Chanel No. 19 by Coco Chanel

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The story of Chanel No. 19 is not only one of a great perfume, but, also of possibly the greatest comeback in the fashion industry.

In 1939, Coco Chanel closed her Couture house, giving no believable explanation. All she said was, “I have a feeling that we have reached the end of an era and no one would make dresses again.

In 1954, she made her comeback, when she was all but forgotten. (On a side note, I should mention that one of her reasons for comeback was her desire to destroy Christian Dior, but that’s a story for some other day.)

After some initial setbacks, Coco Chanel reached the zenith - a place which she had made her own some 14 years earlier. Chanel No. 5 symbolized her earlier success, and she wanted a new perfume to mark her triumphant return.

After a great deal of resistance by “Parfum Chanel” - the company that would make and market the new fragrance - she finally got her way, and a launch date was fixed… the Christmas Day of 1970.

The “nose” behind Chanel No. 19 was Henri Robert, made famous by earlier master pieces like Muguet De Bois (Coty 1942) and Premier Muguet (Bourjoius 1955).

Chanel No. 19 was directly inspired by Vent Vert - one of the greenest fragrances in the market. The green note in Vent Vert comes from a material called Galbanum Oil - oil extracted from the gum of an Iranian grass. No one had used Galbanum at such high quantities earlier, and the result was that Vent Vert opened with a blast of greenness, cut grass, and a leafy smell, which proved too extreme for general appeal. Even though one of the most aesthetically beautiful fragrances, Vent Vert found few takers, although it must be said that people either love of hate Vent Vert; there is no middle path to it.

Coming back to Chanel No. 19, Robert found a way to tame the extreme nature of Galbanum, by using Florentine Iris, the finest form of which comes from rhizomes dried over a period of 3 years. It is one of the most expensive raw materials in perfumery, and using it at levels of 1%, he made the most beautiful, soft-yet-radiant heart of the perfume, which contrasts the sparkling greenness of the top.

To this contrasting accord, he added rose, jasmine, and Vetiver, and topped it off with orange flower notes. Balancing them to perfection, he ended up creating one of the most beautiful, modern, yet traditional, French perfumes.

The name was chosen as Chanel No. 19, as 19th August was Coco Chanel’s B’day.

On Jan 10th 1971, just a few days after the launch of Chanel No. 19, Coco Chanel passed away.

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Monica said...

now i want to try vent vert... nice historical view, thanks Akshay!

October 7, 2010 at 10:53 AM

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