I was having a conversation with a good friend the other day and the subject of our musings was that when it comes to fragrance, CHANEL is rarely bad. One can accuse them of being commercial at times, and on the very rare occasion, they can even be guilty of being bland, but bad? Never! There is an inherent quality to CHANEL fragrances – a fastidious commitment to a luxurious house signature achieved through an obsessive dedication to the very best ingredients, both natural and synthetic – that means everything they make is undeniably wearable and pleasant.
CHANEL has created a great many wonderful fragrances (I don’t need to list them – you know what they are) and the ones I adore the most are within their capsule collection ‘LES EXCLUSIFS DE CHANEL’. In this collection, CHANEL goes inwards and draws inspiration from its history, creating perfumes of house significance, with reference points in the fabrics, addresses, and muses, found deep within the CHANEL archives. In my view, LES EXCLUSIFS DE CHANEL, is the brand at its most experimental (by CHANEL standards, of course) where a subtle boldness and an effortless wearability come together in harmony.
It has been two years since CHANEL last added a fragrance to LES EXCLUSIFS (the subversive feminine twist on a fougère that was the remarkable BOY) and I for one, have been waiting very patiently. The new fragrance is 1957 and it celebrates Coco Chanel’s relationship with America – a country where the couturier made her fortune. The name of the fragrance is an amalgam of reference points. 1957 was the year that Coco Chanel was awarded the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion. 19 is Chanel’s birthday and 57 is the address of the CHANEL boutique on New York’s East 57th Street – the largest CHANEL boutique in America. 1957 is all of these things and an olfactory ode to the country that cemented the success of CHANEL.
White Musks, Bergamot, Iris, Neroli, Cedar, and Honey.
Olivier Polge (CHANEL)
How Does it Smell?
So how does CHANEL express the significance of their founder’s relationship with America? What’s the olfactory direction here? Well, CHANEL in-house Perfumer Olivier Polge has chosen to explore the fusion of French and American perfumery, creating a CHANEL fragrance (smell it and tell me you don’t instantly think ‘CHANEL’) that plays to the clean linen style that has been so popular in America. He has created what CHANEL are calling “a skin scent” composed of eight white Musks – a pearlescent perfume with a soft and weightless sensibility.
This time, I opted to work with musk, more specifically white Musks. Their whiteness hides a great complexity: enveloping, they emit a more or less pronounced light, and vary in their soft and sensual effects. 1957 is a skin scent that, more than others, is revealed fully on the unique chemistry of each person’s skin.
– Olivier Polge
1957 opens up crisp and sparkling, fizzing brightly in that familiar CHANEL way. There feels like there is a lot going on – a zesty mist of bergamot, a rush of pink pepper, and a sweet splash of neroli – but because this is CHANEL, everything feels as if it comes together to create a harmonious signature that is abstract and new. At first, the impression is light, airy and frivolous, but there are deep wells of richness amongst all of this transparency – threads of gold amongst the blanket of white that pull one in.
In essence, 1957 is a smooth floral musk with a billowing texture. The white musks provide the columns upon which vibrant nuances hang. The most prominent of these adornments is the beautiful honey note that sits at the heart of 1957 – it glows like a gem, perhaps a generously-sized citrine, adding a warmth that is both sweet and sour. Cedar intensifies the smoothness of 1957, adding a subtle powder effect to what becomes a billowing breeze of linen in the dry down as 1957’s white musks reach a dizzying crescendo.
I think 1957 is gorgeous. It sings ‘CHANEL’ with every fibre of its being and is incredibly wearable. Where BOY took some time to click with me (when it did it became a favourite, I should add), 1957 instantly felt comfortable. It is the white linen-style fragrance executed in a modern and luxurious manner – in a way that feels complimentary to the extensive LES EXCLUSIFS DE CHANEL lineup. 1957 is creamy, soft, and skin-like, but it’s not without power, and through its fabric of white musks it finds impressive tenacity and a lightweight radiance. I don’t find it to be the most daring in the collection, but it isn’t without interest and it goes to show how a familiar theme can be given new life when quality, luxury, and skill all come in to play. I think I’m going to be wearing it quite a lot!
1957 is available in 75ml (£155) and 200ml (£280) Eau de Parfum.
Full bottle sample sent by CHANEL for consideration. I was not paid for this review and CHANEL had no input in the contents of this article. Notes and quotes via CHANEL press release. Images are my own.