I grew up around women who had a ‘lost in time’ approach to makeup, and as a result of dipping into their makeup bags, my first experiments into beauty were not remotely age appropriate, or decade fitting for that matter. There’s something about a prepubescent caked in 70s Biba foundation that doesn’t quite work, disturbing almost, like three-year-olds in stilettos. Later, I experimented with products marketed at my demographic, but even at the tender age of 13, I knew that Miss Sporty’s electric blue mascara was something that should possibly be reserved for a face painter’s kit, and not my own.
So it seems fitting that now, on what marks over 200 years of style I pay homage to a brand not only responsible for classics like the LBD and those instantly recognisable quilted bags, but to a makeup range as equally covetable (not to mention that little bit more achievable).
What makes a brand admirable, or more importantly, appealing? The one that throughout life and fickle purchases you keep heading loyally back to? At school I went through a stage of trialling most, if not all products available, believing the contents boast some magical ingredient to somehow conceive a new skin. A new me. And so became Chanel, in the form of an unwanted sample, the silky powdery promise of it lending me a confidence that didn’t exist in the spoiled, used samples of Rimmel.
As a brand Chanel has always understood durability, the ability to be modern, even ahead of the times, but never dominated by craze, and, most fascinating of all, never an imitator of fashion. They have remained true, inspired by heritage but never reliant on the past for success and have never once settled for fame, remaining largely unchanged but somehow still distinctive. Before the sensational debut of No.19, there was the classic No.5, spilling out of the golden twenties, conjuring images of art deco design and Great Gatsby garden parties. The first fragrance to combine more than one base note, it was said to portray the many facets of coco’s personality, packed with jasmine, sandalwood and Ylang – Ylang. There’s also chance, my favourite coco, a warm and spicy bouquet gracing the skin, and the lighter more delicate mademoiselle, as fresh and effortless as ballet pumps, clean sheets and dishevelled pony tails.
From the humble beginning, to the struggle and onto the ascent of a legend, the first female business woman with an unwavering determination to create a brand dedicated to providing luxury. A principle very much still alive today thanks to iconic vision, humility and respect, “but not too much” as Karl Lagerfeld said, for the past. And in this, the house of Chanel has withheld the test of time, the bare bones of Coco’s original objectives still firmly in place today. A testament to a unique woman and now millions of others, not in the fragrance on their vanity but the soul they exude long after the first spray.
The power of Chanel is the pull of Paris, the allure of the French, the effortless Parisian woman, dusky pink macaroons in patisserie windows. A symbol of sophistication, of romance, and elusive beauty – a nameless, faceless quality that can’t be captured or oppressed but exists in spirit alone. It’s the cool, unflappable presence that Coco herself embodied all those years ago and the same one that those unmistakable double C’s still represent today. From the history to the current day, the embossed ribbon on the gift wrap, to the future and the woman behind it, the entire experience much like the scent itself, allures.
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