Chanel is the perennially chic Parisian powerhouse that sells the sophisticated French dream. One that is seen as stylish, timeless and aspirational. They do try very hard to be down with all the current trends but it is not in their DNA to be THE fashionable star. They are not trend setters or the current fashion darling, like Gucci with the formidable talents of Alessandro Michele. The long game is their goal and they now have a dose of heritage and history on their side as well as the legend of Gabrielle Chanel herself. The more damaging parts of her story have been white washed from the brand e.g. her role as collaborator and spy with her Nazi lover Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, with whom she remained after the conclusion of the war in self-imposed exile to Switzerland. (See here for more in The New Yorker). Interestingly Chanel tried to wrestle the ownership of the perfume part of the business in WWII from the Wertheimer family (the current owners) under the Aryanisation laws but nevertheless they continued to pay for all her expenses until her death. As I said it’s all about the long game for this brand.
Gabrielle is the most anticipated launch in the fragrance world this year. This is the first feminine pillar release (i.e. not a flanker) from Chanel since Chance in 2002. There is I imagine a lot riding on this new creation of Olivier Polge’s. His father’s Coco Madamoiselle (Jacques Polge) is still a best seller sixteen years on. I imagine they’d rather like to replicate the success of Coco Madamoiselle and see Gabrielle a success for at least the next 15 years.
Chanel are no doubt eyeing fresh consumers with Gabrielle and it does seem tailor-made for the Asian market. Fresher more radiant perfumes are the desired tropes there and the challenge is on to make something acceptable for the new territories while also having appeal with the established Western markets.
Kristen Stewart is one of the current crop of favourite faces for the brand and is rolled out for Gabrielle. Stewart gives the brand an edge that doesn’t translate to the perfume in my opinion but she is strongly associated with Chanel and is I think a brilliant choice. They are hoping she’s going to drag the younger cool kids to this perfume and the execution is classic Chanel.
Chanel doesn’t really feel like a brand that Kristen would really wear in her spare time though and would she spray on Gabrielle? Who knows but her usual wardrobe seems to consist of roughed up jeans / shorts and t-shirts and is currently always photographed with her model girlfriend that I think helps her millennial appeal. Personally I’ve always liked her as an actress. The first movie I saw her in was Sean Penn‘s Into The Wild, one of my favourites and she was great in it. The whole movie is atmospheric and beguiling.
So without further ado how does Gabrielle smell?
Gabrielle: Nose : Olivier Polge: Year : 2017 : Notes : Top: Mandarin, grapefruit, blackcurrant: Middle : Tuberose, Ylang-ylang, jasmine, orange blossom : Base : Sandalwood, musk
These were my first thoughts when I sprayed Gabrielle and I’m referencing my Instagram here “The new Chanel release is floral and radiant with a touch of the happy pill. There are no dramatic flourishes here, it’s seamless and the materials seem top notch … It’s rather ethereal and even 10 minutes in the volume has dropped substantially.”
I’ve worn it more now but actually my thoughts have not changed that much regarding its effect. The opening is most definitely radiant, solar and floral. It’s captivating and rather lovely. It has a warm feeling rather than being overtly fruity or fresh. The scent is defiantly top loaded, luring me in with a promise that it wasn’t really able to deliver on. Gabrielle is not a long-lasting or full fragrance; it has a medium sillage at first but then wears close to skin after half an hour. When I say florals I mean a somewhat indeterminate mix and if you look at the notes you might expect something more but this is Chanel of course and they seem to be rather restrained these days. If you were a little excited that the notes included tuberose, and were expecting something with a bit of growl then this is not what you’re going to get. This is a melange, a mix, a light brushing. The base is light and pleasant but unmemorable with musky woods.
It it Chanel? Yes and no. IT IS NOT the old Chanel that I think perfume connoisseurs are still searching for. They’ll have more luck with Les Exclusives perhaps or the Extraits.
It IS The NEW, modern Chanel that caters to young and younger audiences and starter customers. It has the recognisable Chanel sophistication, albeit erring slightly to the bland but it does smell like a quality perfume and I think this is key. You are not spraying something that feels overly chemical, rough or bumpy. Everything is smooth and very polished.
If I was smelling this as a younger woman I would think this was a radiant choice against an ever-growing tsunami of sugar. So I do think that while Chanel has maybe not delivered for previous generations still in love with No 19, No 5 and Coco, the young and possibly many older customers too may be charmed by its reserve, by a perfume that doesn’t shout to be heard. A quiet achiever if you will.
Am I the best person to review this fragrance? Most definitely not. I’m clearly not the target market for Gabrielle. In fact I have a 2007 bottle of Coco Madamoiselle and I enjoy it more than this; it has more personality and oomph even if you do smell it everywhere. There’s also an undeniable tie to this very fragrance and in comparison Gabrielle smells rather innocuous, a little pallid, a bit of a wallflower. I also prefer No 5 L’Eau that is a rather lovely modernised milennial No 5.
If we think of Chanel’s perfume as a mirror of its times, then what would we say about Gabrielle? Maybe it has a protectionist vibe. Let’s stay safe here and build a beautiful cocoon that won’t harm or touch us in any way. Perhaps for today we need a piece of this. A soft, radiant sparkle. But perhaps it has missed a trick too – to offer something more progressive to last the distance.
PS The bottle is gorgeous.
Have you tried it? Would love to know what you feel about this one …
The Low Down : An easy wearing, light radiant perfume with the Chanel hallmarks of classic sophistication that will either allure you with its quiet achiever vibe or will bore you beyond belief. All in a beautiful bottle.
Pricing : RRP is 97 Euro for 50 ml and 137 Euro for 100ml.
Notes : Images : Featured Image : Megan In Sainte Maxime
Disclosure : Bottle purchased. Opinions my own.