut proved and foresaw that almost the (entire) world is cultivating its YSL addiction. Organised on a sail ship rented from a New York museum – the Pekin – it was a mad success, with a minimum of three attending VIPs: Truman Capote, Diane Vreeland and an almost half a ton Buddha ornamented with blossoming orchids. When asked what she made of the perfume, Vreeland answered: ’’I like the smell of money.’’ And she was right. The spiking success of Opium has been lasting for the last 40 years. And the scandal stirred by the opposition of the Chinese community in the US to the name he had chosen only made the fragrance of Opium and the money it brings grow even stronger.

About Shalimar they say that it is one of the perfumes men prefer when they’re carried by women. And the first argument Guerlain finds for this assertion is 400 years old. Shah Jahan had built for his beloved wife, Mumtaz, the splendid Taj Mahal and its gardens: a never-ending proof of undying love. And Jacques Guerlain, touched by the intensity of the story felt inspired to create what would become the first oriental perfume in the world: Shalimar, love essence encapsulated in a Baccarat bottle reflecting the temple to love from Agra.

Its global success started early after its launch, when Madame Guerlain wore it on a voyage to New York. It is said that a bottle of Shalimar is being sold every minute.

Yet when it comes to legendary perfumes it’s no longer easy to tell apart mirage and reality.


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Photos: Chanel,,, Guerlain