The French Maison’s signature fragrance and iconic ‘nightwear’ of Marilyn Monroe turns one hundred on May 5th, but its inimitable smell never gets old

Still from Chanel's "Inside CHANEL Chapter 32: N°5, 100 years of celebrity."

Still from Chanel’s “Inside CHANEL Chapter 32: N°5, 100 years of celebrity.”

Text by: Gilda Bruno

“Its name is universally known. Its signature is a revolution. Its bottle is an unprecedented work of art,” can you guess what we’re talking about? No hints needed, it’s CHANEL N °5, the ultimate perfume of the French fashion house, renowned across the world for having “broken down the rules and challenged conventions” ever since its first launch in 1921.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of its planetary success — falling on May 5th — Chanel has dedicated the 32nd Chapter of its online video series Inside Chanel to retracing the steps that led to the world-fame of the fragrance and paying tribute to CHANEL N °5’s legacy through the decades. 

Created almost exactly a century ago by French couturier Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel and French-Russian chemist and perfumer Ernest Beaux, CHANEL N °5 represented the Maison’s first attempt at translating the revolutionary essence of its high-fashion and ready-to-wear clothes into a beauty format.

The perfume, which was the first to be advertised on television, was also the first-ever fragrance to be thought by a woman for a female target audience; thus, contributing to the rise of Gabrielle Chanel as one of the pioneering figures in the history of female emancipation. No wonder that, as the years went by, the perfume rapidly became the emblem of eternal feminine elegance; also thanks to the numerous celebrities and artists that played a role in shaping its extraordinary narrative.

Still from Chanel's "Inside CHANEL Chapter 32: N°5, 100 years of celebrity."

Still from Chanel’s “Inside CHANEL Chapter 32: N°5, 100 years of celebrity.”

From Marilyn Monroe adopting a few drops of CHANEL N °5 as her very minimalistic nightwear to pop art genius Andy Warhol reproducing its bottle in one of his screenprints — which was subsequently exhibited at New York’s MoMA in 1959 — Chanel’s most successful perfume has grown to be part of the collective imagination linking modernity, French refinement, and womanhood.

Among the faces embodying CHANEL N °5’s innate seduction and elegance are Catherine DeneuveCarole BouquetNicole Kidman, and Marion Cottilard, with the French star being the latest to join Chanel’s family as an ambassador.

An inspiration for visual masters of the likes of Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Ridley Scott, Jean-Paul Goude, and Baz Luhrmann, the charismatic nature of the design of Chanel’s scented masterpiece as well as the popularity of its mysterious formula will live on for the centuries that are yet to come, and we can’t wait to see how this timeless legend will evolve in the future. 

A revolution, an avant-garde, a manifesto, a mystery, a magic number, an emblem, a symbol, a modern myth, an icon of the 20th century, a legend, an allegory of modernity, French elegance, and femininity. The perfume of perfumes: CHANEL N °5.

Watch N °5, 100 years of celebrity below