Had she lived, Coco Chanel would have turned 128-years-old today. Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, a.k.a. Coco, was born on 19 August, 1883 in a poorhouse in Loire Valley, France. The employees of the facility were illiterate and her name was spelled ‘Chasnel’ instead of ‘Chanel’.
The powerhouse who revolutionised fashion and beauty learned to sew while staying in the orphanage of the Roman Catholic convent of Aubazine. Her nickname – Coco – overshadowed her real name (Gabrielle) after her 1905 rendering of the song Qui qu`a vu Coco dans le Trocadero for a crowd of uniformed admirers at a music hall in a small, provincial town in France.
What you probably don’t know is how much Aubazine shaped Chanel’s aesthetics. In fact, No. 5 was a direct output of Coco’s stay in this place
However, you already know all this by heart, don’t you? What you probably don’t know is how much Aubazine shaped Chanel’s aesthetics. In fact, No. 5 was a direct output of Coco’s stay in this place. For centuries, devotional life at Aubazine had revolved around perfumes – the echoing nave had been the location of perfumed rituals for hundreds of years and the ravines around the abbey were planted with richly scented flowers through the year.
The paths, which led Chanel to the her daily prayers, were laid out in circular patterns repeating the number ’5′, sometimes patterned out in stars
And that was not all: Even the number ’5′ was an intrinsic heritage of this abbey. Aubazine had been founded by Cistercians – a Catholic order which placed great emphasis on numerology. The number five signified the pure embodiment of a thing, its spirit, its mystic meaning – something untouchable and beautiful. The paths, which led Chanel to the her daily prayers, were laid out in circular patterns repeating the number, sometimes patterned out in stars. In the abbey gardens was also a five-petalled flower called Cistus, from which the Cistercians took their name. Little wonder then that this number was to play such an important role in her life, beginning by shaping the signature of her very first perfume, which was launched in 1919. When presented with glass vials of scent, she chose the sample contained in the fifth vial telling Master perfumer Ernest Beaux that, “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.”
And indeed it brought good luck in spades, building the base for a career that has far outlived its architects. Time passed and in 1970, Coco created her last fragrance – a green blend of iris, neroli, vetiver, and cedar wood – which she named after her birth date (August 19). Initially meant to be gift for herself, it soon became a major hit with Chanel devotees. Today, forty years later, the House of Chanel has launched an update on the original: No 19 Poudré. Perfumer Jacques Polge’s soft new interpretation stays true to the original’s neroli top notes, iris heart, and vetiver base notes, adding mandarin orange, jasmine absolute, white musk, and tonka bean. So, which one are you buying to commemorate this legendary lady today?
In 1970, Coco created her last fragrance, which she named after her birth date (August 19). Today, forty years later, the House of Chanel has launched an update on the original: No 19 Poudré