There are company stories and there are family stories. Sometimes there is a cross-road between both. This is the case of Chanel and the Polge family. This month we got the announcement that Olivier Polge, the child-wonder of Jacques is taking his father place at the head of Chanel perfumery. Olvier Polge, 40 years old become the 4th inHouse Perfumer of Chanel.
Chanel, it is all about passion
Chanel is potentially the most glamorous, iconic and luxury French house of all. Inspired by its creator, Gabrielle Chanel, the philosophy of the company is based on the love of doing things right. Excellence at work can only be accomplished by the best and this is something Chanel knows how to do it. Gabrielle Chanel was a woman-in-love her entire life. All the passion that animated her was placed within the company. Over the years, Chanel became an international company, privately owned, amazingly successful and a true icon of luxury.
Not so long ago they published for the first time their financial results and they were great. In 2012 Chanel’s sales were $ 6.3 Billion for a net income of $ 1.53 Billion. This means a profitability of 25%! In comparison, LVMH is 12% and Hermès is 21%. The company valorization multiplied by 3 in the past 4 years. You can read our article about it here:
Chanel Financial Results
This incredible results comes also to the fact it is a very accomplished brand in several domain like Fashion and fashion accessories, Make-Up, Cosmetics, Jewelry and of course Fragrances.
Since the N.5, Chanel is definitely one of the founders of modern perfumery
In 1921, the most glamorous fragrance of all was launched: Chanel N5. At that time, you could not buy it. It was offered only and exclusively to Chanel’s best customers.
Several legends are told around the creation of Chanel N5. Some of them are more “real” than others. Here is what we know. It all started with a talented perfumer of the name Ernest Beaux. He was French, born in Moscow and his first steps into Perfumery happened at Alphonse Rallet & Co.
In the 19th century, Rallet was the most prestigious fragrance providers of all Imperial courts in Europe. In 1898, Raillet (1’500 employees) is bought by French Perfume House Chiris La Bocca, based in Grasse – France. Ernest Beaux has the chance to complete his training at Chiris with the learning of the amazing naturals extraction techniques. At that time, Chiris was the top leading house for The Grassian flowers: Jasmine, Rose, Mimosa…
They also developed several new extraction techniques and step by step introduced Synthetic notes into the perfumer’s palette. Ernest Beaux became a well known Perfumer as he signed a few hits for the time. He launched Bouquet Napoleon and Bouquet Catherine Both fragrances were remarkable successes and obviously placed him as the hot talent of that time. It was then a logical choice to have him working on the Chanel fragrance. The perfumer’s challenge? To translate the innovative modernity of Chanel into a first signature fragrance. According to Raillet archives, Ernest Beaux benefited from all the beautiful ingredient palette provided by Chiris to build the first modern fragrance. Until the beginning of the 20th century, Floral fragrances were generally rich and natural floral bouquets. In painting we would translate that by “Nature Morte” meaning a loyal transcription of how nature was. Ernest Beaux and Chanel had higher ambitions. With the arrival of all the synthetic notes, found by German chemists at the end of 19th century, perfumers could now revamp nature in order to bring something more to the table of creation. It was like going from Nature-morte to Impressionism. On the Chanel fragrance Ernest Beaux used Aldehydes. It is a strong, sparkling and dazzling scent that would lift up all the floral structure. Several trials were made and the 5th trial was chosen to be the one Chanel wanted in the flacon. It was the birth of Chanel N5. Certain people say there was a mistake in the dosage of the Aldehyde and that Chanel N5 had an accidental Aldehyde overdose. I would place the word “accident” for the beauty of the story. In any case, an amazing fragrance was born. With the help of Marilyn Monroe in the 50’s, Chanel N5 became the ultimate feminine fragrance of all. Check here the full story between Chanel and Marilyn Monroe:
Chanel and Marilyn
The legend was set. Today with more than 1 million flacons sold every year, Chanel N5 is a market leader. Chanel always surprised and innovated in terms of fragrances and most of the creations in their portfolio became more than market best-sellers. They became true icons of masculine and feminine archetypes. Behind these creations there were and there still is great creators, the finest perfumers of their time. Each generation of perfumers get the heritage of the brand as a true legacy and explores new ways to sublime nature.
Ernest Beaux, he dared and became the first Chanel Perfumer
By the end of the 19th century, Joseph Robert was the Master perfumer at Chiris. Ernest Beaux would not have a chance to get new projects. Being born in Moscow, he tried to get new projects by linking with the Russian nobility that emigrated to France at that time. One of the contacts he got was the Grand Duque Dimitri Pavlovich. The Grand Duque was the companion of Mademoiselle Chanel. By the summer 1920, Ernest Beaux got organized a meeting with her. He succeeded to present his work and Chanel N5 was born as a Christmas gift for Chanel best customers. Imagine if they would have know!
With the initial success of the N5, Bader and Wertheimer, the owners of Galeries Lafayette, bought in 1922 the license for the fragrance and founded Parfums Chanel. They hired Ernest Beaux as the first inHouse Perfumer. From his creative mind, several amazing fragrances were created.
- Chanel N.22 in 1922
- Cuir de Russie in 1924 (launched in 1927)
- Gardenia in 1925
- Bois des iles in 1926
- Soir de Paris in 1929
- Kobako in 1936
- Premier Muguet in 1955
Henri Robert, legacy in a way
Henri Robert, was the son of Joseph Robert, the Chief Perfumer at Chiris. Basically where the all story started. The father never made it to Chanel but in a way the son made it. By the end of the 19th century Henri Robert meets Ernest Beaux at Raillet and get the desire to become a Perfumer. Several years after. In 1954, he replaces Ernest Beaux at the head of olfactory development at Chanel. Henri Robert becomes the new Perfumer inHouse. He launched amazing fragrances for Chanel.
- Pour Monsieur de Chanel in 1955
- Chanel N.19 in 1970
- Cristalle de Chanel in 1974
In 1977, Henri Robert recruits the young and talented François Demachy that developed the technical perfumery to amazing levels at Chanel. Henri Robert did an amazing job until he left the floor to another amazing perfumer.
Jacques Polge, the modern era with Chanel
Jacques Polge was raised in the South of France and he learned perfumery thanks to Jean Carles in Roure. After a solid career at Givaudan Roure, he joins Chanel as inHouse Perfumer in 1978 when Henri Robert retired. His passion for ingredients, his rigorous approach of creation and his beautiful mind as a creator, drove Chanel into a new modernity and secured the brand as worldwide market leader. He created fragrances that will cross decades and still be relevant as if they were created yesterday.
- Antaeus in 1981
- Coco in 1984
- Egoiste in 1990 )originally launched as Bois Noir in 1987)
- Allure in 1996
- Allure pour homme in 1999
- Coco Mademoiselle in 2001
- Chance in 2002
- Bleu de Chanel in 2010
- Coco Noir (with Christopher Sheldrake) in 2012
In 2005 Christopher Sheldrake joined Chanel as Director of Research and Development. He started the collaboration with Jacques Polge since François Demachy left for LVMH. In 2013 Olivier Polge, son of Jacques, join his father at Chanel after a brilliant career at IFF.
Olivier Polge, the new Polge has arrived
During the last two years, Olivier Polge joined his father at Chanel. The family story continues and Olivier could get all the secrets and background of the brand by his dad. His career at IFF was a brilliant one with incredible creations for different brands.
- La Vie est Belle Lancôme
- Dior Homme
- Balenciaga Paris
- SpiceBomb Viktor & Rolf
On his first 18 month, Olivier Polge took a deep dive into the universe of Chanel. The integration of the Brand heritage and DNA are key to help Olivier translate the aim of a fashion luxury house like Chanel into fragrances. At 40 years old, Olivier Polge takes the place of his father. We wish all the best for Olivier and hopefully he will amaze us like never someone did before.
Info sourced at LeFigaro, Cafleurebon.com, Boisjasmin.com, Wikipedia, Les Echos, International New York Times and Forbes. All content is copyrighted with no reproduction rights available