Will Gabrielle become as iconic as Chanel no. 5?

CULTURE VULTURE By Therese Jamora-Garceau Suzie Benitez (center), Ferdinand Jose, Melito Valle Cruz and the Bayanihan win the 2015 grand prize for the World Dance Festival in Sicily, Italy.

Perfumes have always occupied an exalted position in Chanel’s heritage.  In 1921 Chanel was the first fashion house to create and launch its own fragrance: the super icon No. 5, and it’s had a string of hits since then, from Egoiste to Chance to Coco Mademoiselle, the top-selling Chanel scent in Asia and the Philippines.

Personally I’ve always loved No. 5 for its soapy-clean freshness: it inspires me to dress up to match its level of sophistication, and Chanel’s masculine fragrance Antaeus is like a lens that makes any man look handsome, in my opinion. The girly Chance Eau Tendre is another favorite, but it’s been a while since Chanel’s issued an iconic scent in the vein of N5.

“The last time Chanel launched a pillar fragrance was 15 years ago — the original Chance created by Jacques Polge,” says Jean Loy, Chanel Singapore’s fragrance expert.

That’s about to change, because for holiday 2017, Chanel has something as special as Chance and No. 5 — so special it bears the first name of the lady of the house, Gabrielle, and is the first creation by in-house perfumer Olivier Polge, son of Jacques, who was Chanel’s head perfumer from 1978 to 2015.

Chanel buffs will recall that Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel had a humble childhood growing up in an orphanage: “If you were born without wings, do nothing to stop them from growing,” she once declared.

But through her creativity, ingenuity and style “she made herself who she was in the early 1900s, and that’s a very empowering message for women today,” Loy says. “The root name of Gabrielle means strength.”

To capture the spirit of such a woman Polge couldn’t use just one flower, which is why he decided to create a “dream flower — not just one flower but four very emblematic flowers:  orange blossom from Tunisia, ylang-ylang from the Comoros Islands, jasmine absolute, and tuberose from Grasse,” Loy says. “These flowers are not shy flowers, they’re very expressive.”

On their own, the orange blossom smells happy and uplifting, crisp and fresh; the ylang-ylang’s extra-superior extraction lends it a fruity pear note; jasmine, a flower used in almost every Chanel fragrance, provides a sweetness like jam and honey; while tuberose, making its first appearance in Chanel’s fragrance palette, gives creaminess and fullness.

The subsequent blend is a luminous floral that is unabashedly womanly, sophisticated (there’s that word again) and statement making, just like Gabrielle herself.

“Why flowers when she’s so strong? She would still choose to be a woman and wouldn’t have it any other way, so it’s a celebration of femininity,” Loy says.

Special mention must be made of the glass bottle, the walls of which are so thin and fine it took Chanel five years to research and cut in Bohemia, Czechoslovakia, which specializes in fine glasswork. The result is a jewel of a flacon worthy of encapsulating the ode to Gabrielle inside.

Accompanying this new icon is the eternal signature, Chanel No. 5. Last year Chanel launched a fresher expression of N5, No. 5 L’Eau. This year, L’Eau comes in a travel- and eco-friendly set of 20-ml purse spray in the house colors, matte black and white, along with two refills.

This year’s limited edition is another N5 collectible that will literally leave you sparkling for the holidays: Fragments d’Or (Gold Fragments), a shimmering gold scented body gel that absorbs very quickly into the skin, leaving it silky, fragrant and flecked with gold. Loy said clients in Singapore loved Fragments d’Or so much it was completely sold out in three weeks. 

A Chanel red for every woman

Makeup-wise Chanel continues targeting a younger market with Le Rouge Crayon de Couleur, a completely new format for the house: it’s a portable lip crayon in shades from nude to fuchsia with a buttery texture that melts into your lips.

“All the creations of our new creative global makeup designer Lucia Pica are very hip and young but still inject the iconic, classic, timeless essence of Chanel,” says Francesca Sy, Chanel Fragrance and Beauty’s merchandise manager. “Le Rouge Crayon has the precision of a liner with no need to sharpen, lasts four hours, and with 12 shades it screams fun and freedom.”

Without a doubt, the star of the holiday makeup collection is the limited-edition Numeros Rouges collection — four red lipsticks (two satin, two matte) housed in equally gorgeous red tubes. “Personally, red is very classic and timeless and Gabrielle Chanel was never seen without her own red lipstick, which is her signature iconic style for makeup,” Sy says.

I’ve tried time and again to find the perfect red lipstick but never really succeeded until I tried Numeros Rouges No. 1, which earned me a compliment the very first time I wore it. Pica used her expert knowledge to imbue each lipstick with a different undertone so that every woman could find her perfect red among these four.

With the bold statement of a red lip it follows that the rest of the makeup plays a supporting role. The Creation Exclusive eye palette has five wearable shades ranging from shimmery nudes to a festive emerald green. If you prefer your green more subtle, use the nude shadows and line with Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof eye pencil in Legendary Green.

Among a trio of new Le Vernis nail polishes the standout is also the dark green Fiction, while Celebrity is an intense black and Scenario is a flashy coral.

The Joues Contrastes blush in So Close is a bright orange that registers as a vibrant peach on Asian skin tones. Use a light hand with this blush, as it’s so highly pigmented that a little goes a long way.

Anti-aging face mist

Chanel’s premium skincare line Sublimage is the most popular because it’s an all-in-one anti-ager. The latest addition is Sublimage Le Brume, a face mist in Chanel’s cunning twist-and-spray packaging that comes in a set with three refills.

“It’s an instant pick-me-up — a revitalizing mist perfect for very busy career women on the go,” Sy notes. “It can be worn before makeup to prep skin, or over makeup to give a revitalized look in between meetings, after lunch if you feel sleepy, or before a holiday party.” It’s also the perfect travel companion, at 18 ml.



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Chanel’s holiday 2017 collection is available at Chanel counters in Rustan’s The Beauty Source.

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