An Iconoclastic Vision ... The Story of N°5 (Part 2)

It is said that every 55 seconds, there will be one bottle of Chanel N°5 sold around the world. 

While its legendary reputation and word of mouth may have been the main contributing factors that force the sale of the fragrance, advertising campaigns too should be counted in as well as another factor that entices women and men everywhere to take home a bottle of the iconic fragrance for themselves or as gifts for the one they love and treasured.

In 1921, Chanel N°5 heralded its debut to the cognoscenti of fashion and fragrance aficionados through hand-drawn and painted illustrations by French illustrator Georges Goursat or Sem. 

As technology advanced, illustrations were replaced by photographic images. In 1937, Gabrielle Chanel starred in Chanel N°5 advertisement where she was photographed standing near the fire place of her own apartment and dressed in one of her couture creations – a long, full-skirted black dress with sheer long sleeves; a string of pearl necklace and a camellia brooch – by François Kollar.

While the World War II may have hindered the fragrance from earning greater success, the post-war years turned out to be an immense blessing as it became one of world’s sought after scents. 

Thanks to its celebrated reputation, in 1945, American soldiers were seen queuing in front of Chanel’s Rue Cambon store to buy Chanel N°5 as gifts to be gifted to their wives and lovers.

As the 20th century entered its second half period, the association of Chanel N°5 with inevitable elements of glamour and refinement became obvious, thanks to the endorsements by iconic figures such as world’s sexiest bombshell at the time, Marilyn Monroe.

The platinum blonde actress and singer who garnered major world attention through her famous “Seven Year Itch” gig (the lifted pleated skirt of the dress, remember?) once told the media that the only thing she wore to bed were drops of Chanel N°5. 

She further displayed her strong love for the fragrance during an interview with Marie Claire magazine in conjunction with the release of “Let’s Make Love”, a film by Georges Cukor.

“You know, they ask me questions. Just an example: ‘What do you wear to bed? A pyjama top? The bottoms of the pyjamas? A nightgown?’,” she said to Marie Claire’s then editor-in-chief Georges Belmont. “So, I said, ‘Chanel N°5’ because it’s the truth ... And yet, I don’t want to say ‘nude’. But it is the truth!”

Supporting the truth, Marilyn was once photographed by Ed Feingersh backstage, applying drops of Chanel N°5 on her décolletage area before her Broadway performance of “Cat on the Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams in 1955. 

The iconic image soon catapulted the fragrance’s reputation to greater global fame and was used as part of an advertisement campaign more than 40 years later.

Monroe aside, other celebrities who were given the privilege to represent the legendary scent were silver screen and runway luminaries such as Suzy Parker, Ali McGraw, Lauren Hutton, Cheryl Tiegs, Jean Shrimpton, Catherine Deneuve, Carole Bouquet, Nicole Kidman and Audrey Tatou. 

These women were chosen not just because they are the embodiment of contemporary fame and femininity but they also embody the spirit of Chanel N°5 — women who made themselves by working hard towards earning immense success in their respective fields, be it acting or modelling.   

Even renowned artist such as Pop Art impressario Andy Warhol was smitten by the allure of N°5, inspiring him to create a series of Pop Art screen print images that were later in Chanel advertising campaigns back in the 90s. 

Like a tradition, the year 2014 will unveil a new face and another glamorous advertising campaign directed by the same director who directed the iconic N°5 film starring Nicole Kidman, Baz Luhrman of the Moulin Rouge fame. 

Who is she and why she is chosen by Chanel to represent this magnificent fragrance? Do watch out this space.

Chanel N°5 Eau Premiere is available now at all Chanel beauty and fragrances counters and boutiques worldwide.

*Photos courtesy of Chanel archive

Espace Parfum by ChanelG07B, Ground Level, Suria KLCC, Jalan Ampang, 50088 Kuala Lumpur.


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