Meet Gabrielle, Chanel’s Latest Fragrance

With jasmine, ylang-ylang, tuberose and orange blossom, the new fragrance is Chanel (re)incarnate.

With people, I know fairly quickly if there’s a connection or not. With fragrance, it typically takes me a while to warm up to a new scent. When I met Gabrielle earlier this year in New York, I was instantly taken with this bright floral and feminine fragrance from Chanel. As in-house perfumer Olivier Polge introduced me to each note—jasmine, ylang-ylang, tuberose and orange blossom—the fragrance came together just as magically, and perfectly, as one of Chanel’s famous tweed suits.

With his alchemistic talents, Polge used musk to intensify the jasmine and add a velvety note to the ylang-ylang. He added a touch of sandalwood to bring out the creaminess in the tuberose. The orange blossom, which brings a fresh note to the juice, was heightened with mandarin peel, grapefruit and a whisper of blackcurrant. Polge explained that a perfume, like a fashion house, has codes. For Chanel fashion, there are tweeds, camellias and chains. “It’s the same for fragrance,” he said. “For Coco, it was jasmine, ylang-ylang and other white flowers. She was always playing with these ingredients.”

Considering the scent’s complex nature, the bottle housing it is deceptively simple and elegant. Upon first glance it appears to be an uncomplicated stack of squares, but like a couture gown, the labour, ingenuity and creativity behind it is staggering. In fact, it took Sylvie Legastelois, head of packaging and graphic design, five years to create.

Photography courtesy of Chanel

At first touch you notice first is how light it is, and that’s an intentional twist on associating weight with luxury. If you look at it sideways, the thin symmetrical walls converge toward the centre of the bottle onto the square label that is the same size as the gold-coloured matte lamé cap. This was done so that every facet reflects light. The packaging is beige on the outside and golden yellow on the inside.

The boxes Chanel received from the Duke of Westminster inspired the design. I saw them when I toured her Paris apartment; they were made of silver and lined with gold.

But that isn’t the only personal touch. Gabrielle, which is the first new fragrance in 15 years for the house, was Chanel’s real name. The perfumer, who replaced his father, Jacques, in 2015, said he remembered his father saying that Coco Mademoiselle was inspired by the baroque and Byzantine cultures that Chanel discovered in Venice. “Gabrielle, with its flowers, is maybe closer to who she was,” suggested Polge. The perfumer added that it was his intention to create a dreamy imaginary flower. Turns out I now have a dreamy new imaginary friend.