The Grand Numéro de Chanel exhibition pays tribute to maison's iconic fragrances
Chanel's latest initiative is an olfactory journey through time to offer its customers a deep dive into the history of its perfumes. The immersive exhibition entitled 'Le Grand Numéro de Chanel' celebrates the maison's iconic 'No. 5' fragrance. Held at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, in the Grand Palais Éphémère in Paris located on the Champ-de-Mars esplanade, the exhibition will be open to the public, free of charge and after booking tickets online, until January 9. FashionNetwork.com offers a guided tour of the exhibition, which is set to become one of the French capital's must-see Christmas events.
A band welcomes visitors to a black and white circus tent, decorated with imposing lions, perfume bottles, oversized French playing cards vertically placed in a circular shape surrounding the maison's iconic intertwined 'C' logo and a floor of mirrors reflecting the space's warm lights. The exhibition transports visitors on a dreamlike journey with contemporary dancers among the audience and professional magicians interacting with the public, making cards disappear or turning spades and hearts into the Chanel logo.
A series of rooms allows visitors to immerse themselves into the history of the maison's perfumes. The adventure begins in 1921, the year in which the legendary N°5 perfume was launched, conceived by the Russian-born French perfumer Ernest Beaux from the fifth olfactory sample he presented to Gabrielle Chanel.
"Chanel fragrances have an existential ambition. Le Grand Numéro de Chanel is an emotional journey, the opportunity to discover all the facets and the role of a perfume," said Thomas du Pré de Saint Maur, head of global creative resources for fragrance and beauty, fine jewellery and watches at Chanel.
The exhibition transcends the traditional exhibition format, presenting a multisensory and interactive tour that fuses the history of Chanel's perfumes with innovation and places the sense of smell at the center of the visit. Virtual reality allows visitors to relive the birth of the fragrance, and the maison also gives visitors the opportunity to conduct their own experiments and learn about the creative process from professional experts, who explain everything from how to approach perfume testing to the artisanal savoir faire of hand-sealing the iconic bottles.
"N°5 is the feminine perfume par excellence since, rather than imposing an ideal of femininity, it embraces all of its nuances," said the brand's heritage director, Hélène Fulgence. For his part, Olivier Polge, perfumer of the maison, stressed that, "Chanel occupies a special place in the world of perfumery. We have created and own all our formulas, which has allowed us to work on each of the ingredients that compose them."
Another of the revolutionary features of the perfume's launch was none other than naming it solely after a number, something that no other brand had done until then. Its graphic design, inspired by the Dadaist manifesto, is just as innovative as its bottle. The iconic features of the fragrance are described in spaces designed to retrace the evolution of the brand's image, including a historical tour of its print advertisements and iconic television commercials, such as the one starring Nicole Kidman in 2005.
Another room evoking a backstage atmosphere makes it is possible to mingle with dancers in the middle of a warm-up session, enjoy a professional make-up session courtesy of the brand's make-up artists or discover the four new 'Chance' fragrances positioned in front of mirrors. As a nod to the fragrance's fortuitous name, Chanel recreated a casino where visitors can play Russian roulette and win tokens that can then be exchanged for small mirrors or ornaments from the brand.
The exhibition also has a section devoted to the men's 'Bleu' fragrance line, displayed through a large-scale street mock-up and actors' performances. The room then leads to an olfactory speakeasy where it is possible to discover the differences between its eau de toilette, eau de parfum and perfume formats. In addition, a room displaying the exclusive collection of 18 unique Chanel fragrances also offers visitors the chance to discover their signature scent. All that is needed to do is to complete a quick personality test, which can be answered while sitting comfortably on a sofa.
The visit comes to an end in a long, powder pink corridor that leads visitors into a room housing giant chess pieces equipped with interactive screens and keyboards. Another room dedicated to makeup reproduces the controls of a futuristic dashboard. Visitors can also discover the brand's ready to wear pieces and its perfume Coco Mademoiselle. The tour's grand finale? Telephoning Coco Chanel herself and listening to her unique message. And if anyone is left wanting more, an extensive boutique dedicated to the exhibition and the maison's fragrances caps off the compelling and playful tour.
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