1921: After launching the trend of boy’s haircuts for women and making jersey a go-to fabric, Miss Coco Chanel’s style had effectively become a cornerstone for Parisian fashion. Even so, she felt the need to complete her inventory by adding one touch of elegance: fragrance.
At that time, Coco was enamored with Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovitch, in exile in Paris. Through him she was able to meet Ernest Beaux, ex-perfumer for the czars of Russia; she wasted no time trusting him the task of making her very first perfume. He and his captious nose were able to whip up two series of fragrances, numbered from 1 to 5 and from 20 to 24. Chanel chose number 5. But Ernest Beaux wasn’t fully satisfied with his creation: the smell, which was far too heavy, stayed at the very bottom of the bottle and stood the risk of weighing down the wearer’s skin all while failing to fully spread. His genius guided him towards the use of aldehyde (synthetic molecules with a faint scent of alcohol): once injected into the original substance, the perfume was finally able to take flight. This is what brought that needed touch of sophistication, this penetrating odor that tickled the olfactory senses.
What if a woman was defined by her scent? What if perfume was in fact the very aura of femininity? Chanel seems to have embodied in her own way the fragile dichotomy of womankind: passion and sensibility. The aura of Chanel and her lover were also bottled up alongside the fragility of all womankind into a flask-like perfume bottle designed by the Duke himself. The final result was in need of a name that would go down in history, so naturally, Chanel let fate decide for her: “I am releasing my collection of dresses on the 5th of May, the 5th month of the year, and so we will let this sample number five keep the name it has already; it will bring good luck.” The rest is history.