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Today in history: 1941 First modern perfume Chanel No. 5 released by fashion designer Coco Chanel

Traditionally, fragrance worn by women had adhered to two basic categories: respectable women favored the pure essence of a single garden flower, and sexually provocative perfumes heavy with animal musk or jasmine were associated with women of the demi-monde, prostitutes or courtesans. Chanel felt the time was right for the debut of a scent that would epitomize the flapper and would speak to the liberated spirit of the 1920s.

At the age of twelve, Chanel was handed over to the care of nuns, and for the next six years spent a stark, disciplined existence in a convent orphanage, Aubazine, founded by Cistercians in the 12th century.

From her earliest days there, the number five had potent associations for her. For Chanel, the number five was especially esteemed as signifying the pure embodiment of a thing, its spirit, its mystic meaning. The paths that led Chanel to the cathedral for daily prayer were laid out in circular patterns repeating the number five.

Her affinity for the number five co-mingled with the abbey gardens, and by extension the lush surrounding hillsides abounding with Cistus, a five-petal rose.

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