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From flower to fragrance: the craftsmanship of a Chanel perfume

From flower to fragrance: the craftsmanship of a Chanel perfume

Much is made of the painstaking process of Chanel’s couture dressmaking, or the many meticulous steps that go into creating its handbags, but less thought is given to the craftmanship of forming a fragrance. The latter may be more accessible to the everyday shopper, but the same level of care and detail applies during production behind the scenes. The house of Chanel’s latest creation, Gabrielle Essence Eau de Parfum, is an example of precisely the artistry and expertise that underpins the luxury label. It is made with flowers from Grasse, the heartland of scent, found in the hills north of Cannes. I visited the fields of Chanel there, where, across five acres of farm, five species of flowers are grown for fragrances. It’s also where the history of fashion fragrances began, with the creation of the iconic No5 back in 1921. Gabrielle Chanel was the first person to put a perfume to her own name, and the esteemed nose Ernest Beaux used Grasse jasmine in the distinctive formula. Now, Olivier Polge holds the title of Chanel’s perfumer-creator, succeeding his father Jacques. He helps protect the house’s heritage from field to fragrance, safeguarding Chanel formulas while designing new olfactory compositions. With Gabrielle Essence (and 2017’s Gabrielle Chanel Eau de Parfum) he too used jasmine, with the aim to bottle the true essence of Gabrielle Chanel herself. He tells me: “At Chanel our identity is very much influenced by white flowers, especially jasmine.” He explains that when he looks back to Beaux’s creations for the couturière, these blossoms featured consistently. “There were certain flowers that were always coming back, like the chorus of a song.” Naturally, he feels this must represent Chanel’s taste “and probably something of her personality”. As she was known to say, “fashion changes but style stays”, and […]

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