You can scent perfume, but you just can’t see it—or can you? Chanel’s latest fragrance exhibition in Paris, Le Grand Numéro de Chanel, lets you to do equally. The exhibition features a collection of ordeals that will tickle the heart of any fragrance lover or perfume explorer as a result of a combine of cabaret, reside music, artwork installations, trend shows from the archives, and virtual fact immersions. (We have a emotion Emily in Paris would definitely be very first in line to pay a visit to).
In actual life, celebrities this kind of as Sadie Sink, Keira Knightley, and Marion Cotillard frequented the exhibition. Sink explained to me, “In today’s globe, you can go into a huge beauty keep and scent 60 unique fragrances to try. In this show, you sluggish down and get to much better take pleasure in each solitary small detail.” Case in issue: Inside the principal area, you can uncover interpretative dancers twisting and turning with bottles of Chanel N°5 (and even magicians). Head to the smaller sized split-out rooms, each individual headlined by a significant Chanel fragrance, and you are going to expertise card games, reside-action chess online games, and fragrance psychoanalysts who can match you with scents based mostly on your individuality. The visuals are all so very TikTok-helpful.
ELLE talked to Chanel’s property perfumer Olivier Polge to understand extra about the secrets and techniques of Chanel N°5, as properly as the surprises to be observed in the exhibition. You can stop by the exhibit in Paris beginning now by way of January 9 make a reservation below.
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What would you say is the best way for somebody to working experience the exhibition?
Really do not have extremely preconceived ideas. Just be you and come with your historical past and personality. Hopefully, you will discover perfumes differently. There are often perfume exhibitions with commercial posters or empty bottles. As we manufacture our perfumes ourselves, we actually desired to have, apart from all those people visual features, a actual expertise of scents. In planning for the exhibition, we experimented with to figure out which perfumes and which elements to present, if any. But we discovered that the very best way to smell perfumes was not to be overexposed to them. We odor improved if it is the proper volume of perfumes. It is always hazardous to fragrance the total home.
What is the “correct amount” of perfume?
Would you be in a position to smell 70 perfumes, or far better to display about 10 that you will remember properly?
Did anything at all surprise you about the exhibition?
What surprises me the most, and I noticed the exhibition for the first time yesterday, was the space and how significant it is. I cannot hold out to see the responses from everybody who will check out. Persons are often very unconscious about all the scents that encompass them.
It is usually been claimed that you are creating a biography of Chanel by means of fragrance. How do you think the exhibition contributes to telling that story?
Fragrance and vogue had been two diverse worlds, and [Gabrielle] Chanel was the initially one to appear up with a fragrance with her have identify. She saw it as a distinct way to express herself—her identity and her fashion. My intention is never ever to notify, or to go too substantially into the history. Gabrielle’s record has been translated into her style. Usually, when men and women inquire me, “Where do you find your inspiration?” I say, “This is a lot more a way of becoming. When you are inventive, anything inspires you.” This is why I prefer to converse about design and style and historical past, but it’s possibly a minimal little bit the exact same. When you assume about new scents, it’s essential that it makes feeling and that it resonates by some means to the many others. It would be a pity to dismiss that.
We came up with a line, Les Eaux de Chanel, and I appreciated it very significantly, due to the fact when you consider about scents, you always picture an individual with a scent, or locations. These are points that anchor scents into your thoughts. As I was contemplating about the scents, I recognized that all those places evoked pictures and started out to make something in Chanel’s fashion. For example, Chanel went to Venice in the 1920s, and this is probably where by she designed a style for the Venetian art that you see frequently in specific parts of jewelry.
You’ve also claimed that perfumes are a language. Do you come up with phrases or words when you are producing scents?
The opposite. I have nothing to say. It is difficult to converse about perfumes. Of course, the language of a fragrance is scents. They express items. They make a mark on oneself that phrases will not do. I’m not stating it’s superior. I believe it is attention-grabbing to say, for the reason that these are points we can’t explain.
What do you imagine the exhibition would say, if it could converse?
If the exhibition could converse, I would hope that it would explain to you something you did not know.
You’ve labored with Karl Lagerfeld in advance of, and now with Virginie Viard. How would you explain the variance in the way that the two strategy fragrance or feel about fragrance?
They are so unique that it is tricky to see overlaps. Karl was fairly passionate about perfumes. The last time I observed him, I was scared he would speak to me about a perfume I did not know. He knew every fragrance out on the market place for the earlier 50 years. I’m exaggerating a bit, but in his early lifestyle, he had labored with or for [Jean] Patou when he was very youthful, and Patou came up with many, lots of perfumes. He knew about perfumes that do not exist any longer, so he was really an specialist.
What would you say are the primary things that give Chanel N°5 its timelessness?
To start with of all, it is a terrific perfume, with an id that you arrange appropriate absent. Gabrielle Chanel has explained that with N°5, she wished an synthetic perfume—meaning a single that does not represent precisely the scent of jasmine or a rose, but that is much more summary [and] in all probability far more mysterious.
There is something about Chanel N°5 that you simply cannot grasp. I assume it is beyond the raw supplies. We maintain N°5 with its initial raw components. We even acquired particular jasmine fields to make certain that we would have the portions at the high quality we require. On the a single facet, we are always very thorough to preserve N°5 in its unique iteration, but also work on a regular basis with new interpretations, to attempt to deliver anything new in No°5 as properly. We continuously keep N°5 as if it was a new perfume, and that aids.
I also like to bear in mind that Gabrielle Chanel herself was the very first deal with of N°5. There was a photograph of her in the to start with business. Then, in the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe said that all she would put on at night would be a handful of drops of N°5. All all those factors go outside of our preparing.
Would you explain other perfumes at Chanel as being artificial?
Of course. When I say artificial, I necessarily mean abstract—we never check out to do Rose by Chanel or Vetiver by Chanel. We usually check out to convey a little something else. I would say that about all our perfumes to a selected extent. That is a signature of Chanel fragrance. And the other crucial point is this composed aspect—artificial—but that goes all the way to raw materials that are selected or remodeled, in the way we extract them. We twist the identity of nature. We are never ever making an attempt to reproduce nature.
This interview has been flippantly edited and condensed for clarity.
Kathleen Hou is the beauty director at Elle Journal.