Chanel No 5’s Lasting Allure
The history of Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel, the founder of CHANEL No 5, is a fascinating story of a young woman’s entrepreneurial initiatives in the 1920’s and her passionate drive to become a successful perfume, jewelry and fashion designer.
In spite of accusations of having been a Nazi collaborator during WW II, her CHANEL brand, against all odds, flourished to International fame and fortune.
The accusations of Nazi collaboration leveled against her, were fueled by her decade-long affair with the prominent anti-Semite, The Duke of Westminster, and her later travels across Europe with her lover, Third Reich officer Baron Hans Günther von Dincklage.
Her wartime affiliations were officially investigated, but the Nazi collaboration accusations could not be conclusively proven, and she was never charged.
Later in life Gabrielle established the House of CHANEL in Paris as her couture business hub, and lived in an apartment across the road in the Ritz Hotel where she died 1971.
Chanel’s Mystical Number 5
Chanel spent six years of her youth in Aubazine Covent, a Cistercian orphanage in the Nouvelle-Aquit Affiliation Seine region of central France.
The rock roses (Cistus) of the surrounding hillsides and the fragrant scents of the abbey gardens along the paths she took to the cathedral for daily prayers, made an indelible impression on her.
The paths were laid out in repeating patterns of 5 circles; a number that became a deeply felt spiritual and mystic association for her.
Flappers of The Roaring Twenties
Throughout the devastating conflict of the First World War, hundreds of Western women, some as young as 18, were actively engaged in highly demanding and strategically important auxiliary functions.
Many were seconded as ambulance drivers. They drove into towns and cities under heavy bombardment with laudatory bravery and efficiency on countless rescue missions.
At the end of the war they celebrated their new found self-assurance, liberation and spirit of independence by flouting the prevailing social and sexual norms of female subservience and decorum during a period called, ‘The Era of the Roaring Twenties’.
They wore short skirts, used excessive makeup, bobbed their hair, drank champagne, bourbon on ice and vodka martinis, smoked in public, drove cars, listened to jazz and became known as ‘Flappers’.
Chanel was inspired to create a new scent for ‘Flappers’ that would celebrate their liberated spirit. She sought the help of master perfumer Ernest Beaux who produced 24 sample scents for her based on her exacting brief.
She chose sample No 5, her lucky number, and decided that would be the name of her new perfume.
INSIDE CHANEL, The Chronicles
In 2012 the House of CHANEL launched a series of online stories chronicling Gabrielle Chanel’s rise to global fame and fashion prominence.
Advertising and Production Company Falabracks, Paris, over several years produced a series of short story commercials, co-directed by Thierry Demaiziere and Alban Teurial, that to date consists of 24 chapters. Superbly crafted visual graphics abound in many of the chapters.
The ongoing campaign is not about promoting online shopping which is something CHANEL currently doesn’t offer. It’s about targeting the large percentage of luxury brand store and boutique shoppers who go online in search of deeper emotive brand relevancy and informed consumer kinship.
The following six commercials are my favourite chapters from the ‘INSIDE CHANEL’ campaign.
1. INSIDE CHANEL Chapter 15, The Self-Portrait of a Perfume
2. INSIDE CHANEL Chapter 21, Gabrielle’s Pursuit of Passion
3. INSIDE CHANEL Chapter 18, A Rebel At Heart
4. INSIDE CHANEL Chapter 19, The Time of Chanel
5. INSIDE CHANEL Chapter 12, Paris
6. INSIDE CHANEL Chapter 2, Marilyn
Chanel No 5 Reaches For The Stars
Hollywood Movie Star Marilyn Monroe’s unsolicited endorsement of Chanel No 5 proved to be highly fortuitous and became part of the brand’s enduring persona that inspired commercials of glamorous love stories featuring famous actresses.
7. CHANEL No 5, The Film
This classic commercial directed by Buz Luhrman, staring Nicole Kidman and Rodrigo Santoro, was conceived and produced in-house by Chanel to the cost of 27 million US dollars.
Communication industry commentators at the time were mystified about why Chanel would invest such a huge sum of money in what they perceived to be a short film with echoes of the movie ‘Moulin Rouge’ (also staring Nicole Kidman) rather than a conventional commercial of average length.
But with hindsight, it is now considered to be a groundbreaking brand communication initiative of effectively providing viewers with a romantic story that heightened the level of rewarding viewing experiences. A commercial of 30 or 45 seconds would have been hard-pressed to attain the same level of brand stature and emotive resonance.
8. CHANEL No 5, Night Train
Directed by Jean Pierre Jeunet, this classic commercial with its stylish imagery stars French actress Audrey Tautou. The story about a romantic encounter on the famous Orient Express train from Paris to Istanbul plays out against the haunting strains of Billie Holiday’s ‘I’m A Fool To Want You’.
Conceived in-house by Chanel, the commercial is a fitting homage to the brand’s long heritage of sophisticated French elegance and CHANEL No 5’s legendary seductive influence on passionate affairs of the heart.