Friday, February 15, 2013
Saks Fifth Avenue was the first store to have Chanel's distinctive olfactive bar. I showed you the new installation at Saks Chevy Chase (see this link). I believe the bar at Chevy Chase is one of only three, but there are more planned.
As Christian and I started to chat about it, I asked him about his history. How did he get the coveted job as a Chanel fragrance ambassador? In short, Chanel had sent him to ISIPCA (Institut supérieur international du parfum, de la cosmétique et de l'aromatique alimentaire), a school for post-graduate studies in perfume, cosmetics, and food flavor formulation. He was in France for a month. In addition to his course of study at ISIPCA, he had opportunities to see the Chanel factory, visit the corporate offices, see Jacque Polge's laboratory, and experience a behind-the-scenes tour of Versailles (beyond the ropes). I learned so much about Chanel's history that day!
While Christian was at ISIPCA, he had to take a test: create his own fragrance and the story and marketing to promote it. Why did he select an oriental? His mother wore Shalimar, and his aunt wore Opium. Although he had planned to create a unisex oriental, he quickly realized that the perfumer's task isn't easy. He ditched that idea and created a feminine fragrance to honor his memories. The ingredients included rose, vanilla, white musk, black pepper, jasmine, and synthetics. His fragrance? Les Nuits d'Isis. His marketing? Every woman is a goddess! He passed and returned to the United States with a knowledge base that's impressive.
Chanel's olfactive bars are designed with ceramic blotters that allow you to experience the dry-down of a fragrance. When you test a fragrance in a store, you'll smell the top notes first. The scent will normally change, so unless you spray the fragrance on your skin and wait - sometimes hours - you won't know how it will smell on dry-down. The blotters, designed by Christoper Sheldrake, are infused with fragrance for one week before they are presented in the tubes. The ceramics have no fragrance of their own. When you smell them, you perceive the fragrance as if it had been on your skin for hours. Plus, there's no paper to add its own scent (paper has a smell). Those papers you are offered to test fragrances in stores do carry a scent of their own.
I was very interested in the Exclusifs. The original 10 were released in 2007. Sycomore and Beige were introduced in 2008, followed by Jersey in 2011 and the new, stupendous 1932 this year. We reviewed all of them, and Christian told me the story of each, its connection to Coco Chanel, and the notes.
One story - not about the Exclusifs Collection - that I found interesting is that N°5 and N°22 were created at the same time. Coco Chanel had a really hard time selecting which to introduce. Her ultimate choice was N°5. The following year, when she wanted to introduce another fragrance, N°22 was ready to go.
I asked Christian about Bel Respiro, one of the Exclusifs that I was determined to purchase. Bel Respiro was named after Coco Chanel's weekend home outside Paris. It was there that she entertained. She had painted her house beige with black shutters - so Chanel. The neighbors were horrified. Apparently in those days, that was unconventional.
Jacques Polge went out to the house and just smelled. He wanted to get the aura of the house and gardens. Fortunately, the house is still owned by Chanel, so little has changed. He smelled green - freshly cut grass and green leaves - wafting into the windows, so he returned to Paris and created Bel Respiro, a fresh, green scent that would take you to there. I did purchase it. It's irresistible.
One by one, Christian explained all the Exclusifs to me. I have pages of notes, and I'll never be able to transfer all of his good stories to you in one fell swoop. Stay tuned for more. I'll try to cover my mini-book in future features.
For now, though, I have something really exciting to announce. The wonderful team at Saks Chevy Chase gave me two coveted samples of 1932 to give away to my readers. I'm going to have to limit this giveaway to United States residents because postal authorities have started to destroy fragrances sent against regulations, making international shipments without a license really risky. If you live in the U.S. and would like to enter to win one of the two samples, please say so in the comments and give me a way to reach you if you win. I will select two winners on Saturday at midnight.
Many thanks to Christian and Loyd! I had a wonderful day last week. That's enough from me for now. It's time for the Friday Forum. I love this part of our week. What new products did you discover this week? Did you find any deals you couldn't resist? Are you using a fabulous product and want to sing its praises? Did you find a beauty product disappointing? Do you have a question others might be able to answer? Want to talk about skin care? What's new in your life? Just use the comments. Don't be shy. Just make sure to ask any question you might have over the weekend. By early the next week, most (not all) readers will have moved on.
Don't forget this week's exciting giveaway contest for Chanel's limited-edition Mouche de Beauté Illuminating Powder. The deadline for entries is tomorrow, February 16, at midnight. You know what Lady Luck says, "If you don't play, you can't win." Good luck!
Update 2/19: May, Mary, and Meredith won the 1932 samples, and they were mailed today.
Photo of 1932 courtesy of Chanel; other photo by Best Things in Beauty