“Scents are for travel,” says Chanel in-house perfumer Olivier Polge, “because scents make you travel on their own.” The idea of the journey was the starting point for Polge as he developed the house’s new trio of fragrances, Les Eaux De Chanel’s Paris-Deauville, Paris-Biarritz, and Paris-Venise. Each scent is inspired by one of Gabrielle Chanel’s favourite places to visit. “A memory of scents is often made from places or people,” says Polge. And although there’s a thread that ties the three together, it’s just the starting point. “They all have a common block in each of them, but they are certainly different,” says Polge.
The first scent in the collection is based on the seaside city of Deauville, where Gabrielle Chanel opened her first boutique in 1913. “It’s in the middle of Normandy, where nature is very green and luscious, so it could be the scent for a weekend in the country-side,” explains Polge of his vision for Paris-Deauville. “Aside from the orange and certain aromatic notes, it dries on the woodier side, mostly patchouli,” he continues. Thus, the city was selected as the location to debut the collection, with such friends of the house as Yara Shahidi, Alma Jodorowsky, and Alessandra Mastronardi travelling from Paris via the iconic Orient Express—exclusively chartered for the launch— to take part in the festivities. The multi-day celebrations included beachside games, a Chanel-if-ied horserace at the city’s Deauville-Clairefontaine Racecourse, and a champagne-filled evening, where guests danced the night away to the haunting tunes of electropop singer Owlle.
For something sportier, and perhaps more casual, Les Eaux De Chanel travels to South West France with Paris-Biarritz. It was in this Basque-region city that Gabrielle Chanel established her name as a talented fashion designer and smart businesswoman, and also as a serious couturier with the installation of her couture house. Largely inspired by the region’s ocean and images of Gabrielle on its shores, the fragrance is “maybe the freshest of the three,” says Polge. “The citrus notes are mostly of grapefruit and mandarin—there is a floral note behind it that smells a little bit like fresh air,” he says. “As it dries, it will smell more and more like white musk.”
Paris-Biarritz, Eau de Toilette, $149 (125ml), Paris-Venise, Eau de Toilette, $149 (125ml)
Grappling with the untimely passing of her lover Boy Capel, sorrow-filled Gabrielle was whisked away by close friends to Venice in an effort to help her heal. The city’s rich Byzantine and Baroque art struck a chord and became an important influence in the young designer’s life. “Paris-Venise draws inspiration as much from the long journey on the Orient Express, from the French capital to the Italian city, as from the destination itself,” he says of the route recreated for guests of the launch event. The citrusy scent contains a subdued hint of neroli, and a touch of cedar and amber accord that finishes off with a lingering of vanilla.
Like many of this season’s fragrance launches, these too have been created with both men and women in mind. “We don’t specify gender,” says Polge. “I think that they could be masculine on a man and feminine on a woman.” The idea of simplicity also played into the design of the bottles. “The three scents are in the same bottle, and we pushed a little bit by adding colour,” he says.
For Polge, each scent stands on its own, and does not need to be layered. “They are not single notes,” he says. “They are quite composed, and usually my taste of good combinations is when they are combined of opposites.” Typically, according to the legendary perfumer, layering is the most effective means to take a darker scent and dilute it or lift it up with a fresher scent and vice versa, but with these complex scents, it’s a practice that’s simply not needed.
Together, the three scents took over two and a half years to formulate. And when it comes to the many iterations of each, “There are too many to count,” says Polge. “What was maybe most complex was to make sure they really had their own effective territory.” The final versions are something he’s confident Gabrielle Chanel herself would approve of.
He’s equally assured about how the fragrances should be applied. “I think you should wear a lot, and that is not a joke,” he says. “There is something refreshing about them.”
Photos courtesy of CHANEL