A women who doesn't wear perfume has no future
The Secret Of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History Of The World's Most Famous Perfume
by Tilar J. Mazzeo
Book Review by MUA's Cavewoman
Mystery, intrigue, royalty, politics, art, fashion, world history, smuggling, illicit love affairs, science, secrecy, and one young woman's personal history and vision are poured into a simple glass bottle almost 90 years ago. The remarkable story of that young woman, and the perfume she envisioned at the dawn of modern 20th century, are intertwined in this fascinating book which is partly a biography of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, and partly a biography of the famous fragrance she created, Chanel No. 5. The two cannot be separated. This story is as much about the survival of an abandoned child and her struggle to find love and respectability as it is about the survival of her life's enduring masterpiece, the fragrance she spent years in creating. What we buy today in the Chanel No. 5 bottle is as close to the original formula as it could possibly be, according to Mazzeo and her sources. What happens between the idea of a revolutionary
new kind of fragrance, in the mind of Chanel, and your brand-new bottle of Chanel No. 5, is the Secret told in Mazzeo's book.
Coco Chanel set out from the orphanage where she was raised, at the age of 17, to take a position as a seamstress in a tailor's shop in pre-war France. She was pretty and attracted many men, who took her to the cabaret clubs where she eventually became a performer and chanteuse. She became a mistress to several wealthy men, but fell in love with the one who could never marry her, because of her risque past. This is Arthur "Boy" Capel, the love of her life, who eventually married a "respectable" woman, and died in a car crash shortly after that. It appears from the book that Chanel never recovered from this loss. She never married, and she never had children. She threw herself into the creation of what she wanted to be a modern perfume, unlike the soliflores that were worn by the socialites. She wanted it to smell clean, like Boy smelled to her. She was intrigued by the scents of the demi-mondaines, the young cabaret performers and less-respected women who wore sweet, heavy jasmine scents. Her perfume would bridge the two worlds of the risque and the respectable. After Boy's death, she took another lover, an exiled Russian prince, who helped her in her mission by telling her of a magical scent that he remembered from his younger days in the royal court. He introduced Chanel to the perfumer. And the creation began. The perfumer was Ernest Beaux.
From the launch of the finished formula for Chanel No. 5 to the present, this story carries the reader through two world wars, through two continents, and anchors itself in the most important geographical location that is essential to the fragrance itself, the jasmine fields of Grasse, France. It is astonishing that Chanel No. 5 survived through the years. Mlle Chanel signed away most of the rights to her fragrance, and spent over fifty years fighting to get it back. During World War II, the primary owners of the company fled to the United States, where they set up anufacturing Chanel No. 5 with jasmine concrete that they smuggled out of Grasse. In essence, they protected the fragrance, preserving it thoughout the most difficult of circumstances, until the end of the war, when manufacturing was restored to France.
As I began reading this book, I could not help but run upstairs to my perfume cabinet and take out my small bottle of Chanel No. 5 parfum.
I put it on the table in front of me as I was reading. I kept looking at it. I dabbed the fragrance on my wrists. I inhaled it as eagerly as I was inhaling page after page of this amazing history. I wanted to understand what Mlle Chanel was trying to convey with this liquid. I wanted to understand what she wanted and what she achieved. I've loved Chanel No. 5 ever since I borrowed a spray or two of it from my sister's bottle, when I was 14 years old. Back then, to me it was just a pretty scent, unusual, a bit metallic, and much more grown-up than the L'Air Du Temps that I was wearing at the time. I knew there was something incredibly special about it. I had no idea what I was smelling. And now, I do. To wear Chanel No. 5 is to experience the passion and emotion of its creation and its sparkling and enduring beauty. It is at once a true classic and utterly modern.
Pick up this book and go find your bottle or vial of Chanel No. 5, and read and smell the essence of a legend, both woman and scent, truly the world's most famous perfume.
Credit: Review was written by Patti aka Cavewoman
Photo Credit: Patti
Disclosure: This book was purchased by the reviewer.