It’s not easy to reinvent a classic, even less so when that classic is arguably the most legendary fragrance in history. When Chanel’s Creator of Fragrance, Olivier Polge, decided to create an updated version of the legendary Chanel No.5—which launched this month with a dinner in L.A. hosted by Lily-Rose Depp—he aimed to make it more modern and fresh while still respecting all of the elements that made the original so beloved. Examining the 80 ingredients that go into No.5 and identifying which ones were truly essential, Olivier developed a scent that at once paid homage to the classic while also giving It girls a new bottle to covet. We had the pleasure of sitting down with the master of all things Chanel fragrance recently, and here a few things to know about him and his latest, very special launch.
It's All About The Florals
The new No.5 L’Eau. Photo: Courtesy of Chanel
Chanel No.5 L’Eau is a modern, lighthearted take on the classic No.5, complete with notes of lemon, mandarin and orange, and a bouquet of May rose, jasmine and ylang-ylang. “I think No.5 L’Eau is definitely a fresher identity,” says Olivier. “It’s a floral, abstract bouquet. It’s a composed fragrance.”
Fragrance Runs In The Family
Olivier Polge comes by his position rightfully. His father was the Creator of Fragrance for the French house before him, and he actually interned at Chanel as a young man. He even occupies the same office he first visited when he was just 6 years old. “I thought that it was completely normal," says Olivier. "I’m guessing the son of a banker would see his father come back with piles of documents at night. Mine was coming back with little [fragrance] samples–it was the family way."
Every Scent Is A Labor Of Love
Olivier Polge at work. Photo: Courtesy of Chanel
Olivier's job takes him as far as going to the factories where the oil for Chanel fragrances is extracted, and while he's there, he speaks with the people who work there to get ideas on how to create new scents in innovative ways. “It can give me new tools," he says. "Like a painter, it gives me new colors in my palette to work with."
There Is A Scent For Every Personality
Deciding if L’Eau is the scent for you is something even Olivier says takes time. “I think certain scents go with certain personalities or looks,” he says. “It takes a little while to realize what is a good fragrance and if it suits you well. In a perfect world you could wear a scent for a couple of days before buying it.”
L'Eau Pays Respect To No.5
Coco Chanel in her iconic tweed. Photo: Sharok Hatami / Rex USA / Courtesy Everett Collection
Chanel No.5 L’Eau is all about continuing the legacy of the original No.5—created by Coco Chanel and Ernest Beaux in 1921—not replacing it. “I think No.5 is one of the most beautiful fragrances that exists,” says Olivier. “Part of my intent was to stretch the identity and bring more fluidity to the raw materials and certain aspects of No. 5. The same story can be told in a different way.”