Paris during the Holidays is something I’ve always wanted to experience. Being here with CHANEL? A dream on an entirely new level. I’m in the city to discover Le Grand Numéro de CHANEL, the Maison’s fragrance exhibition at the Grand Palais Éphémère curated by Thomas du Pré de Saint Maur, Head of Global Creative Resources for Fragrance & Beauty, Fine Jewelry & Watches.
Fragrance can trigger memories, evoke emotions, and has the ability to transform you. My first memory of a CHANEL fragrance is watching my mom get ready to go out on date nights with my dad and finishing her look off with a spray of Coco Mademoiselle.
With each CHANEL fragrance, there’s a certain heritage and persona that’s aligned to it. By alternating between a few of them, I can borrow from that persona and it empowers different moments in my day.
Between bites of pain au chocolat, I get ready for the day and opt for what I call a “mixed medium look”. Because I’m quite muted in my colour palette, I tend to mix textures. Here, I’m pairing CHANEL tights with charcoal tweed shorts, an off-white wool sweater with gold button details and leather vest and boots. The beauty look is quite paired down as well with a fresh face and an earthy red lip.
As I make my way out of the blistering cold, I’m transported to a new world. As a kid who loved Christmas window displays (namely, Ogilvy’s in Montreal), this is the opportunity to walk into the world of CHANEL Holiday magic. Once inside, there’s so much to feast the eyes: lights, hanging structures, sculptures and incredibly talented performers. All around the room, there are giant perfume bottles (Coco Mademoiselle, Les Exclusifs, Bleu, Chance, N°5) behind which adventure awaits. I’ll take you into each room in detail, but first, I decide to make my way to what feels like home: Coco Mademoiselle.
Mood: Mysterious, elusive
Where I’d wear it: Date night (I just have to keep my mom’s tradition alive!)
Graffiti-clad walls. Mysterious phone messages. A Bond-like disguise room. I’ve entered the lair of a woman who creates herself—a common theme for CHANEL and how I truly feel about the world of fragrance.
My Pick: Bois des Iles
Mood: Jazz bar in the roaring 20’s, spicy and sensual
Where I’d wear it: Business meeting. Make an impact without saying a word.
Once my eyes adjust to the darkness, I notice a man in a white coat sitting in front of a Barcelona daybed. I lay down and he begins to profile me. Based on my answers, I’m recommended N°22 for spirit, Sycomore for depth and Le Lion for pride (who moi? A prideful Leo? You don’t say!)
Mood: Aromatic and woody, this fragrance is strong and elegant and perfect for the city flâneur.
Where I’d wear it: Morning workout (I’ll take all the strength I can get for those 7 am bootcamps)
This room was serving “bright lights in the big city” energy. I see a DJ controller pad and it
awakens childlike wonder in me and I suddenly need to push every button. The cityscape lights
up and upbeat music blares.
Mood: Light, airy and carefree
Where I’d wear it: Anytime I’m trying something new and taking a risk.
I’m backstage at a show. Makeup stations, props and costumes are everywhere. I continue on and am in a casino — if there was anytime to test my luck it would be now! I take my tokens and try my chance at roulette.
Mood: Sophisticated and complex
Where I’d wear it: I’m très into the idea of flipping the reputation that precedes the fragrance on
its head and wearing it anywhere casual.
When you think of the iconic fragrance, what comes to mind? Marilyn Monroe scantily clad in just her bed sheets? Nicole Kidman atop a cityscape? Marion Cotillard on the moon? N°5 and otherworldly glamour are synonymous.
Stepping into this final room, I’m greeted with symbols that remind me of Mademoiselle: stars, camellias, the number 5. The history and artefacts surrounding the House’s mainstay fragrance are impressive —virtual reality enabling you to take the place of Ernest Beaux presenting Coco with the first iterations of N°5, a collection of a hundred years of ad campaigns, olfactory experiences.
After taking it all in and being immersed in the exhibition, I can’t help but feel a sense of connectedness. Like we’re all living out our own lives, but can be intertwined through something as simple as a drop of perfume. A sentiment I feel is needed now more than ever.
Le Grand Numéro de CHANEL is open to the public now until January 9, 2023. Admission is free and reservations are recommended.