This week, we went to the Palais de Tokyo where the most Haute Couture exhibit of the moment is taking place from May 5th to June 5th, centered around Chanel’s famous N°5 perfume. It was just the occasion to delight our noses with the refinement that is Gabrielle Chanel’s first perfume, as well as to learn her story.
With the Palais de Tokyo calling out to our senses, we got a full view upon arriving through the garden of Danish new wave Naturalist horticulturist Piet Oudolf, which expressed a veritable poetic evocation. The soul of Gabrielle Chanel could be felt in this history-filled place.The epic story of this perfume took off after the death of Arthur “Boy Capel”, Gabrielle Chanel’s greatest heartache. Boy is without a doubt the one who made her a modern woman with a curiosity for everything. He gave her a veritable passion for literature and esotericism. This perfume was for him. This love that Gabrielle would never get over would plunge her into silence and transform her chagrin into the desire to pay “homage”, to honor him by researching the exact scent that represented her love for him. This is how N°5, the brand’s very first perfume, was born.
Once through the garden, the sensation of entering into the intimate sphere of this symbol of French elegance invades you. From Boy’s death to the different portayals of her by her surrealist friends, the other side of the decor is unveiled. You can discover the private connection that Gabrielle Chanel had with certain artists in the Dada movement and surrealism that portrayed her numerous times through calligrammes or other artistic creations. Art had an impact on her designs, notably in the presentation of the flask. The tag recalls Dada butterflies, very short texts printed on white paper. This very same restraint would become years later the chic of minimalism. This very first perfume, reminiscent of a lost love, bears the number 5. A number that has inspired artists, a lucky number that marked Gabrielle’s life and even appears on her tombstone. Our visit then brought us upstairs, where our senses were awakened. An immense flask dominates the middle of the room, surrounded by small plexiglass boxes that let the inimitable odor of N°5 reign over the entire room.
Definitely don’t miss the booklets that are available; they’ll teach you more about this great fashion figure as well as Chanel’s emblematic perfume. One of them especially grabbed our attention. Graphic artist Irma Boom shares her modern vision of Gabrielle Chanel’s universe through the technique of embossage, similar to braille and unique to the artist. Throughout the entire exhibit, we learned more about the artistic techniques that brought the perfume down to its bare bones than about its initial intentions. No one intended for it to become a work of art. It became what it is through Gabrielle Chanel’s relationship with the artistic world of the surrealists, and what they went on to do afterwards. “Time works for me.” With this sentence, Gabrielle Chanel demonstrated the durability of the sacred N°5. Made from a loving memory, N°5 is more than just a simple perfume, it is a work of art that marked the history of Chanel and even today continues to get tongues wagging and crowds moving.“To be irreplaceable, you have to be different.” A beautiful life and fashion lesson provided by Coco.
Get yourself to this exhibit!
N°5 Culture Chanel
From 5 mai to 5 juin 2013
PALAIS DE TOKYO
13, avenue du Président Wilson
75 116 Paris