Dec 1, 2016
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Chanel threatens to pull plug on Grasse links over high-speed rail plans

Dec 1, 2016

Chanel is protesting over plans for a French high-speed rail line that it claims threatens the flowers it uses to make its classic Chanel No 5 fragrance and its latest version, Chanel No 5 L'Eau.

The key ingredients for Chanel's luxe prefumes are grown in Grasse

The luxury goods giant has threatened to quit Grasse, the luxury perfume capital of the world, if a TGV line is driven through the Provencal fields where it grows flowers for the perfume.

The 1,000 jasmine flowers and a dozen May roses it uses for every 30ml bottle of No 5 are grown close to its perfumery in Grasse. With its lavender fields and hillsides full of wild flowers, the region is one of the most most famous corners of the South of France and a key source of ingredients for luxury perfumes.

In a strongly-worded open letter to planners, Chanel said a viaduct to carry trains over the picturesque Siagne valley would be a disaster.

"The construction of a viaduct and the regular passage of high-speed trains over these fields of flowers would force Chanel to cease supporting its artisanal activities in the region," the company said.

It said the quality of the flowers harvested around Grasse is "unique and exceptional... and indispensible for the creation of Chanel perfumes."

France's state-owned SNCF railway company argues that the new €6.7bn ($7bn) line would cut an hour from the trip along the French Riviera from Marseille to Nice. It said the line is the most congested in France outside of Paris and desperately needs investment.

Despite its high tourist numbers, the Cote d'Azur is one of the worst served by the country's high-speed rail network and the journey time from Paris to Nice currently stands at around six hours.

Chanel has already fought off plans for a dump not far from the fields where the Mul family grow the flowers.

Chanel No 5 was commissioned by Coco Chanel in 1921, and quickly came to define a new type of independent, modern woman, as well as being a defining moment in modern perfumery.

Chanel commissioned Ernest Beaux -- who had been perfumer to the Russian tsar -- to create a new type of perfume that broke with the strict rules of what scent was proper for a woman to wear. "I don't want any rose or lily of the valley perfume; I want a more elaborate scent," she said.

It became the most famous perfume of the 20th century with a bottle being sold every 30 seconds, according to Vogue magazine. And it has retained its bestseller status with Chanel continuing to put major marketing spend behind the brand and reinventing it regularly with new additions to the line and new brand ambassadors like Lily-Rose Depp.

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