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Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.

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"Le Grand Numéro de Chanel""Le Grand Numéro de Chanel"
Installation view, "Le Grand Numéro de Chanel," courtesy of Chanel.
"Le Grand Numéro de Chanel""Le Grand Numéro de Chanel"
Installation view, "Le Grand Numéro de Chanel," courtesy of Chanel.
"Le Grand Numéro de Chanel""Le Grand Numéro de Chanel"
Installation view, "Le Grand Numéro de Chanel," courtesy of Chanel.
"Le Grand Numéro de Chanel""Le Grand Numéro de Chanel"
Installation view, "Le Grand Numéro de Chanel," courtesy of Chanel.
"Le Grand Numéro de Chanel""Le Grand Numéro de Chanel"
Installation view, "Le Grand Numéro de Chanel," courtesy of Chanel.
"Le Grand Numéro de Chanel""Le Grand Numéro de Chanel"
Installation view, "Le Grand Numéro de Chanel," courtesy of Chanel.
"Le Grand Numéro de Chanel""Le Grand Numéro de Chanel"
Installation view, "Le Grand Numéro de Chanel," courtesy of Chanel.
"Le Grand Numéro de Chanel""Le Grand Numéro de Chanel"
Installation view, "Le Grand Numéro de Chanel," courtesy of Chanel.
"Le Grand Numéro de Chanel""Le Grand Numéro de Chanel"
Installation view, "Le Grand Numéro de Chanel," courtesy of Chanel.
Lifestyle

An Olfactory Immersion at Le Grand Numéro de Chanel

By Pearl Fontaine

December 15, 2022

Today in Paris, Chanel opened the doors to “Le Grand Numéro de Chanel” at the Grand Palais Éphémère, inviting the public to become immersed in a journey through the history and odyssey of the maison’s fragrances. Open through January 9 and free for all to enjoy, the experience employs gorgeous visuals, detailed installations, and the use of VR technology to transport viewers through time in a detailed history of Chanel’s olfactory oeuvre, starting with the house’s very first fragrance—Chanel N°5—which was first launched by Gabrielle Chanel in 1921.

“Chanel perfumery has an existential aim. ‘Le Grand Numéro de Chanel’ is an emotional journey, an opportunity to discover every facet of a fragrance and the role it plays,” said Thomas du Pré de Saint Maur, Head of Global Creative Resources for Fragrance & Beauty, Fine Jewelry & Watches.

Open Gallery

"Le Grand Numéro de Chanel""Le Grand Numéro de Chanel"
Installation view, "Le Grand Numéro de Chanel," courtesy of Chanel.

The experience begins in a cavernous room of theatrics suggestive of a circus tent, where larger-than-life perfume bottles and stately lion sculptures are situated around a centered view of twinkling lights and brand iconography, like its double C, floating number fives, and golden camellia blooms. From there, the viewer is placed in the role of the perfumer Ernest Beaux, the creator of N°5 and the house’s first master perfumer. Transported to the year 1921, virtual reality technology leads them through an encounter with Mademoiselle Chanel, who selects Beaux’s fifth fragrance sample—which she then names after her favorite number. 

“When Ernest Beaux presented her with the fifth sample, it was a striking revelation; Gabrielle Chanel didn’t choose this new fragrance, she recognized it,” said Hélène Fulgence, Director of Patrimoine de Chanel.

Viewers uncover both factual information and points of inspiration surrounding a fragrance crafted to embody a style over a flower, which was the first-ever perfume named after a fashion designer. Also unique to Chanel’s debut scent was the bottle in which it was presented—opposed to an ornate vessel as was customary at the time—the simplistic square bottle was a choice that let the luxury of the scent shine on its own and remains an icon to this day.

Open Gallery

"Le Grand Numéro de Chanel""Le Grand Numéro de Chanel"
Installation view, "Le Grand Numéro de Chanel," courtesy of Chanel.

Moving through the installation comes the discovery of elegant alcoves of perfume bottles, cathedral-like branded stained-glass installations, historic imagery, mannequins dressed in poised couture garments, and more surprises. In one area, visitors learn about the maison’s appreciation of chance andhow Gabrielle Chanel gained the name Coco. In another, a blue-hour cityscape leads them to uncover a speakeasy. After emerging from encounters with moving artworks, Rorschach-esque scent tests, and more, viewers leave feeling enriched in both a history of Chanel’s unique approach to perfume and an understanding and appreciation for the world of fragrance and the power that can be held within one small glass bottle.

“N°5, it is the French spirit by excellence,” said du Pré de Saint Maur. “A fragrance is more than a name, a bottle, or a scent; it is also everything it brings to mind when we breathe it in, and all it evokes when we wear it.”

Open Gallery

"Le Grand Numéro de Chanel""Le Grand Numéro de Chanel"
Installation view, "Le Grand Numéro de Chanel," courtesy of Chanel.

Open Gallery

"Le Grand Numéro de Chanel""Le Grand Numéro de Chanel"
Installation view, "Le Grand Numéro de Chanel," courtesy of Chanel.
ChanelChanel no. 5Gabrielle Chanel

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