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On the long, hot summer days we have been enjoying in London and throughout the UK, we all need a clean, refreshing scent to waft around us. You may, or may not, have heard of Chanel’s recently revealed new additions, which I am convinced you will want to wear all summer.
If you’ve ever been introduced to Chanel No. 5, then you know what Chanel fragrances are like. They’re floral, they’re bold – and they’re not exactly unisex. But in 2018, this legacy fashion and beauty house have certainly been shaking things up! Chanel’s in-house perfumier, Olivier Polge, who has been at the helm since 2015, has just introduced three light, citrus-y, and unexpected eau de toilettes called Les Eaux de Chanel. Designed in a minimalist flask-inspired bottle, with fresh notes more commonly found in cologne, the three scents don’t confine themselves to any one gender.
“This is a new sort of collection of perfumes, we call them Les Eaux because they’re fresh, fluid and sparkling. My source of inspiration came from Eau de Cologne, those combinations of fresh citrus oils,” says Polge. Each scent was inspired and named after a destination vitally important to Coco Chanel’s life: Venice, Biarritz, and Deauville, the beach town where she opened her very first boutique in 1913. “The three cities are really important in the history of Chanel. They became a part of our identity and source of inspiration,” he says.
The three fragrances are named after destinations dear to Gabrielle Chanel; Biarritz, her first atelier; Deauville, her first boutique and Venice, where she was inspired by Baroque and Byzantine culture. LES EAUX DE CHANEL are not based on a fixed architecture. Their structure responds to a single desire: infinite freshness. Woven with Sicilian and Calabrian citrus, they form a light and airy scent trail. Time to fly into a vision of Gabrielle Chanel’s past where three new scents has envolved in each destination.
This is where it all began. In the spring of 1912, a seaside resort on the Normandy coast caught at the attention of the young milliner Gabrielle Chanel. Deauville was already the destination of choice for Parisians at the weekend so it seemed the ideal location to sell her first creations, breaking with the stylistic codes of the time. In 1913, with the help and financial assistance of businessman and polo player, Boy Chapel, Gabrielle launched her first collection in a shop with a white awning that set off her name, written in bold, black capital letters: GABRIELLE CHANEL – the legend was born.
Deauville is one of my favourite scents from this collection. It is aromatic and woody, starting off bright and citrus-y but evolving into a wearable patchouli scent. “Deauville is not only very close to the city of Paris, but it’s in the middle of Normandy, and a very popular weekend destination,” he says. “I had in mind the scents of what could be a weekend in the countryside. This is why I envisioned a scent that, aside from those sparkling oils of orange, has a more aromatic, green aspect with basil, leaves of an orange tree, geranium, and a touch of jasmine.”
In 1915, only two years after the launch of her first clothing designs in Deauville, Gabrielle Chanel inaugurated a new space in Biarritz. The Basque coast resort town has been a high society holiday destination since the 19th century. Taking advantage of the society life and tourism draw of Biarritz, the visionary chose the Villa de Larralde as her store location, next to the Casino, the luxury hotels and the beach. An exciting venture ahead for Gabrielle Chanel.
So, here we have Biarritz, which is the most traditionally cologne-like scent of the collection (but still totally wearable by those who prefer perfume). The locale is where Chanel herself cut off all her hair and opened her first couture house, asserting her independence in a way she never had before. Polge was intent on capturing that feeling. “It’s much more dynamic, sportier, this is where we get our pictures of Chanel on the shores,” he says. “It’s more energetic—I think it’s the freshest of the three.” Polge used a mix of traditional citrus notes like grapefruit and mandarin, lily of the valley, and a synthetic molecule meant to mimic the scent of fresh air. The scents end on the mellow notes of white musk and vetiver.
In 1920, Mademoiselle was inconsolable, following the tragic death of Boy Capel in a car accident in December 1919, after which her good friends Misia and the painter José Maria Sert invited her to Venice in an effort to ease the painful memories. Not only did Gabrielle Chanel light upon a city on the borders of European and Eastern culture, but Venice also rekindled her desire to live. A changing of the new era ahead.
Venise is the most traditionally feminine scent in the line, inspired by Coco Chanel’s time in Venice. It was there that Chanel first discovered her love for Byzantine and Baroque art, the influences of which can still be seen in the collections designed by Karl Lagerfeld today. Given the influences of Venice, Polge created a powdery, oriental scent. “The top note is still fresh, with orange flower neroli,” he notes. “Then there is iris, which has certain violet undertones, then it gets warmer with amber accord and cedarwood.” It’s a fragrance for vanilla-lovers who are looking for a lighter iteration perfect for the warmer months.
Polge likes to describe the three eau de toilettes as watery—but don’t mistake that for thinking they’re anything like the popular scents from the 1990s. “No natural raw material smells exactly like water,” he says. “When I speak about water, I am not describing them as watery ”per se”, but I am speaking about fluidity and freshness.” The Les Eaux scents are bright, light, and easy-to-wear. “There is something very elegant to their simplicity,” he adds. That simplicity also carries on to the bottles and packaging.
Designed like an invitation to travel, the new bottle for the LES EAUX DE CHANEL collection stems from a desire for simplicity. Their accessible character can be seen in the shape of the bottle recalling the flasks of alcohol people used to carry in their waistcoats – that way you can travel in style with these new bottles. Now, it’s time to find out which is your ultimate favourite?
Photos by Victoria Metaxas