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July 10 2014

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Chanel Debuts The Little Black Fragrance

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The effort that goes into every bottle of Chanel fragrance is steeped in artistry—and a series of deliberate calculations and decisions. Chanel master perfumer Jacques Polges frequently designs a juice and then puts it in the hands of the French house’s indefatigable packaging department, which will house it in an appropriate glass flacon, typically clear and always replete with the brand’s classic rectangular topper. But with Coco Noir, Chanel’s latest olfactory offering, the process was reversed. “Jacques Polges saw [it] and said, ‘I’d like to create a fragrance for this bottle,” according to Chanel director of research and development for fragrance Christopher Sheldrake. And this was no ordinary bottle. Black lacquered and trimmed with clean, gold lines, it made certain demands on its perfumers at the get-go.

“We knew we had to bring [the fragrance] into the oriental world, but it had to be a modern oriental—fresh, transparent, light, but still mysterious,” unlike, say, orientals of eras past. “It’s not a 1980s fragrance that’s going to fill a room,” Sheldrake jokes of the eau, which contains specially dosed and blended ingredients that may read similarly to those heady scents of old at first but are reinterpreted in a new way. The same narcissus note that is so prominent in Jean Patou’s Joy, for example—which Sheldrake refers to as “not an easy floral” scent—is tempered by Egyptian jasmine, geranium, and rose leaves, rather than petals, which imparts a “vibrance” that keeps the perfume from becoming too heavy. And the classic patchouli dry-down present in the Poisons and Opiums of the world is a special, Chanel-ified patchouli that’s more rounded and feminine, less earthy, and bolstered by frankincense and Australian sandalwood.

“When you first spray it, you’re looking for it—you’re wondering where it is,” Sheldrake explains of the scent’s deliberate sheerness. But once you get it on the skin, it’s plenty there—”it starts throbbing,” he effuses of the slow build, which is in line with the current state of perfumery, as he sees it. “[Today] we’re expressing parts of ourselves with fragrance and cocooning a bit; people have to come close to you to smell it,” Sheldrake says. “Also, wearing a perfume that fills a room today would make you very unpopular!”

$130, available at www.chanel.com on August 17.

Photo: Courtesy of Chanel

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  1. LaFrancaise says:

    Isn’t this simply an attempt to ride on the coat-tails of Guerlain’s Little Black Dress? (A former ‘Guerlain Exclusif’ which was recently made ‘public’.) I shall be interested to smell this, but I strongly suspect I’m right!!

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