mardi 16 septembre 2008

Chanel N°5 Eau Première sheds a pearly light on a myth

Make N°5 younger?

And why not tickle the Mona Lisa to make her crack a real smile? Slap some blusher on the Venus de Milo? Paint Versailles candy pink? (Mind you, since Jeff Koons has been showing there, that’s kind of done.)

Well, Jacques Polge has done it. And it’s utterly lovely.

N°5’s streamlined Art Deco silhouette has been turned to flesh like Pygmalion's Galatea, lit with the pink, lemon and peach hues of dawn in a Fragonard painting, breaking through a pearly cloud of musk. The ice cap of the myth has melted: Eau Première gives N°5 the amiable face she could have had in her youth, if she’d ever been under 30 by shedding a different light on her.

Too matronly, too obvious, too successful, too copied, N°5 has put off many perfume lovers despite its iconic status: that of the perfume, als dich, whose very perfection can be intimidating. Not to mention the millions of women who wear it.

In Eau Première, the trademark aldehydes are slightly muted: the hairspray note appears, but more as a quotation than in a starring role, to assure us that this nymph does indeed carry N°5’s DNA, and its fresh cheeks are held up by her ancestor’s cut-glass cheekbones. The citrusy top notes are amped up, blended in with a peachy rose accord underlined by citrusy aldehydes; the musk base notes, more perceptible in vintage versions of N°5, are pushed to the foreground. The iris has absconded, the ylang-ylang is more muted. The vanilla-sandalwood base is more obvious. The drydown is the phase in which N°5's bone structure appears most noticeably: it is similar to the smell of the body lotion.

The result, with its fairly quiet sillage, is more tender, more flattering, more accessible and also more legible, which isn’t necessarily a flaw: if Eau Première was conceived as a gateway into the world of N°5, it stands on its own as a fragrance rather than coming off as a mere flanker.

When she asked Ernest Beaux to conceive a perfume for her, Gabrielle Chanel wanted it to “smell like a woman”. Eau Première smells like a woman too. But this one’s smiling.

Chanel N°5 Eau Première, after an aborted launch in 2007 due to a defect in the cap, is now once more available. And not a minute too soon.

Image: Jeune fille délivrant un oiseau de sa cage (Young Girl delivering a bird from its cage), by Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

15 commentaires:

  1. I'm in complete agreement with you on this !

    It's lovely, and layers well with any of the 'other' forms of # 5, btw.

    A conundrum, though; although the
    5-oz. bottle is stately, AND a good deal-
    It's not cost-effective for lots of women who want to buy it...

    I wouldn't have really given this as much thought, but of late, I'm free-lancing selling Chanel fragrance to a demographic of everyday folk.

    It's enlightening, to say the least.

  2. Chaya, I'll bet it's pretty interesting to go into the real, non-perfumista world... Big whopping bottles are indeed a good deal per mil, but not an easy purchase for perfumistas or everyday folk. That said, I like Eau Première so much I'd go for it.

  3. Eau Premiere is a remarkable modernized take on No. 5, a fresher, airier and more sheer composition which also retains its exquisite charm of restraint Chanel elegance. This version is less powdery and stripped of its animalic jasmine, greener Damascene rose from Turkey and Bulgary replace the original more opulent rose de Mai, the sensual ylang ylang florality and orange citrucy notes vibrate in contrast to the mineral brightness of metallic aldehydes but that is until vanilla emerges all the way in the drydown, it 's nice and subtle but not Chanel No.5 in my judgement. I still believe EP is a great modernized version that will delight younger women but I 'll stick with the original No. 5 in pure parfum.

  4. Hello! Great post! I have to chime in that when I smelled Eau Premiere several months ago (before it was removed temporarily) I could swear I smelled Smarties candy! I actually love No. 5 in parfum, so don't need to run out and buy this version, but I DO prefer it over No. 5 edt!

  5. And there's the rub, aimée l'ondée, that darned edt which is the bane of many an existence. You smell it and you get the immediate urge to break into the edt wearer's home, snatch the bottle and replace it with the edp or extrait. Lovely post, D., and loving the Fragonard. Have you ever seen the hilarious series of arts and sciences he did, which adorns a room at the Frick Collection on Fifth Ave?

  6. Emmanuella, very good analysis! I agree it boils down to two choices: get the N°5 parfum (a timeless masterpiece) or the new Eau Première (when you want something more light-hearted), and dispense with N°5 edt and edp. Though I'm far from being a younger woman (younger than whom, that's the question!), and no slouch when it comes to masterpieces, I'm truly delighted with EP and have been wearing it daily.

  7. Aimée, I'm wondering if the Smarties vibe wasn't created by the peach/citrus/vanilla combination?
    I actually feel more comfortable with the EP than the N°5 parfum, though of course the latter is perfection. But perfection isn't an everyday proposition.

  8. C., I think we're all of a mind here. The N°5 edt is probably the reason why so many people don't love the fragrance...
    No, I haven't seen the Fragonards at the Frick collection. The last time I went to New York, it was for a seminar by the late Alain Robbe-Grillet, and his hair was still mostly brown. I was wearing shoulder pads. Which should give you a general idea of the time frame.

  9. Hi!

    Loved your post and I love EP. I can't wear the Classic No. 5, so the EP is a great alternative. I'm so enthralled with this scent, that I will be buying some of the bath and body products being offered and I usually do not buy the creams and lotions, etc. of any perfume.

    Have a marvelous and thanks for your lovely post.


  10. Hi Dawn, and thanks for dropping in. Bath and body products must be very lovely indeed, though I'm not usually a buyer either... Pfff...

  11. I love EP! Bought it the first week it came out in 2007, feeling elated that finally there was a Chanel No. 5 I could wear. I also like to wear the Elixir Sensuel, but this EP is my favorite of all.

  12. Hi Tara! I'm glad you love it. I'm afraid it may not be for true N°5 lovers, and I guess that's just the people they wanted to rein it at Chanel... From my point of view, it's quite a success.

  13. This was a sweet post. I have to agree that for me, when it comes to No. 5, my my motto is "anything but ordinary" and so I choose the pure parfum every time. I have never understood people's dislike of No. 5 in any form, though. I guess it can smell icky on some. I have one family member who puts it on herself and her pets and that can kind of ruin the experience, smelled en masse. Yet, back in my own boudoir, I swear there's nothing finer than the sublime parfum. It's a real kaleidoscope. It has such myriad facets. The ylang, the wonder of the jasmine, the aldehydes and their steamy pressed feel, a strange scent of lavender or seashore grasses, and the warmth of musk. I like the edt too, and love the bar soap.

    Eau Premiere doesn't please me the way any of the existing product line does. It's just unremarkable.
    It's warm, not stuffy, diffuse, and then it's gone.

    I was glad after I sampled it at the shop that my flacon of the parfum was only as far as my perfume cabinet at home waiting to transport me.

  14. Ce commentaire a été supprimé par un administrateur du blog.

  15. Cait, you're kind of confirming my suspicion that few true N°5 lovers will find satisfaction in Eau Première, which was designed for the other ones, like me, who didn't find it "me" for various reasons. Not that I don't admire it deeply, and I don't think it stinks, but I've never appropriated it, so I think it's quite lovely and totally serves its purpose.