It’s the first day of spring, flowers are blooming, bees are getting busy. Yay for Mother Earth! But it’s also a huge day for fans of the iconic French brand Chanel and the beauty world is abuzz about the ultimate floral whirlwind, Chanel N°5 L’eau, which is launched today. Perfumer Olivier Polge introduces his take on the iconic scent and some are saying it’s the sexiest one so far.
Coco Chanel was obsessed with the number five and believed it held mystical qualities. In 1921, on the fifth day of the fifth month, she launched her first fragrance in her rue Cambon boutique in Paris. The rest is history and Chanel claim that a product bearing its name – scent, soap or bath oil – is sold every six seconds.
Being associated with the brand is a big deal. There are ‘muses’, a cost-free affair based on friendship, and ‘faces’, high-earners who are usually celebrities embodying the spirit of the time.
Lily-Rose Depp was announced as the face of Chanel N°5 L’eau in May and we got a better look at the 17-year-old model when teaser videos were released this week. And because we love us some beauty history, we’re looking back at some of the brand’s famous faces over the decades. What they earned, we’ll never know – it’s tacky to talk money, darlings – but being the face of an iconic French brand must have been a thrill for each of them.
1. The first ever ad for Chanel N°5 was an illustration depicting the couturier herself. It was created by the hottest Parisian caricaturist of his time, Sem, and showed mademoiselle in all her glory gazing up adoringly at a bottle of heaven-sent Chanel.
2. The golden age of photography had dawned. This picture was shot by Francois Kollar, famed for his often surrealistic style. Coco is the subject again, now at the height of her fame and photographed in her new-found grandeur in a suite at the Paris Ritz hotel.
3. When asked by an interviewer in 1954 what she wore in bed, Marilyn Monroe answered ‘a few drops of Chanel N°5’. She didn’t earn a scent for the endorsement and was never officially the face of the scent.
4. When the great French actress Catherine Deneuve became the face of Chanel N°5, she was barely known outside of France. But her cool, sophisticated beauty was the perfect fit for the scent.
The 1980s and 1990s
5. Perhaps the ultimate in chic Parisian beauty, Carole Bouquet, reigned as N°5’s face for a very long time. When she took over she was famous for playing the Bond girl in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only and for being the wife of Gérard Depardieu.
6 and 7. Nicole Kidman was the face of N°5 for half of the decade and was followed by French-born actress Audrey Tautou. Her first campaign’s release was a symbolic one on 5 May 2009. It was 88 years to the day since N°5 had been introduced.
8 and 9. In May 2012, in a twist for the fragrance, the company announced that Brad Pitt would be the first male to advertise N°5. Any excuses to look at more pictures of Brad was just fine with us. He was replaced in 2014 by Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen.
Fun fact: Lily-Rose’s mother, Vanessa Paradis, fronted a campaign for a sister fragrance, Coco, during the ‘90s. The ad featured the actress and singer in almost nothing but feathers and twittering merrily in a gilded cage, inspired by one Coco had in her own flat.