FROM DECEMBER 15, 2022 TO JANUARY 9, 2023
FROM DECEMBER 15, 2022 TO JANUARY 9, 2023, CHANEL WILL CELEBRATE ITS FRAGRANCES IN A FESTIVE AND OLFACTORY WHIRLWIND, WITH AN EXCEPTIONAL EXHIBITION AT THE GRAND PALAIS ÉPHÉMÈRE.
Senses are heightened, imagination set in motion… LE GRAND NUMÉRO DE CHANEL is an unprecedented experience, for experts and non-experts alike, an immersive journey that invites you to follow your lucky star, seize your chance, or become part of the legend.
From classic to iconic, from bare minimalism to the upmost sophistication, from the everyday accessory to the piece of art that has inspired the greatest artists – some of whose works will be reunited for the first time – it is the singularity of CHANEL perfumes that is expressed through a visit rich in experiences, discoveries and emotions. To face them is to meet destiny head on, a vital force and a single ambition: to transform one’s life and make the ordinary extraordinary.
FROM DECEMBER 15, 2022 TO JANUARY 9, 2023 AT THE GRAND PALAIS ÉPHÉMÈRE
Registration from November 17th, 2022 on grand-numero.chanel.com
Address: Place Joffre, 75007 PARIS
THOMAS DU PRÉ DE SAINT MAUR HEAD OF GLOBAL CREATIVE RESOURCES FRAGRANCE & BEAUTY, FINE JEWELRY & WATCHES
What is the message behind the LE GRAND NUMÉRO DE CHANEL event?
LE GRAND NUMÉRO DE CHANEL is a show, a return to reverie that is emotionally evocative on several levels. The idea is to let yourself indulge in daydreaming, to chart your own path as you travel from one universe to another. It is not an exhibition that is meant to be visited in a specific order. It is very open! It is also a social experience, a time to share in the holiday spirit, and feels a bit like discovering the window displays of the Parisian department stores at Christmas time.
I want the public’s takeaway to be the role a fragrance can play, how it can reveal the singularity of every individual and influence our vision of beauty. A fragrance is more than a name, a bottle, or a scent; it is also everything it brings to mind when we breathe it in, and all it evokes when we wear it. It is an extraordinary product. Many people believe that fragrance is an accessory or a finishing touch, but it is so much more than that. Fragrance has a real effect on our feelings, confidence, mood, and desires, and this is what we want everyone to experience.
Where did the name LE GRAND NUMÉRO DE CHANEL come from?
Beyond the symbolic meaning behind the House’s emblematic numbers, it ties back to the idea of artistic performances, a notion that is very important to CHANEL. This act reminds us of the fact that Gabrielle Chanel became Coco around 1901, when she was living in Moulins and performing as a singer. A CHANEL fragrance is a virtuosic performance by the perfumer. It is also a spectacular celebration of life, movement, of allure: a daily invitation to put on a show…
In your opinion, how important is the story we tell about a fragrance?
What we communicate about a fragrance is an expression of our style and vision. For example, CHANCE conveys the belief held by CHANEL that happiness always involves a little bit of luck, but that having luck takes a lot of work. It is not luck in itself, but a vision of CHANEL that is expressed through CHANCE, for which we need to tell the story.
LE GRAND NUMÉRO DE CHANEL will give the opportunity to discover every facet of a fragrance, because it will tell its entire story, which is usually only told in fragments. For N°5, we will further explore it cultural and historic influence with a retrospective of its best advertising campaigns, as well as a deep dive into its artistic influence with a series of art pieces inspired by N°5.
What can you tell us about symbolism behing the House’s emblamatic numbers?
Gabrielle Chanel was the first to name a fragrance after a number, contrary to the lyricism that characterized the era. Numbers were never chosen at random: 19 for her date of birth, 31 for the address of the legendary rue Cambon… She presented N°5 as an homage to her own instinct and forwent any sort of unnecessary storytelling surrounding the fragrance. Needless to say, there was a little bit of superstition involved…
How do you transform a fragrance into a visual campaign?
Much like a piece of music, a fragrance is composed: it begins as a mental process and is then written down in the form of notes and accords. We start with a desire to express a facet of CHANEL, and from there we work in parallel on a name, a scent, and a bottle, followed by an advertisement. What connects us is the idea, which always starts with a CHANEL vision. It is for this reason that a luxury product is sometimes surprising, a convergence of subjective elements organized around a main idea.
How do you approach the House’s heritage?
It is very inspiring to work for a house with so much heritage. It is very exciting and also very demanding: to work today knowing that Gabrielle Chanel created N°5 in 1921 is something that challenges me on a daily basis. The pitfall would be to limit the brand by excessively glorifying the past, or on the other hand, to completely distance ourselves from what has contributed to its history since the beginning.
CHANEL is a brand that is both incredibly classic and revolutionary. Classic in the sense that it has an extremely clear vision of life and beauty. Revolutionary in that it is always trying to reinvent the way it expresses this vision. And this is what makes it so incredibly powerful: the fact that people can see themselves in it, and at the same time, its tremendous ability to surprise and continually create desire.
Why do you think CHANEL fragrances are so successful?
What is irreplaceable for CHANEL is Gabrielle Chanel herself. A CHANEL fragrance is unique in that it conveys the CHANEL style and its singular vision of beauty and self-fulfillment… CHANEL fragrances illustrate the perfect balance between tangible and intangible experiences: a fragrance is a visible, palpable product, and it is also everything it summons up in the imagination of the person wearing it. When Marilyn wore N°5, it wasn’t just because it smelled good: the abstract quality of N°5 was a celebration of freedom and self-affirmation.
OLIVIER POLGE CHANEL IN-HOUSE PERFUMER CREATOR
How important is the House’s legacy in the fragrance creation process?
My comment has more to do with style. Certain components of our fragrances convey meaning, which is what makes them unique. These are the components I play with when creating a fragrance because they form our identity. When creating N°5, Gabrielle Chanel asked for an artificial fragrance, regardless of whether the ingredients used were natural or artificial. It was more a vision of a spirit, or an expression of style that is dissociated from a specific flower or type of wood, a combination of raw materials. That is why our style and our formulas are so complex. At CHANEL, we do not create fragrances based on the materials that compose them, but on a vision.
How do you maintain creative freedom while also staying true to the olfactory codes of the House?
What’s important is to offer something new, all while keeping within our universe, to create while staying relevant to the brand, and to surprise while staying consistent. I create instinctually; I don’t go against my intuition. There is an interesting relationship between freedom and structure, as we need a framework in order to express ourselves freely. From constraint comes creativity. An absence of boundaries inhibits any notion of freedom. My framework is the CHANEL style, which is an endless source of inspiration, and that’s what makes it interesting.
Is the creative process the same for all CHANEL fragrance lines?
In terms of ingredients, it’s the same palette of raw materials. However, not all fragrances are created alike. For instance, each fragrance in the LES EXCLUSIFS DE CHANEL line represents a special piece of Gabrielle Chanel’s world and is composed around a very specific theme in her life, such as a location, a loved one, a number—all of which became elements of her style. LES EAUX DE CHANEL fragrances are fresher, more fluid, inspired by eaux de Cologne. I wanted to explore lightness without straying from the CHANEL style.
The quality is, of course, the same; it’s more about identity.
How would you define the style of CHANEL fragrance?
A CHANEL fragrance is a state of mind, and it doesn’t start with an ingredient. Gabrielle Chanel drew inspiration from her experience as a dressmaker and had the idea to build a perfume the way you would design clothing—by creating pairings, giving it a shape, and reworking, shaping, and refining raw materials, just like you would with fabric for a garment.
CHANEL fragrances are rich, and often opulent. They also contain an element of mystery because you cannot fully comprehend them; there is always something left unanswered. Their abstract nature resonates with Mademoiselle Chanel’s style.
What makes CHANEL fragrances so unique?
CHANEL fragrances are different. They were the first fragrances created by a dressmaker; Gabrielle Chanel had the incredible intuition that a fragrance could express one’s style. Nowadays, fashion and fragrance are a natural pairing, but at the time, she was a visionary! She didn’t tie her style to a specific raw material, but rather to a state of mind, something more refined and less representational. N°5 is an artificial fragrance, a more complex blend than a formula linked to one specific flower. And this is quite characteristic of CHANEL fragrances, which are always very elaborately crafted and a key component of which are flowers.
At CHANEL, we have developed a taste for complex ingredients like flowers, and in creating N°5 and this aesthetic, we have mastered every aspect of perfumery. That is why, 100 years later, our approach is unparalleled—we have created all our fragrances, own all our formulas, and have developed superior knowledge and skill.
Something else that is unique in the world of perfumery is that whenever a new CHANEL fragrance is launched, there is a dialogue around the bottle, the packaging, and the story we want to tell about the fragrance. I create the scent, but I also contribute to that discussion.
What do you believe is the power of fragrance?
Fragrance has an extraordinary ability to evoke things in people and recall memories from their lives; it’s one of the aspects of my job that I enjoy most. Fragrance reaches us on a very intimate level, and I think that is what makes it so powerful. I often hear extremely personal stories about cities people lived in, memories of loved ones—we have so many anecdotes about fragrances. We tend to personify them.
Fragrance is a connection to the world around us, a way of portraying ourselves to the world; it expresses our personality just like the clothes we wear or our mannerisms. Fragrance reveals yet another facet, something that cannot be conveyed any other way.
What I really like is when the person wearing a fragrance contributes to its story, brings it to life, and I love being surprised when a fragrance is worn a certain way or paired with a certain style—it can be very unexpected! We can’t categorize people by their tastes, just like a fragrance is not meant for one age group more so than another. What matters is the chemistry between a fragrance and the person who wears it.
What can you reveal about LE GRAND NUMÉRO DE CHANEL?
The idea for this event was to demonstrate the singular nature of CHANEL fragrances; our history and our style are unique. LE GRAND NUMÉRO DE CHANEL is a way of experiencing that.
Fragrance has meaning, and the whole environment created around a fragrance—the visual aspect, the experience—adds something to it. We developed tools that allow people to smell fragrances as well as ingredients, making the experience fully immersive, which, in my view, is essential.
What’s fantastic about fragrance is that it cultivates our imagination; smelling a scent takes us on a journey. The magic of a fragrance also lies in the fact that we are unable to put our finger on the exact feeling that it arouses in us; it plays with our emotions, transports us to a place that we cannot describe. And this element of mystery is part of the dream. For all these reasons, I hope visitors will be surprised.