This year marks a century since Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel bottled the essence of womanhood in the form of a legendary perfume. Created by perfumer Ernest Beaux and presented to the mademoiselle for her approval, CHANEL No 5 fragranced the 1920s with an olfactory revolution that continues to reign in modern perfumery.
The perfume was released in 1921 alongside the groundbreaking artistic movements of cubism and surrealism and defying all that was ordinary in female fragrance. Emblematic of a woman’s vibrant and multifaceted power, the perfume features a beautiful bouquet of scents that comes together with no single identifiable flower. The fragrance was declared by CHANEL as “a woman’s perfume, with the scent of a woman,” bottled in the iconic beveled and square-shouldered flacon, with a stopper inspired by Place Vendôme. Inside is a mysterious multifloral blend of ylang-ylang, May rose, and Grasse jasmine, sealed with buoyant aldehydes. The secret formula has remained untouched since its creation, guiding every female generation towards classic modernity, grounded in the epitome of French elegance.
The iconic scent happened to be the fifth sample mademoiselle Chanel tested in her quest to perfect her very first fragrance. The magic number five had given her luck ever since childhood, and fatefully brought her the perfume that would have women championing her liberating spirit 100 years later.
The floral fragrance has made headlines across history, reaching the legendary Marilyn Monroe, who confessed to only wearing five drops of CHANEL No 5 and nothing else to bed, and inspired Andy Warhol to reproduce the iconic bottle for the Museum of Modern Art.
Inevitably transcending the boundaries of its French birthplace, the unmistakable fragrance persists in the midst of the powerful females of the Middle East. As CHANEL No 5 enters a new century, Vogue Arabia joins forces with the Maison to pay tribute to this remarkable milestone by enlisting five extraordinary Arab women, each possessing the same independent spirit championed by Gabrielle Chanel herself. In the video above, Sheikha Raya Al-Khalifa, Aljwhara Alshaheen, Raha Moharrak, Ghada Sawalmah, and Aline Asmar d’Amman share their first memories of and enduring love affair with the timeless fragrance.
Video director: Ämr Ezzeldinn
Cinematographers: Cheyne Tillier-Daly, Richard Kovacs, Wadha Al Harban
Photography: Djinane AlSuwayeh, Ämr Ezzeldinn, Richard Kovacs, Cheyne Tillier-Daly
Style: Mohammad Hazem Rezq, Fahad Al Marzook, Sophie Gaten
Sheikha Raya Al-Khalifa’s hair: Jason Sutton at Josh Wood Colour
Raha Moharrak’s hair and makeup: Nabila Merchant
Aljwhara Alshaheen production: Chapter2