Inside that glassy couture with her hair tied up, her beautiful body baring the colour of her golden-honey-hued skin, she stood tall, waiting for her male friend – Brad Pitt. Confident, dangerously attractive and lovable, she was to go out to meet new people, to make new friends. That’s who she is. She is Chanel No.5.
I met ‘Five’ when I was 20 years old. She was 82 years old then. Enchanting, bold, enthralling and intriguing, yet intimidating. My mother told me that ‘Five’ was her closest friend. I was intrigued by her name – Chanel No.5. My inquisitiveness would increase when she would go out with my mother every evening.
Initially, she refused to talk to me and lured me with something that I could define as a monstrous fragrance. She wanted me to talk to her.
One morning, when everybody was still asleep, I went into mother’s room and found ‘Five’ standing next to the dressing couch, gleaming as the sun rays reflected on her body. I tip-toed and briskly pulled her by her hand and whisked her away into my room. ‘Five’ was a little shaken. But, she calmed down as she sat on my bed.
I was skeptical. So, was she. Mother had told me that she loved making friends, but, she wanted them to love her. I touched her, felt her skin and so magical was her scent. She smiled and said, ‘I can be your friend’. I stared at her for a while and asked, ‘How is that possible? You are older and sophisticated. I am just a girl.’ She whispered, “I can be every girl’s best friend. I have no age barrier, no social barrier. I love making friends. And now, I am your friend.” Then, ‘Five’ took me in her embrace and told me how she was born and about her journey through nine decades.
No.5 and Coco Chanel
No.5’s ‘mother’ Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Bonheur Chanel, a Parisian couturier had discovered her out of 10 other inventions in 1921. Five says that Coco Chanel, as she is fondly known, noticed her immediately when Russian-French chemist and perfumer Ernest Beaux introduced ‘Five’ to her.
Five says, “Coco told Beaux that I would bring them fame. I was standing fifth in the row from 1 to 5 and 20 to 24 and she said I will be called No.5. Coco said I had the fragrance of jasmine, rose, sandalwood and vanilla”.
Coco Chanel had entered Paris as the mistress of the textile baron Etienne Balsan in 1909 and set up a millinery boutique under Balsan’s apartment. By early 20s, she had become a rage in the French fashion circles and had set up boutiques in Paris, Deauville and Biarritz.
When Coco Chanel discovered No.5, she wanted to show her off to the world. “I present my dress collections on the fifth of May, the fifth month of the year and so we will let this sample number five keep the name it has already, it will bring good luck”, she announced. Coco Chanel introduced No.5 proudly at her Cambon boutique in the French Riviera, where she was known to say, “It was what I was waiting for. A perfume like nothing else. A woman’s perfume, with the scent of a woman.”
‘Five’ says, “Coco told me that I was a mistake.
A laboratory mistake. Beaux had accidentally added an excess of aldehyde into the flowery mixture and I was born. Beaux had added the royal touch to me, as Coco says that he looked for me for several months during the 20s autumn.” No.5’s exuberant fragrance had made people stop and ask. Coco wanted to design me a dress, which was incomparable. Coco had a home called ‘Parfums Chanel’ and she wanted me to be an inspiration. I was told that she was inspired by a whiskey decanter used by one of her friends. My costume is exquisite, delicate glass and it looks like a square with faceted corners. My dress was ready to go in 1924, with a beautiful hairdo, which is shaped like an octagon. Though my hairdo looks the same since I was a child, it was given a different look over several decades. I was made more comfortable (with a pocket flacon) and people liked me more,” ‘Five’ said smiling at me.
“Do you know why I am No.5? Coco was an orphan and was raised at a convent called Aubazine. Coco had a magical association with the number five. The convent believed in numerology and she found herself surrounded by patterns leading her to number five. I was lucky for her,” ‘Five’ gleamed as she whispered
this to me.
No.5’s climb to fame
“Coco wanted me to rise to fame immediately after I was introduced to an array of people. But, destiny had not decided that. She had her first financial hit in 1924 with the Wertheimer brothers, Pierre and Paul, wanting a 70 percent share of ‘Parfums Chanel’. Coco struggled her way back and acquired her home only in 1947,”
‘Five’ said sadly.
‘Five’ told me that Coco Chanel tried to regain ownership from the Wertheirmer brothers, during the World War II phase of the Nazi seizure. But, “Coco did not realize that the brothers had transferred ownership of our home to a French man and after the war ended, they regained proprietorship. “The brothers were making huge profits with ‘me’ being their star attraction. Coco only wanted to destroy it all by stating that I was not the same when I was with her. I had been compromised. But, the brothers had ensured that I was still the most desirable,” ‘Five’ said.
After several years of legal battle, the founders of ‘Bourjois’ and Coco Chanel negotiated in 1947. Ever since, Chanel No.5 rose to fame as the legend, which is irreplaceable.
No.5 and Marilyn
‘Five’ made several friends after she became an iconic figure in the 20s. She says, she is never shy of making friends as every woman and man has loved her. “For almost 20 years, Coco took me to several places across the world. I was no more just in Paris or among French people. I was taken to America. That is where I met this ‘crazy’ Hollywood star, who became my best friend – Marilyn Monroe,” ‘Five’ said.
I told ‘Five’ that Marilyn was my favourite. Marilyn was beautiful and was in the peak of her career as an actress in the 1950s. “Marilyn introduced me as her best friend in an interview to journalist Georges Belmont in April 1960. She told him that she had been asked by several people what she wore to bed. Marilyn had mentioned me at several places earlier, but, never this loud. She said, ‘I sleep with a few drops of Chanel No.5’. She loved me,” said ‘Five’.
And then ‘Five’ was everywhere. ‘Five’ was later introduced to French actress Catherine Deneuve in 1970s. She later met Carole Bouquet who remained her close associate through the 1990s and 21st century.
‘Five’ kissed me on my cheek and said, “I met Nicole Kidman and she is adorable. Nicole made a film with me called ‘No.5 The Film’.” But, ‘Five’ says that she always looks for that ‘Marilyn’ in every woman and she will remain her best friend. That was the beginning of my journey with ‘Five’.
No.5 and her new male friend
Ever since, ‘Five’ has been in my senses and she is with me everywhere I go. ‘Five’ was with me on my first date, during my first kiss and when I met my life partner. ‘Five’ had later met several people in her ‘scent’ious journey. She had met Audrey Tatou in 2012, who remained her ardent friend. ‘Five’ is a show stopper. She had over the last few decades uncannily attracted even men. She met her first male associate in October 2012.
Actor Brad Pitt shocked the world when he revealed his attraction towards the classy No.5. Brad Pitt is the official endorser of his close female friend, Chanel No.5. With the punch word ‘Inevitable’ Pitt has definitely expressed the feelings of millions of men across the globe.
No.5 has been infinitely desired and adored. She is the one. The only No.5 – ‘Now and Forever’.
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