In celebration of the new face for CHANEL‘s well-loved fragrance COCO MADEMOISELLE, House and Leisure editor-at-large Kelly Fung chats to the brand’s legendary perfumer, Olivier Polge, about CHANEL’s iconic legacy, craftmanship and constant evolution
Photography by CHANEL Words by Kelly Fung
CHANEL fragrances are arguably as iconic as the garments themselves. This year, the fashion house brings through a refreshed appeal for the next generation of COCO MADEMOISELLE wearers, as we see a new face, actress Whitney Peak, fronting the campaign of a fragrance already so beloved by many. Beyond its fresh composition of citrus and distinct waves of patchouli, how is a woody fragrance like COCO MADEMOISELLE been made to both evolve with the times, while still be preserved in its heritage? Who better to answer this than CHANEL’s own legendary perfumer and nose, Olivier Polge.
When COCO MADEMOISELLE was first introduced to the world, it was an expression of the ‘unexpected’. What was this avant-garde essence of the fragrance?
‘The perfume was created it was early 2000s, and if you remember, at that time, the trend in fragrances was freshness and transparency. COCO MADEMOISELLE, in a very modern way, explored a sensuality and revisited a scent with depth made up of certain woody notes, like patchouli. It was an unexpected combination of brightness and modernity, with the depth that we didn’t have at that time.’
You have explained the composition of COCO MADEMOISELLE as ‘an interesting combination that is simply hard to describe’ Can you elaborate on this?
‘I know how to create fragrances but how to speak to fragrances is not easy. At CHANEL, our style of perfume creation is complex. Gabrielle Chanel looked to create an artificial fragrance, not that it would be synthetic, but that, like the construction of a dress through sculpting shapes and mixing fabrics, CHANEL scents are born from specific compositions and a refining of raw materials, that complement one another… COCO MADEMOISELLE is a contrasted scent, whose materials are combined in an interesting way – which makes it easy but at the same time, rich. It’s a scent you can always recognise, which I believe is the mark of its success.’
‘The success of COCO MADEMOISELLE today shows that it suits many kinds of women, it is an expression of youth and freedom.’
– Olivier Polge
The fragrance continues to be pioneering today. How can you explain the longevity of COCO MADEMOISELLE?
‘I’d love to find the recipe! If we were able to make a success every time, it would make my life much easier. It is always easier to describe the success of a perfume 20 years later! The thing about fragrances at CHANEL, is that we have integrated all the craftsmanship behind the perfumes, which is very meaningful today. Our formulas are created in house – we develop a very specific grade of raw materials, then refining with extra care. We tend to transform the identities of raw materials to something more abstract. It is this that builds the identities of CHANEL fragrances. The success of COCO MADEMOISELLE today shows that it suits many kinds of women, it is an expression of youth and freedom.’
Perfumes as an extension of fashion, is a concept that CHANEL has always pioneered. What is the relationship between fashion and fragrance?
‘To me this is very important. We have to remember that Gabrielle Chanel was the first fashion designer to launch a fragrance under her own name – she was the first who understood the very strong connection between the two, which were separate worlds before her. I think fragrance allows you to express your personality as much as the clothes you wear. For me, perfume, like fashion, expresses something quite intimate; the connection between scent and skin and the scent and the personality.’
‘For me, perfume, like fashion, expresses something quite intimate; the connection between scent and skin and the scent and the personality.’
– Olivier Polge
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