From No.5 L’Eau to Boy Chanel, the French perfumer has created some of CHANEL’s most recognisable fragrances. Following the release of new scent GABRIELLE CHANEL, he reveals what it means to be the nose of the world’s most iconic fashion house.
How did the idea for Gabrielle CHANEL come to you?
My first big fragrance for CHANEL was this new women’s fragrance, since the House only launches one every ten to fifteen years or so. And while flowers already play a major role in the history of CHANEL Fragrances, especially white flowers and more specifically jasmine, there wasn’t a truly floral fragrance in our repertoire. It was still relatively unexplored territory, with the exception of Les Exclusifs De CHANEL Beige and Gardénia,
or N°5—which is such a distinctive floral-aldehydic fragrance with a highly marked structure. In previous fragrances, and particularly those by Ernest Beaux, a combination of white flowers (jasmine, ylang- ylang, orange blossom) was repeated like a chorus. Since this bouquet reflected the tastes of Gabrielle CHANEL, it could capture something of her personality. This idea of a largely floral composition, in which all of the other components merely serve a supportive function, really struck me, even though it’s rather tricky.
How has this bouquet of white flowers evolved from your initial score to the new version?
In the Gabrielle CHANEL Eau de Parfum, sparkling orange blossom already brought freshness, ylang- ylang radiance and femininity, jasmine intensity and tuberose creaminess. Retaining this same combination, Gabrielle CHANEL Essence bestows a majestic role on tuberose, which is given a stronger presence and upheld by creamier notes to become more enveloping. Tuberose plays a key note and the headier trail sings in tune with greater intensity.
What makes Grasse tuberose, exclusive to CHANEL, so unique?
The French Riviera is an extraordinary place that combines a temperate climate, the perfect amount of sun and very fertile soil. Just prior to my arrival, in 2011, CHANEL offered to buy the bulbs from the last tuberose producer in Grasse and replant them in a 2.5-hectare field to preserve the cultivation of the flower. Harvesting is done daily from late August to early November. We have thus developed our own quality of tuberose in close collaboration with the Mul family. The special extraction process has been honed over the years, more cleanly capturing the scent of the flower’s petal, as if smelled in an open field and divested of its waxy, animal, leather and green facets. Picked in the morning, it is brighter and more radiant. Gabrielle CHANEL Essence was an opportunity to give it a majestic role.
Can you explain this partnership with the Mul family in a little more detail?
Working in partnership with CHANEL for 32 years, but with ties to the House and my father Jacques Polge for much longer than that, this family-based in Pégomas shares all of their agricultural knowledge with me. Our partnership provides a guarantee of the factory quality and the quantity of flowers required for the production of certain CHANEL fragrances, as well as perfect control over the process from flower to fragrance.
Does the idea of a soliflore fragrance appeal to you?
Tuberose is not an easy flower. It has to be tamed. I am not a fan of the famed tuberose fragrances in perfumery. These soliflores overpower the personality and leave little room to the imagination. A CHANEL tuberose could not be so figurative, caricatured or showy. By divesting it of its more difficult facets, spreading it out and softening it with other flowers (jasmine, orange blossom and ylang-ylang), and accompanying it with a more sensual trail, we find that little abstract melody so dear to CHANEL.
What developments have you brought to the original fragrance?
Gabrielle CHANEL Essence retains the radiant facet of the original score, but carries it into a creamier and more enveloping world. The top notes have been given a softer whisper of citrus to make way for a sweet, fruity, tangy burst of red berries. Tuberose conveys all the density of its velvety petals, and the trail has been intensified, with more pronounced sandalwood, musk and vanilla, and no doubt more sensuality.
How can one choose between them?
Gabrielle CHANEL Eau de Parfum is airy, as if dazzled by light, while Gabrielle CHANEL Essence is more opulent, as if plunged into a nectar of flowers and bathed in a warmer light.
Five words to describe Gabrielle CHANEL Essence?
Floral. Solar. Voluptuous. Velvety. Sensual.
How do you imagine the woman who wears it?
Even though there is something “pastel” about this floral expression, the white flower loses nothing of its bold personality. In this respect, Gabrielle CHANEL Essence is a fragrance for the self- confident woman.