Archive for Chanel

Scents and sensibilities (FT Weekend)

Posted in Architecture, interiors and design with tags , , , , on June 27, 2013 by markcoflaherty

“You know, I can’t actually remember what it smells like, but I just LOVE that bottle.” It is the opening Saturday of the No.5 Culture Chanel exhibition at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, and two young women – looking trés bon chic bon genre – are wandering through rows of perfect, transparent Lucite cases housing a vast archive of Chanel No.5 related art and ephemera. Like Dior’s New Look and the revolution of pret a porter, the modernist salvo of Chanel No.5 – which launched in 1921 – changed the world of fashion forever. The design of any new fragrance would become significantly more important than the product inside.

Chanel No.5 by Andy Warhol

Chanel No.5 by Andy Warhol

“N°5 is not a fragrance, but a cultural artifact,” says Jean Louis-Froment, the curator of the Palais de Tokyo show. “It has a unique aura. It is a manifesto.” Fragrances come and go, but the best become icons. Few achieve the landmark status that Chanel No.5, with its own Warhol silkscreen, has. Still, every year, designers spend fortunes and weeks on designs for new bottles. Each has to sum up the brand, and trigger an emotional response as strong as anything they put on the catwalk. They are miniature mass-produced sculptures. This spring, Yohji Yamamoto and Dries van Noten – two of fashions most renowned intellectuals – launched new product.

Yamamoto’s fragrances – both ‘homme’ and ‘femme’ – are essentially a re-release of a range that vanished due to licensing issues in 2005, but with a new bottle design in addition to the original test-tubes which Yamamoto selected because it was “the simplest bottle on earth.” For many, the idea of esoteric Yamamoto doing anything as commercial as a fragrance seemed outlandish. He would, of course, do it his way. A new version has been designed by Vonsung, with an architectural curve reminiscent of Richard Serra, but in glass rather than metal. “The box is origami-inspired,” says Yulia Livne of Yohji Yamamoto Parfums. The bottle itself might be seen to echo the wrap of a kimono, something repeatedly evident in Yamamoto’s own designs.

Several designers have working relationships with big name architects and artists to create their product. Zaha Hadid created a typically amorphous bottle for Donna Karan Woman last year. “Her vision is uniquely graceful and strong,” says Karan. “There’s always a sense of lyricism and fluidity to her shape.”

Dries van Noten’s fragrance is in collaboration with parfumier Frédéric Malle, renowned for the minimalism of his presentation. It comes in the simplest of circular bottles, in an orange fabric-texture box. “It’s a modern aesthetic,” says Malle. “We avoided unnecessary details, very much like Dries’ fashion. It’s crisp and clean, not old fashioned or fussy.”

A stark, modernist approach to bottle design continues to be popular. It’s something that stems from Chanel’s original intention for No.5. At a time when fragrance was presented in the most ornate, rarefied crystal vessels, she commissioned a simple, stark, modernist flacon, and subsequently added a stopper based on the layout of the Place Vendome. “What Coco Chanel wanted was an invisible bottle,” says historian Tilar J. Mazzeo, in her book The Secret of Chanel No. 5.

There are still some dubious visual puns around in the world of bottle design. One might consider the gold bullion container of ‘1 Million’ from Paco Rabanne, or ‘Konvict’, which comes in two chained-together bottles in the shape of handcuffs, as witty and ironic. Or one might not. One of the sole successful and stylish examples of the visual pun is the Bond No.9 range. Each fragrance is based on a different New York neighbourhood, with a visual motif to match. “We use silk screening and engraving and metallization techniques with the theme of the New York subway token,” says founder Laurice Rahmé.

Sometimes, the sweeping iconoclastic visual statement is still the biggest success. Last year Lady Gaga became the latest in a long line of celebrities to put their name to a mid-market fragrance. ‘Fame’ comes in a bottle that looks like something Thierry Mugler sketched late at night and thought better of in the morning; regardless, it sold six million bottles in its launch week. It still has a long way to go to rival Mugler’s own ‘Angel’, which continues to be one of the five best selling fragrances in the world, 21 years after it first appeared. The crystal futurist star-shape of the bottle – produced by Normandy glassmaker Brosse, who were also responsible for early Chanel No.5 – is one of Mugler’s greatest visual achievements. A Mugler-esque sci-fi looking silver stand is now available to buy which displays the fragrance as an artwork.

Parfumier and fragrance historian Roja Dove has his own line of fiercely high-end perfumes which come in bottles adorned with gold and Swarovski crystals. They are some of the most highly priced and successful in the world. He believes that maximalist French glass designer René Lalique has been at least as influential as Gabrielle Chanel in terms of the look of fragrances. “He was the first person to create what we would call today an holistic conceptual package,” says Dove. “Bottle, label and box reflected the intellectual idea of the scent it contained. ‘Nilang’ has two gilded, fantasy lotus blossoms suspended above the bottle as if floating on invisible water. It has inspired many commercial creations since.”

Bottle design can be a truly inspired, and scarce and pristine pieces – including ‘Shocking’ by Schiaparelli from 1937, with its Mae West body and bouquet of flowers around its neck – are highly collectible. Perfume bottles can be as much an expression of modernism as a piece of Bauhaus or Prouvé furniture, or they can have an embellished narrative. One of Roja Dove’s favourite pieces of design is the bottle that Salvador Dali created for Schiaparelli’s ‘Le Roi Soleil’ back in the 1940s. “It’s been rereleased recently,” he says, “executed in Baccarat crystal, in the shape of clouds and a huge sunshine, with doves in flight creating a face in the centre of the sun. It represents the end of the darkness of the Second World War.” It’s a precious as well as beautiful object: originals can reach $25,000 at auction.


Amanda Harlech’s Perfect Weekend (Financial Times How to Spend it)

Posted in Fashion, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2011 by markcoflaherty

Lady Harlech has been working closely with Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel since 1997. She divides her time between a suite at the Ritz in Paris and her farmhouse in Shrawardine, Shropshire…

“The first joy of Saturday is walking out through the back door, across the grass, through the dew, opening up the greenhouse and picking something for breakfast; perhaps some strawberries. I love cooking with fruit: apples and raspberries and a couple of pears. Delicious. I might have that with porridge with my son, Jasset, and daughter, Tallulah. Jasset is a very good cook too and likes to make eggs and bacon. It’s so beautiful here. I have always looked for a view, wherever I have lived. The house is really nothing. It’s a little strip of a building but it sits in the circumference of the hills that divide England and Wales, with the River Severn at the bottom.

Lady Harlech, Shropshire ©

If I want a Turneresque romance of sky, mountain and sea I can find it just an hour towards the coast. I’m awake at 5.30am because of the birds screaming outside my window. I like to do a lot in the morning. I light a fire. I do yoga. It makes me feel present in my own body. It’s really good to take even a single minute to listen to what your body is telling you. I might reread something I’ve written, or play Bach on the piano that Karl gave me. Like anything, it requires practice. It’s a beautiful Steinway with legs designed by Karl. They connect up in a rectangle, which alters the sound.

There are wonderful shops to visit in the Shropshire countryside. I discovered Ashmans Antiques & Old Lace 20 years ago and was on first name terms with the owner, Diane, immediately. It’s an Aladdin’s Cave, a treasure trove of wonderful clothes. I’ve bought Imperial Russian outfits, linen nightshirts from the 18th century and a collection of 20s wedding dresses. Tallulah likes to shop there but prefers more dramatic pieces, with black lace and dark purple velvet. Close by is F.E Anderson & Son, where you can find the most amazing Irish Georgian antiques. I like jewellery and jewellers but I also like overalls, uniforms and dishcloths. Wherever I go I like to visit the local ironmongers. C.R Birch & Son has the best doormats, rat traps, floor mops and buckets. If you go to what I call a fashion homestore, the things are made of plastic and you get silly broom heads. I want things that have evolved over hundreds of years. It’s a bit like a Chanel suit – the perfectly evolved brush. I don’t want a cheap copy or imitation. Wilstone sells incredible firebowls; really beautiful hand-beaten bowls which you barbecue on, which I might do in the evening. There is a very good Indian restaurant, Enigma, but I like my own food too much and I’d like to have six to eight friends over for dinner. I might barbecue some lamb, stabbed with garlic and rosemary and thyme with a slosh of olive oil and black pepper. All it needs is some peas from the garden, new potatoes and mint. I have two wooden tables and some chairs in the garden and you can sit outside and look at the swallows and swifts and hills.

Karl has never been here but the invitation is always open. He would only come by private jet so that would mean finding an airport that has got a runway long enough for it to land. I would love him to come. I have all kinds of ideas: I’d put up a great big white marquee and have waitresses in white aprons serving Diet Coke. I’d get a horse to jump over the table. To shop for dinner I go to the Farmers Market in Shrewsbury, which is great. You can get fantastic fish, amazing rabbit, delicious eggs and ham, local asparagus and samphire. You can sample oysters with Guinness. I buy spelt bread from the Shrewsbury Bakehouse, which is delicious and very good for you, made from ancient Roman wheat. It’s great to see people passionate about bread, and they are at the Bakehouse.

Sunday starts with the church bells of St Mary’s ringing. I live right next door to the vicarage. It’s a very stripped down church, with a pale blue stained glass window and worn flagstones. I like hearing the bells in the morning. There were very violent battles between the Royalists and Roundheads in the fields next to me. Apparently there is an underground passage from my house to the ruins of Shrawardine Castle. A friend of mine told me he sensed the house had been full of men either discussing or playing music; full of ghosts, but happy. These borders are both haunting and haunted. I have a four year old Irish racehorse called Roy. It’s great to ride down to the river or up to Rodney’s Pillar – the 18th century monument to the victory of Admiral Rodney over the French in the West Indies – where they say on a clear day you can see Ireland. I want to take up falconry. The birds don’t frighten me at all. I think perhaps I’m a throwback to the 17th century and I have a romantic idea that I may die in my house and the boldest of the animals move in. I like the idea of a fox curling up on the sofa next to the piano. If it’s a hot day it’s lovely to swim in the Severn, or lie in the garden naked on a carpet reading a book. I do a bit of gardening. I get my plants from the Dingle Nurseries and Derwen Garden Centre. I go there for seeds, bulbs and trees. I have an orchard with quinces that I have planted from there. They were little whips when I bought them. If I am lucky I will see them grow a little bit taller than me. It’s putting something back: “create a library and plant a wood”. On Sunday evening the best thing to do is go to bed with a book. I love all sorts of books, they just have to be well written. 10pm is the time to go to bed because I like to make the most of the next day. Of course sometimes you can stay up dancing in the kitchen until two or three, but that doesn’t happen often. Although when it does, it’s great.”