The French Maison’s signature fragrance and iconic ‘nightwear’ of Marilyn Monroe turns one hundred on May 5th, but its inimitable smell never gets old

Still from Chanel's "Inside CHANEL Chapter 32: N°5, 100 years of celebrity."

Still from Chanel’s “Inside CHANEL Chapter 32: N°5, 100 years of celebrity.”

Text by: Gilda Bruno

“Its name is universally known. Its signature is a revolution. Its bottle is an unprecedented work of art,” can you guess what we’re talking about? No hints needed, it’s CHANEL N °5, the ultimate perfume of the French fashion house, renowned across the world for having “broken down the rules and challenged conventions” ever since its first launch in 1921.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of its planetary success — falling on May 5th — Chanel has dedicated the 32nd Chapter of its online video series Inside Chanel to retracing the steps that led to the world-fame of the fragrance and paying tribute to CHANEL N °5’s legacy through the decades. 

Created almost exactly a century ago by French couturier Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel and French-Russian chemist and perfumer Ernest Beaux, CHANEL N °5 represented the Maison’s first attempt at translating the revolutionary essence of its high-fashion and ready-to-wear clothes into a beauty format.

The perfume, which was the first to be advertised on television, was also the first-ever fragrance to be thought by a woman for a female target audience; thus, contributing to the rise of Gabrielle Chanel as one of the pioneering figures in the history of female emancipation. No wonder that, as the years went by, the perfume rapidly became the emblem of eternal feminine elegance; also thanks to the numerous celebrities and artists that played a role in shaping its extraordinary narrative.

Still from Chanel's "Inside CHANEL Chapter 32: N°5, 100 years of celebrity."

Still from Chanel’s “Inside CHANEL Chapter 32: N°5, 100 years of celebrity.”

From Marilyn Monroe adopting a few drops of CHANEL N °5 as her very minimalistic nightwear to pop art genius Andy Warhol reproducing its bottle in one of his screenprints — which was subsequently exhibited at New York’s MoMA in 1959 — Chanel’s most successful perfume has grown to be part of the collective imagination linking modernity, French refinement, and womanhood.

Among the faces embodying CHANEL N °5’s innate seduction and elegance are Catherine DeneuveCarole BouquetNicole Kidman, and Marion Cottilard, with the French star being the latest to join Chanel’s family as an ambassador.

An inspiration for visual masters of the likes of Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Ridley Scott, Jean-Paul Goude, and Baz Luhrmann, the charismatic nature of the design of Chanel’s scented masterpiece as well as the popularity of its mysterious formula will live on for the centuries that are yet to come, and we can’t wait to see how this timeless legend will evolve in the future. 

A revolution, an avant-garde, a manifesto, a mystery, a magic number, an emblem, a symbol, a modern myth, an icon of the 20th century, a legend, an allegory of modernity, French elegance, and femininity. The perfume of perfumes: CHANEL N °5.

Watch N °5, 100 years of celebrity below

But right when we all thought that was it, the French fashion house decided to surprise its international audience once again with the launch of Celebrity by; a short film that, gathering the voices of six inspiring speakers active within different fields, reflects upon the notion of celebrity itself exploring its influence on culture, creativity, and society as a whole.

Launched on May 21st on Chanel’s website, Celebrity by spotlights the contribution of actress and face of N°5 Marion Cotillard, distinguished ballet dancer and choreographer Marie-Agnès Gillot, Chinese fashion media icon Hung Huang, renowned psychologist Laurie Santos, esteemed former editor of Vanity Fair Graydon Carter, and international dance star Lil Buck.

The latest digital project to be released by the French Maison to celebrate the first century since the launch of its most renowned fragrance, the short film provides the public with six different takes on what ‘celebrity’ actually means, how this can be used as a means of fostering common good, as well as diving into its sociocultural implications for the shaping of pop culture, mass media, and fashion to name a handful. 

In Celebrity by, Marion Cotillard explores the interplay between celebrity and icons, idols, and legends, and expresses the importance of staying true to yourself and supporting causes that matter, whereas Marie-Agnès Gillot retraces her personal journey as one of France’s most celebrated dancers and deepens the role of celebrity as the embodiment of skill and craft.

Celebrity by, Celebrating 100 years of Chanel N°5. Courtesy of Chanel

Celebrity by, Celebrating 100 years of Chanel N°5. Courtesy of Chanel

Thanks to Hung Huang’s contribution, people gain greater insights into the seismic shift that ‘celebrity’ has undergone in China as the fashion media icon pinpoints how celebrity and fandom culture contribute to defining the experiences of today’s youth and women.

The mind behind Yale’s viral lecture on happiness, Laurie Santos deconstructs our fascination with celebrity, how our minds are programmed to search for and follow celebrity, and how technology continues to redefine how we engage with it, while former Editor of Vanity Fair Graydon Carter breaks down how celebrity affects mainstream culture and its different expressions, from mass media to the latest fashion trends.

Finally, dancing star Lil Buck tells Chanel’s world about being a global dance prodigy whose craft has been shaped by an extensive spectrum of celebrity, cultural, and creative influences, from popularising jookin’ at just 13 years old to collaborating with Madonna and others as he moved into ballet and other forms of dance.

Yet another proof of the House’s effortless eclecticism, Celebrity by brings together voices coming from different worlds and backgrounds for a captivating short film that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of N°5. A scent that, inspiring generations of innovators, changemakers, and disruptors, has revolutionised the world of perfumery enduring the passing of time to establish itself as a real cultural icon. 

Watch Celebrity by below and visit Chanel’s website for more digital stories.