Chanel’s Newest Fragrance Is an Homage to the City of Love

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COURTESY CHANEL ESSENTIALLY A TRAVEL COLLECTION, Les Eaux de Chanel are named after cities and regions that held significance for Gabrielle Chanel. Now comes the sixth in the series: Paris-Paris. Olivier Polge — who succeeded his father Jacques Polge in 2015 to become Chanel’s fourth house perfumer — takes BAZAAR’s […]

ESSENTIALLY A TRAVEL COLLECTION, Les Eaux de Chanel are named after cities and regions that held significance for Gabrielle Chanel. Now comes the sixth in the series: Paris-Paris. Olivier Polge — who succeeded his father Jacques Polge in 2015 to become Chanel’s fourth house perfumer — takes BAZAAR’s Patty Huntington through the development journey of a new fragrance.

Harper’s BAZAAR: What was the starting point for Paris-Paris?

Olivier Polge: I should start with the beginning of Les Eaux de Chanel. We wanted to play with the correspondence between Paris and a city or a place that was very important to Chanel. When I think about Paris-Venise [the fragrance], for example, Venice is where Chanel discovered the Byzantine style that influenced her. And after going to Venice, Deauville, Biarritz, the Riviera and Edinburgh, we thought: Why wouldn’t we do this little play on words with Paris-Paris, since Paris has always been the centre of Chanel? With the creation of a scent, sometimes you just start off with a little thread that you pull, and it builds up the story. All the Les Eaux de Chanel are fresh scents inspired from eau de cologne, and each is then built with certain raw materials that [translate into] different olfactory areas. In thinking about Paris, I thought about the feel of Paris and the people who live in Paris. There is this effortless elegance that I thought was interesting to illustrate with this scent, that is very light, very fluid. And I thought that with this type of rose, a Bulgarian Rosa damascena, that is very fresh with a citrus undertone, slightly spicy, it was a quite interesting start for this scent, combined with patchouli. So this extremely feminine, complex and fresh scent, associated with this special grade of patchouli, which is much dryer and deeper, was quite a good combination. I would make a comparison with Les Exclusifs de Chanel, which is a line of perfumes that we create that is composed with ingredients that are much more dense, with a lot of texture. With Les Eaux, it’s always important to stay in a very fluid and light type of composition of perfume. So what I think is important with this scent is that there is nothing heavy with it. So all the associations that could make more powdery, more voluptuous notes are not in this scent.

HB: I thought Paris-Édimbourg was particularly interesting. It’s somewhat masculine and reminded me of a men’s aftershave.

OP: There is something woody, smoky almost with vetiver. And then in the middle and top notes there is a lot of lavender, some aromatic notes and juniper berry. More than Edinburgh, I had in mind the countryside of Scotland. I had also these memories of English lavender. We don’t specify the gender for each ofLes Eaux de Chanel. But I agree with you, Paris-Édimbourg is slightly more masculine. My impression for all Les Eaux de Chanel was always starting off with the structure of eau de cologne. Those types of scents are not gender-oriented.

chanel paris paris fragrance
LES EAUX DE CHANEL PARIS-PARIS EAU DE TOILETTE SPRAY 125ml

CHANEL

$195

HB: How long was the development process for Les Eaux?

OP: The creation itself takes about six months. Once I finish creating the fragrance, it takes about a year, a year and a half to bring it up to the market. It’s a much slower pace than fashion.

HB: So Paris-Paris is not using the roses from the Chanel-owned flower fields in Grasse in the south of France?

OP: No it’s not using the roses from the south of France. We started to get in touch with farming with Chanel No. 5, mostly for jasmine and rose. The rose is another species of rose, the rosa centifolia. It’s a much more velvety, almost honey-like scent, whereas the rose damascena that goes in Paris-Paris is much lighter and fresher, with a slightly citrus undertone. It’s fruitier, much more sparkling.

HB: Beyond the flower fields of Grasse, Chanel uses ingredients from around the world. Have you ever considered any Australian native botanical ingredients?

OP: Not really. But there is one raw material from Australia that became important: sandalwood. Sandalwood for perfumes was originally coming from India — santalum album. But there had been lot of problems in India and we couldn’t get sandalwood in a sustainable way. A lot of the industry went to Australia because in Australia there was another species of sandalwood called the santalum spicatum. In the very few kilos we need per year for the perfuming of Chanel lipsticks, there is a little bit of sandalwood from Australia.

HB: What was it like growing up in a perfume family?

OP: It’s hard to compare [to other people] because for me, it is very natural. My father grew up in Grasse, where a lot of people are in some way connected to perfumes. I think I was not more in touch with perfume than say the son of a lawyer is in touch with the law and tribunals. The difference is that obviously he was sometimes bringing perfumes he was working on back home. There were many bottles in our entrance hall, in our apartment. Sometimes my mother was trying the perfumes he was working on. So it was always there but without being overwhelming. He joined Chanel when I was four years old, so it [my memory of the world of perfume] goes back to as far as my memories goes back.

HB: How has the industry changed since your father worked in it?

OP: I think peoples’ tastes change. You know, that famous sentence by Gabrielle Chanel: “Fashion changes, style remains.” So there are tastes that evolve as time passes by. The way that we create fragrance has changed. Also when he started, when Chanel was coming up with perfumes, each time it was same channel of distribution, the same channel of communication. Today we have different lines of perfumes. We have Coco Mademoiselle. But we have also Les Exclusifs de Chanel. Now we have Les Eaux de Chanel. So there are different levels of scents. With the basic raw materials, it’s the same process. There are certainly developments in the extraction of raw materials, but basically at the end of the day it’s still quite the same.

This story appears in May Issue of Harper’s BAZAAR Australia/New Zealand. Have a copy delivered to your doorstep here.

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