In an age of uncomplicated celebrity-driven fragrances, Chanel has released Les Exclusifs, a unique collection that pays homage to iconic couturier Coco Chanel. Four of the 10 are rare scents created by Mademoiselle Chanel and perfumer Ernest Beaux in the 1920s; six new fragrances by current Chanel perfumer Jacques Polge are interpretations of key influences in Chanel's life.
All are distinctive, complex and unlike most of the popular scents today. So we asked an expert for her input: Marian Bendeth of Sixth Scents specializes in creating fragrance wardrobes for her clients based on personality, body chemistry and lifestyle. Here's her insight into each fragrance's inspiration and which personality will be drawn to what.
History: Created in 1922. Features notes of citrus, orange blossom, orchid, sandalwood and vanilla.
"For me this is Chanel," says Bendeth. "Austere, analytical, powerful, yet highly feminine and devastatingly sensual. The woman who wears this has exquisite taste."
History: Created in 1925. Although not a fan of the single-flower perfumes of her day, Chanel loved white flowers, especially the camellia, which she adopted as her insignia. The camellia has no scent however, so she and perfumer Ernest Beaux turned to the lookalike gardenia. Gardenia features green notes, gardenia, jasmine, lily of the valley, tuberose, sandalwood and amber musk.
According to Bendeth, this woman is a dreamer, a romantic who loves fantasy. "She takes the best of everyone and everything and adapts those qualities to herself," she says. "She's inspired by people and things she admires."
Bois des Iles
History: Created in 1926. Unconventional, inspired by the look of Josephine Baker, exotic African fabrics, jewelry and earthenware, and the first woody fragrance for women. Features notes of bergamot, ylang ylang, sandalwood and musk.
"This is for a bold personality," declares Bendeth. "She's an innovator, exotic, expressive and fearless about self-expression. She's a bit masculine, but sexy."
Cuir de Russie
History: Created in 1927. Features notes of leather and wood as well as Oriental jasmine. Chanel had a fondness for many things Russian. Her perfumer, Ernest Beaux was born and trained in Russia; one of her paramours, the Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich, was Russian; ornate Byzantine accessories had places of honour in her home. As well, her 1927 clothing collection exhibited Russian influences.
The woman who wears Cuire de Russie "refuses to get caught up in ultra-femininity," says Bendeth. “You won't find her wearing lace." Her fave nail polish might be deep, dramatic Vamp or Rouge Noir, and she has a taste for unique statement jewelry with an avant-garde flair.
Page 1 of 2 – Can't find the Chanel perfume you wear? Find 5 other Chanel scents – and what they mean about you – on page 2.
Eau de Cologne
History: Created in 1929. Features crisp notes of citrus, bergamot, lemon, neroli and musk. Chanel often gave out small samples to her preferred customers.
Bendeth characterizes the Eau de Cologne woman as a "driven go-getter. She's a dynamic, creative thinker, a disciplined multi-tasker, and easily bored."
31 Rue Cambon
History: A new creation named after the address of Chanel's workshop/showroom where she worked and spent her days. A soft floral chypre with Mai de Rose, bergamot, black pepper, patchouli and oakmoss.
"This fragrance is about traditional elegance," says Bendeth. "Its wearer doesn't care for change. She has a healthy sense of self without the need to experiment. She knows what she likes."
History: New. An elegant nod to 18 Place Vendome in Paris, the address of the Chanel fine jewelry boutique which opened in 1997, and to Chanel's first jewelry collection, launched in 1932. Features floral notes of rose and hibiscus, and Ambrette seeds.
The woman drawn to this scent is "diplomatic and discreet," according to Bendeth. "She's wise, cultivated, elegant, yet approachable."
History: New. Inspired by the large Chinese lacquered folding screens Chanel loved to use to create a protective air of intimacy in her apartment and wherever she travelled. An oriental fragrance with notes of pine, jasmine, patchouli, amber and frankincense.
"This woman is a daredevil. She appreciates the exotic and avant garde," says Bendeth. "Coromandel is for the woman who wants to stand out."
History: New. Named after Chanel's country respite in Garche, outside Paris. Features notes of green grass, crushed leaves, chrysanthemum, freesia, hyacinth and leather.
Bendeth describes the woman who is drawn to this fragrance as "introspective and outdoorsy, perhaps an avid gardener. She loves to surround herself with flowers and floral motifs, and adores the scent of fresh-cut grass. She appreciates simple, clean lines."
28 La Pausa
History: New. Named after Chanel's summer home above the village of Roquebrune in the south of France. A soft floral with Florantine Iris accord.
"Although introverted in person, the wearer is in fact artistically extroverted," says Bendeth. "She's highly creative with a passion for the performing or visual arts."
Les Exclusifs is a permanent addition to the House of Chanel fragrance portfolio. Available only at Chanel boutiques, each 200 mL bottle retails for $225.
Page 2 of 2 – Discover Chanel's oldest scents in Les Exclusifs perfume collection on page 1.