Every perfumer who passes through Chanel’s hallowed halls is tasked to become “a gatekeeper to protect the legacy of Chanel Nº5,” said Jean Loy, Chanel’s fragrance specialist who flew in from Singapore.
The brand’s latest nose/gatekeeper, Olivier Polge, was given the daunting task of reinventing Chanel Nº5, one of the world’s most iconic scents. Polge’s father, Jacques Polge, was also one of the brand’s strongest noses, responsible for famous fragrances like Coco Mademoiselle, Chance and Allure.
There’s no olfactory nepotism at work, though. Olivier is a solid perfumer in his own right, having concocted hits like Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb.
In reinventing Chanel Nº5, Olivier, in his “behind the scent” video, said what could be said about a son working for a company marked by his father’s strong legacy: “Rather than feeling burdened by the weight of this heritage and the legend surrounding it, I saw opportunities, especially for freshness. Freshness is interesting because it provides spontaneity.”
The result of his reinvention is Nº5 L’Eau, an airy rendering of the original, deconstructed and refreshed while keeping the signature Nº5 alive in its notes.
Added Polge, “I like the ‘Eau’ concept because it expresses freshness for this perfume which was originally very opulent. And yet, during deconstruction, it remained true to the ‘Guiding Thread’ that defines it as Nº5.”
Floral notes + citrus
“Exceptional raw materials are blended with high technology,” said Loy of the methodology that made Nº5 L’Eau. It is a melange of aerated floral notes (jasmine, ylang-ylang) and citrus—an unprecedented ingredient—and the emblematic accord that exemplifies Chanel Nº5: the May rose, which blooms only once a year.
The citrus is taken from lemons harvested in winter, which yields the highest quality of citrus.
Polge worked on the balance of freshness and warmth, operating purely on instinct to get it right. “But ‘right’ is complicated because it’s intangible,” he said.
Despite the intangibility of “right,” Nº5 L’Eau hits all the right notes. Or as Loy put it: “It’s something comfortable, soft and clean that cradles you.
“Perfume is a special armor. It’s an invisible language we use to communicate,” she added.
Her tip for “perfume power dressing:” For important power meetings, skip the fruity fragrances. “Fruity scents make you look like you don’t know what you’re doing; wear something with sandalwood instead. When you wear wood it lends you security and authority. Pair this with a suit.”
On where to spritz: “Coco Chanel always said to apply perfume ‘where you want to be kissed.’ Put some behind your ears, on your neck, behind your knees, and on the hem of your skirt so the fragrance envelops you when you move.”
Chanel Nº5 L’Eau is now available at Rustan’s
The Beauty Source. Follow on Instagram @rustansthebeautysource and @rustansph.