In 1932, the woman who’d made costume jewelry chic switched gears and designed a collection of diamond jewels she showed in her private apartments, declaring:
“In my profession, any means is legitimate, provided it is only used in the true spirit of fashion. I started creating costume jewelry because I felt it was refreshingly free of arrogance, during a period that tended towards ostentatious displays of luxury. This consideration faded into the background during the economic recession, when, in every sphere of life, there emerged an instinctive desire for authenticity, and amusing trinkets were once more put into their proper perspective.
If I have chosen diamonds, it is because they represent the greatest value in the smallest volume. And my love of things that glitter has inspired me to try to combine elegance and fashion through the medium of jewelry.”
(“Bijoux de diamants créés par Chanel” catalogue, 1932)
To illustrate her catalogue, Chanel showed her usual unerring flair for singling out geniuses by picking Robert Bresson. At 31, the photographer was still a decade away from making his first feature film Les Anges du péché; he would go on to be one of the directors most revered by the Nouvelle Vague. André Kertész, a star photographer, captured the uncanny surrealist beauty of the Belle Époque mannequins chosen by Chanel to display her designs, an iconoclastic move at a time when precious stones were presented on black velvet.
However, the intrusion of a female couturier in the world of haute joaillerie was not at all to the liking of the Place Vendôme establishment. Chanel was compelled to dismount the stones lent by the Diamond Corporation in London, so that in the end, her foray in diamonds endured much less than her perennial N°5.
Since then, the house has staked its ground on the Place Vendôme by opening Chanel Joaillerie at N°18. In 2012, it celebrated the 80th anniversary of the “Bijoux de diamants” exhibition with a new “1932” collection, as well as the lavishly illustrated Jewelry by Chanel authored by Patrick Mauriès. A keen fashion connoisseur and co-founder of the elegant and erudite FMR magazine with Franco Maria Ricci, Mauriès takes this coffee-table book beyond the vanity project and into the realm of the essay, turning it into a must-read for admirers of Chanel.
The anniversary was also marked by the launch of a new Exclusive, first presented to journalists last year with the “1932” jewel collection, and on sale as of February 1st.
The line already features a tribute to Chanel Joaillerie, N°18. Add one to 18, then to 31, and you get 1932 – the numerology-obsessed Chanel would have been pleased… The first whiff of 1932 does indeed call to mind N°18’s limpid ambrette facets – pear, rose, iris, musk – as well as 31 rue Cambon’s banana-tinged jasmine, though with none of its over-ripe fruitiness or warm ambery notes.
1932 is presented by Chanel as jasmine-centered, jasmine being to perfumery what diamonds are to jewelry. But the star-shaped flower, which reprises one of the main motifs of the 1932 jewel collection, is embroidered on a sterling-quality, chamois-soft iris. And iris plays just as much of a starring role in the scent. The press material equates this supple treatment of precious materials to Chanel’s vision for her jewels, clasp-less and flowing “like a ribbon on a woman’s finger”, an apt-enough simile.Here, jasmine is given a luminous, fresh treatment rather than playing on narcotic flower-flesh.
Like two of my favorite Naughties Chanels, 31 rue Cambon and N°5 Eau Première, 1932 feels both precision-engineered and somehow fuzzy. Niche aficionados are apt to find its gauzy texture a little too subdued, but I’m finding myself increasingly attracted to this style after a decade of quirky hard-hitters and solinotes. Sillage tends to be moderate and it is more fleeting than I’d like on me. But I find it so utterly lovely I’ve taken to spraying 1932 on a pashmina to stretch out its stealthy gorgeousness.
I will be drawing one 2 ml spray atomizer sample of 1932 from my decant.
To enter, drop a comment telling me about your favorite Chanel Les Exclusifs and why you love it (failing that, which one you’d most feel like testing). The draw will close on Monday February 4th.
Illustrations: top picture by Robert Bresson for the 1932 catalogue (courtesy Chanel), middle picture of the exhibition by André Kertész.Historical details are drawn from Jewelry by Chanel.
Fabulous article my dear. Would you say it's too floral for a man to wear, even a Prince?RépondreSupprimer
My favourite is Coromandel. It is the classiest patchouli scent I know and there is no head shop vibe to it. It's like being wrapped up on a cold snowy day wrapped in a warm fur coat.
Prince Barry, thank you, my dear. It's not at all a girly floral, and the iris counterpoint balances it out, so it's worth at least a try for a gentleman.RépondreSupprimer
I love Coromandel as well: I've worn it recently on a cold snowy day, actually!
Oooh, 1932 sounds perfect then. Great minds think alike with the Coromandel :)RépondreSupprimer
Then you're in the draw!RépondreSupprimer
Thank you :)RépondreSupprimer
My favorite is Cuir de Russie. I scented it at the osmoteque as well and the recent version and version I scented in Versailles are quite alike. Would love to try 1932 !RépondreSupprimer
I love Sycamore and La Pausa. They seem so atypical in a way and it always brings me out of my self a bit when I wear them.RépondreSupprimer
Favorite? Argh. Cuir de Russie. No, No. 5. No, No. 22. No, wait, 31 rue Cambon...RépondreSupprimer
I do want to try this new one. Chanel jasmine? What's not to love?
Thank you for the draw!RépondreSupprimer
My favourite is Cuir de Russie. An everlasting classic, and probably the only leather I will ever wear.
My favourite is 31, Rue Cambon. But I also love Bois des Iles and No. 22. I can't wait to try this one.RépondreSupprimer
Thank's for the giveaway, I'mso curious about 1932!RépondreSupprimer
My favourire Exclusif is Bois des Iles, by far. I think I need a FB.
My current Chanel Ex. love is Cuir de Russie. I think I liked it before I ever smelled just from reading reviews that liken it to leather seats of a Jag. And is also ok for work with not enough sillage to offend. I like the sound of the new one. I also think 31 Rue Cambon may be on my next to try list. Thank you for the draw.RépondreSupprimer
Bois des Iles (may be because it's also the closest to a Guerlain feeling?) is my absolute favorite. Though I never smelled it in parfum or an older version which I wóuld die to.RépondreSupprimer
Thank you for your review... My favorite "exclusif" is Bois des Iles. No, it's 31 Rue Cambon -- it's just as elegant, but a bit darker. However, Bois des Iles has this drastic yet wonderful change in its development, from cold to warm. Love! But then again, I love Beige -- yes, Beige. I know it's embarrassing b/c everybody says it's boring and too sweet, not sophisticated... , however, it is so heart-warming to wear it on a cloudy rainy day like today. Pure gold. Full disclosure: I can only afford the tiny decants from the Perfumed Court. Treasuring every drop...RépondreSupprimer
Haven't tried them all, but I do love Sycomore in all its smokey elegance.RépondreSupprimer
Esperanza, Cuir de Russie was the first I bought, as a gift to myself for my birthday -- I also broke down and got the extrait version!RépondreSupprimer
Alexa, that's a lovely way of putting it -- perfume can also that happen: instead of bringing us back to ourselves, it carries us off!RépondreSupprimer
Amy, there's a lot of love her for the older Exclusifs but I feel the modern collection is very much up to scratch. 31 rue Cambon is one of my all-time contemporary favorites.RépondreSupprimer
Rob, Cuir de Russie is indeed a very special leather -- to me, there's something of a N°5 matrix in it.RépondreSupprimer
London, it's tough to pick just the one favorite, isn't it? Love your choices too!RépondreSupprimer
Solanace, Bois des Iles is one of the Exclusifs I don't yet own though I do have a large decant. I want to see the whole family line up on my mantelpiece!RépondreSupprimer
Shelly, 31 rue Cambon doesn't quite have the same vibe as Cuir de Russie but it's truly a contemporary Chanel classic and well worth seeking out.RépondreSupprimer
Mariablogrom, I never smelled Bois des Iles in the older version either, apparently it was even better than the current one. Some day...RépondreSupprimer
Dr. Nini, hey, another vote for Bois des Iles! And please don't apologize for Beige, it got dissed on blogs but I found it lovely (and wrote about it). A friend of mine who has been a perfume connoisseur for decades has made it one of her signature fragrances and I trust her judgement.RépondreSupprimer
Karen, Sycomore is absolutely gorgeous, I agree.RépondreSupprimer
The only Chanel I ever wore was N.5, when I was 17... far from having tried them all, I like Coromandel, Sycomore and Cuir de Russie from the Exclusive line. Once I gave a quick sniff to Egoiste- after having recalled the beautiful ad with the Prokofiev music- and found it rather pleasant, too...RépondreSupprimer
Iodine, that Egoïste ad is one that people here in France still remember and discuss... How many ads can claim to be so entrenched in memories? Jacques Helleu, who was the artistic director of Chanel perfumes and beauty, left a glorious legacy when he passed away.RépondreSupprimer
ooh, 1932 sounds lovely, and i appreciate the mini history lesson!RépondreSupprimer
my favourite of the exclusifs collection is 31 rue cambon - it just works so well with my skin chemistry. bois des iles is lovely, too.
My favorite Chanel Les Exclusifs (that I've tried) is No. 22, which I do own. I prefer it to No. 5, actually, though I am an aldehyde-lover in general. For those reasons, this new muted white flower + aldehydes baby seems quite appealing to me. :)RépondreSupprimer
I also owe you some remarks on Jour d'Hermes I believe...!! Will try to send email today.
Yin, I didn't know about that part of the Chanel history (probably didn't pay attention to it in the books I read previously) and found it worth sharing. I'm absolutely fascinated by Bresson's photographs.RépondreSupprimer
Susan, other reviewers zeroed in on the aldehydes but I didn't find them particularly prominent -- certainly not in the N°22 style. This is quite a bit more modern.RépondreSupprimer
I like Beige right now. It reminds me of my mother whom I have not seen in 3 years. It doesnt smell as good on me as my beloved Coromandel plushy woody goodness tho! I will be delighted to try this new beauty. It sounds alluring!RépondreSupprimer
Thanks for the giveaway.
Wefadetogray, those are the most touching scents, aren't they?RépondreSupprimer
I have yet to choose my first Chanel exclusive FB, right now I am into Bois des Iles, but also have decants of LaPausa and No 18. I would love to try this one asap! Thanks for the draw!RépondreSupprimer
Mmmmmm, now these Chanel's are grown up scents that never go unnoticed. My fav that I purchased after several walkings around with the tests on me was 31 Rue Cambon. (And I just ran to the cabinet to put some on.) It is remarkable. The SA was kind enough to give me a mini of La Pausa that day with my purchase. I'd love to try this newest release. Trying to figure out what to splurge on next. Merci.RépondreSupprimer
I've only tried 31 Rue Chambon, wich is lovely but a bit fleeting. I would very much like to try Bois de Iles and Cuir Russie.RépondreSupprimer
Wonderful post. I am keen to try this new Les Exclusifs, and lucky enough to live quite close to a Chanel Boutique - I just hope they have this when I'm in town this weekend! I own La Pausa and Gardenia, and No22 in pure parfum. I also have the Exclusifs Body Creme, which seems to help with the staying power for this line.RépondreSupprimer
Hmmm ... I'm curious about this one. My favourite from Les Exclisifs is Bel Respiro which reminds me a little bit of vintage Vent Vert. And their Eau de Cologne is on my "to buy" list ever since it came out. And Cuire de Russie as well!RépondreSupprimer
Sitting under a sycamore tree wondering whether this release will be a comet or a shooting star.RépondreSupprimer
Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to try any of Les Exclusifs so far. If I had to choose only one to sample right now it would have to be Coromandel but Bois des Iles and -OF COURSE- Cuir de Russie are also on this sample list. It is so strange but I find that the exclusive lines of mainstream brands (damn you Prada!) are more difficult to get a hold on than the most obscure niche line.RépondreSupprimer
I love Coromandel (warmly intense, powdery but spicy) perfume. I wear it in winter and the scent clings to my scarves. Bois des Iles and No. 22 are also favorites, rich and somewhat icy. Would love, love, love to try this new one.RépondreSupprimer
Maria, you're in!RépondreSupprimer
Nancy, 31 rue Cambon is still my favorite of the contemporary line-up, though I wouldn't mind having a vat of the Cologne to bathe in as well!RépondreSupprimer
Eva, I've had the issue with 28 La Pausa, but not with 31 rue Cambon. In the former, I suspected the iris note since I've also had problems with one of the Cartier Heures, the iris-sandalwood. People smelled it on me but I no longer perceived it.RépondreSupprimer
K Duffin, I've very curious about that new cream myself! I mean to try it the next time I'm around the rue Cambon without being in too much of a rush. Glad to read you find it's effective.RépondreSupprimer
AnastasV, that Cologne might well be my favorite in the genre, so refined. I'm still aching that the new owners of Balmain are not seeing fit to reissue Vent Vert in a decent form.RépondreSupprimer
Jordan, or maybe part of a constellation?RépondreSupprimer
Elizabeth, I've been wearing Coromandel as well this winter, it's so warm and refined...RépondreSupprimer
Kostas, I don't find obscure niche lines particularly well distributed, but many probably have discovery kits or sell samples since they don't have brick-and-mortar stores. But I guess that's what is meant by "exclusive".RépondreSupprimer
my favorites are Cuir de Russie and No22 (and I also love No18, Sycomore, Coromandel and Bel Respiro)RépondreSupprimer
Cybele, that's a whole lotta Les Exclusifs love!RépondreSupprimer
I like almost all of the Exclusifs, but Bois des Iles is my favorite. It makes me feel calm and confident even on the most dispiriting days. If it's a really good day, it makes it even better.RépondreSupprimer
Kathryn, wow, another vote for Bois des Iles! But I'm like you, I love most of them.RépondreSupprimer
I love " Bel Respiro"- it gives me a wiff of spring as I didn't experience since my teensRépondreSupprimer
Irina, and we do need a whiff of spring right now, don't we?RépondreSupprimer
Lovely review! Having worn 1932 for about two weeks now, I find this description closely dovetails with my own experience. While I also found the sillage moderate, for some reason the longevity on me is extraordinary, lasting a full 24 hours. I love the way the aldehydes seem to be in the background sort of tying everything together, rather than up front like in No5.RépondreSupprimer
I have a number of Les Exclusifs, my favourites so far being Beige and Cuir de Russie, and 1932 became quickly added to those. For some reason our local Chanel boutique got it early. In mid-January I called to inquire when it was arriving and they already had it! I went down the next morning to test it and bought it on the spot.
Hi J.! Glad to learn you've got no longevity issues with 1932 -- it may be one of those "your mileage may vary" compositions. I agree the aldehydes play a very different role here. When we first discussed the Exclusives, Jacques Polge told me there was no point in doing another aldehydic floral when the line already feature N°22. Which is why I didn't highlight the note in my review since to me it's more technical than olfactory per se.RépondreSupprimer
I also had a "coup de foudre" for 1932 at first sniff, by the way!
I'm really fond of Chanel Beige, for me it's the epitome of a classic and businesslike woman and I wear it whenever I want to feel like that. I'm really looking forward to testing the new 1932, as I alwatys find iris and jasmine intriguing in perfumes. It's too bad we don't have any Chanel counters here in Norway.RépondreSupprimer
Thank you for the great review, really tempted to try this one! One more favorite vote for 31 rue Cambon - for me this is such a classic scent that I can wear anywhere, sophisticated and with character. As a pure coincidence, I'm wearing today Gardenia in extrait: so pretty and has such a calming quality to it...RépondreSupprimer
Jorid, I love the iris jasmine combination too. It's like an "absolute" in fragrance, for some reason.RépondreSupprimer
Miss K, if I had the one signature fragrance (apart from Séville à l'aube for obvious reasons), 31 rue Cambon would certainly be one of the top contenders.RépondreSupprimer
That necklace is spectacular! And #32 sounds lovely too.RépondreSupprimer
My favorite, so far, is Bois des Iles. Beige is nice too.
Sycomore was my gateway to the collection, but the one I absolutely adore is Coromandel. I have yet to find a fragrance I feel happier to wear.RépondreSupprimer
Janet, clearly Bois des Iles tops lots of perfume lovers' list. Which reminds me I never reviewed it.RépondreSupprimer
Blauriche, that's really what we look for in a fragrance, isn't it? Glad it makes you feel that way.RépondreSupprimer
I enjoyed this article's history. I'm still very curious about what sort of Jasmine this is. Annick Goutal? Grand Bal de Dior? Hedione luminous? Well, my favorite is No. 18, because it's like one of those jewels so transparent that you feel like you're looking into a crystalline pool. The ambrette is a touch sweet and sour but with a delicate rose it floats, never rests. I like that.RépondreSupprimer
Cait, I love N°18 too. I find it a tremendous "nose-resetter" because of the bracing limpidity.RépondreSupprimer
The jasmine in 1932 is, to get into the nitty-gritty, only moderately lactonic, not indolic and very luminous. I haven't gotten to Grand Bal yet so can't compare...
I've tried several Les Exclusifs: Sycomore, Coromandel, Cuir de Russie, Bois des Iles, but my favourites are N.18, Bel Respiro, 28 La Pausa and 31 Rue Cambon. I hope to own full bottles of all four soon (at the moment I have 18 and 28).RépondreSupprimer
I cannot wait to try 1932. If I don't won the draw, I hope to try it in Milan in two weeks time.
My favorite exclusif is No. 18... Love that gin and tonic initial blast. Sadly we have no Chanel boutique in San Diego so I will have to wait to sniff 1932, unless I am lucky enough to win the drawing. :-)RépondreSupprimer
Philipp, all excellent choices! Have a good time in Milan.RépondreSupprimer
Tara, that was the second Exclusif I got... I love that blast too, it's so bracing, though to me it's closer to "alcool de poire".RépondreSupprimer
31 Rue Cambon!! Dying to try more of them. Alas - the pocketbook is a bit thin these days....RépondreSupprimer