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The History of Chanel No. 5

Chanel No. 5 is arguably the most iconic perfume ever created, but do you know how it got its start? Coco Chanel was already a phenomenon in French fashion when she decided she wanted to create a scent that epitomized the modern woman. It had to smell clean and fresh, but it was difficult to create lasting “fresh” scents at the time. Chemicals called aldehydes could do the job, but perfumers were afraid to use them to due their strength. Still, Chanel approached a perfumer called Ernest Beaux and asked him to create a fresh, clean scent. He presented ten samples; she chose number five. Supposedly, Beaux’s assistant had accidentally added more aldehyde to that sample than ever used before, giving the perfume a distinctly soap-like scent. Chanel had been searching for a scent that could balance her own complicated sense of self – she spent her childhood in a convent and parts of her adult life as a mistress – and she instantly loved the fragrance. She called it Chanel No. 5 and it debuted in 1921. Its unique, clean scent boasted notes of jasmine, rose, sandalwood, and vanilla. In part due to her marketing prowess, the perfume became a huge success. And indeed, one hundred years later it remains one of the most popular perfumes of all time and is worn by women all over the world.

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