You may scent fragrance, however you’ll be able to’t see it – or are you able to? Chanel’s newest perfume exhibition in Paris, Le Grand Numéro de Chanel, means that you can do each. The exhibition presents a sequence of experiences that can tickle the center of any fragrance lover or fragrance explorer by way of a mixture of cabaret, stay music, artwork installations, style exhibits from the archives and digital actuality immersions. (Now we have a sense Emily would positively be first in line to go to in Paris).
In actual life, celebrities corresponding to Sadie Sink, Keira Knightley and Marion Cotillard visited the exhibition. Sink advised me, “In right now’s world, you’ll be able to stroll into a significant magnificence retailer and scent 60 totally different scents to attempt. On this exhibition you decelerate and study to understand each little element higher.” Working example: in the primary room, you will discover interpretive dancers twisting and turning bottles of Chanel N°5 (and even magicians). Head to the smaller breakout rooms, every with a significant Chanel scent, and you may expertise card video games, live-action chess video games, and scent psychoanalysts who can match you with scents primarily based in your persona. The visuals are all so very TikTok pleasant.
ELLE spoke to Chanel’s in-house perfumer Olivier Polge to study extra in regards to the secrets and techniques of Chanel N°5 and the surprises to be discovered within the exhibition. You may go to the exhibition in Paris from now till January 9; e-book right here.
What do you assume is one of the simplest ways for somebody to expertise the exhibition?
Do not have very preconceived concepts. Simply be your self and are available together with your historical past and persona. Hopefully you uncover perfumes another way. There are sometimes fragrance exhibitions with promoting posters or empty bottles. As a result of we manufacture our perfumes ourselves, we actually needed to have an actual perfume expertise along with all these visible elements. When making ready the exhibition, we tried to search out out which perfumes and which components we would present. However we discovered that one of the simplest ways to scent perfumes was to not be overexposed to them. We scent higher when it is the correct quantity of fragrance. It’s at all times harmful to fragrance the entire room.
What’s the “correct amount” of fragrance?
Might you scent 70 perfumes, or higher present about 10 that you’ll bear in mind nicely?
Did something shock you in regards to the exhibition?
What shocked me essentially the most, and I noticed the exhibition for the primary time yesterday, was the house and the way large it’s. I can not wait to see the reactions of everybody who will come. Persons are typically very unaware of all of the smells that encompass them.
It’s typically mentioned that you just write a biography of Chanel by way of fragrance. How do you assume the exhibition contributes to telling that story?
Fragrance and style had been two totally different worlds, and [Gabrielle] Chanel was the primary to give you a fragrance together with her personal identify. She noticed it as one other option to categorical herself – her persona and her model. It’s by no means my intention to inform or go an excessive amount of into historical past. Gabrielle’s historical past is translated into her model. When individuals typically ask me, “The place do you discover your inspiration?” I say, “That is extra of a method of being. When you find yourself inventive, all the things conjures up you.” That is why I choose to speak about model and historical past, nevertheless it may be a bit the identical. When considering of latest fragrances, it is necessary that it is smart and that it by some means resonates with the others. It will be a pity to disregard that.
We got here up with a line, Les Eaux de Chanel, and I actually preferred it as a result of when you consider fragrances, you at all times see somebody with a scent, or locations. These are issues that anchor smells in your thoughts. As I assumed in regards to the fragrances, I spotted that every one these locations conjured up photos and I began constructing one thing within the model of Chanel. For instance, Chanel went to Venice within the Twenties, and he or she in all probability developed a love for the Venetian artwork that you just typically see in sure jewellery.
You additionally mentioned that perfumes are a language. Do you make up sentences or phrases when you’re creating fragrances?
The other. I’ve nothing to say. It is arduous to speak about perfumes. Sure, the language of a fragrance is scents. They categorical issues. They depart a mark on your self that phrases will not be sufficient. I am not saying it is higher. I believe it is fascinating to say as a result of these are issues that we won’t clarify.
What do you assume the exhibit would say if it might discuss?
If the exhibit might discuss, I would hope it might let you know one thing you did not already know.
You have labored with Karl Lagerfeld earlier than, and now with Virginie Viard. How would you describe the distinction in the best way the 2 method scent or take into consideration scent?
They’re so totally different it is arduous to see overlaps. Karl was fairly captivated with perfumes. The final time I noticed him I used to be afraid he would discuss to me a few fragrance I did not know. He knew each fragrance available on the market for the previous 50 years. I exaggerate a bit, however in his formative years he had labored with or for [Jean] Patou when he was very younger, and Patou invented numerous perfumes. He knew about perfumes that not exist, so he was fairly an knowledgeable.
What do you assume are the primary elements that give Chanel N°5 its timelessness?
To begin with, it is an excellent fragrance, with an id that you just instantly arrange. Gabrielle Chanel has mentioned that with N°5 she needed a synthetic fragrance, that’s, a fragrance that doesn’t precisely symbolize the scent of jasmine or a rose, however is extra summary [and] in all probability extra mysterious.
There’s one thing about Chanel N°5 you could’t comprehend. I believe it goes past the uncooked supplies. We maintain N°5 with its unique uncooked supplies. We even purchased sure fields of jasmine to ensure we’d have the portions of the standard we’d like. On the one hand, we’re at all times very cautious to maintain N°5 in its unique iteration, however we additionally usually work with new interpretations, to attempt to convey one thing new to No°5 as nicely. We continuously keep N°5 as if it had been a brand new fragrance, and that helps.
I additionally prefer to do not forget that Gabrielle Chanel herself was the primary face of N°5. There was an image of her within the first business. Then, within the Fifties, Marilyn Monroe mentioned she would solely put on a number of drops of N°5 at evening. All these issues are past our planning.
Would you describe different perfumes at Chanel as synthetic?
Sure. After I say synthetic, I imply summary – we’re not attempting to make Rose by Chanel or Vetiver by Chanel. We at all times attempt to categorical one thing totally different. I’d say that of all our perfumes to a point. That may be a hallmark of Chanel perfume. And the opposite necessary factor is that this composite facet — synthetic — however that is very true of uncooked supplies which can be chosen or remodeled, the best way we extract them. We distort the id of nature. We by no means attempt to reproduce nature.
This interview has been barely edited and shortened for readability.
Kathleen Hou is the wonder director at Elle Journal.