Older Girl Beauty

The History of Beauty

Pretend French Vacay, Pt. 5: The History of Beauty: Chanel No. 5

photo credit: Beau Wade

Before any vacation ends, you always have to see the defining monument that is famous to that location. In the case of the city of Paris, it’s always the Eiffel Tower. In the case of French Parisian beauty, it is Chanel No.5. And I was lucky enough to be gifted a bottle for Christmas last year.

From the beginning Chanel No. 5 has always been exclusive. It was first released in 1921 as a Christmas gift to Mlle.’s best customers and was limited to only 100 flacons. When these customers started coming back, asking for more, it was officially launched as “Chanel Nº 5” in 1922. Word is that this scent was the No. 5 bottle out of 10 samples presented to her, and that when asked how she would name it, she replied, “I always launch my collection on the 5th day of the 5th month, so the number 5 seems to bring me luck – therefore, I will name it Nº 5”.

Coco was never a big perfume fan. In fact, it’s said that she thought that “women perfume themselves only to hide bad smells”. Things seemed to change after Coco’s lover, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia, took her to Cannes and introduced her to perfumer Ernest Beaux and toured his lab. It was here that he presented Coco with his 10 samples, numbered 1-5 and 20-24. He became forever known as the man who created Chanel No. 5.

Coco was also known to have said, “I want to give women an artificial perfume. Yes, I really do mean artificial, like a dress, something that has been made. I don’t want any rose or lily of the valley, I want a perfume that is a composition.” To that end, Chanel Nº 5 became famous for its overdose in synthetic perfumery raw materials, the aldehydes (*don’t worry – I read that, too, and still didn’t understand it either.) in the top note. When the scent was released for public sale, it came in three strengths: Extrait Perfume, Eau de Toilette and Eau de Cologne. (*The Eau de Cologne was discontinued in the 1990’s and replaced with the Eau de Parfum.) Only the Extrait Perfume contains rose oil and jasmin absolute from the Grasse region, and is sealed by hand. So concerned to keep the scent as true as the original, Chanel has signed exclusivity agreements with the largest flower producer in Grasse, the Mul family, to provide them with the finest jasmine & roses.

Now, you might think that having “the world’s most legendary fragrance” (*in a bottle that was created in 1924 by Jean Helleau, that is itself iconic, and has been on permanent display at the MoMA in NYC since 1959 AND made into a poster by Andy Warhol) would make you richer than sin, right? Not so fast. Turns out that in 1924 Coco signed over the rights to No 5 to Pierre Wertheimer and Theophilus Bader, owners of Galeries Lafayette, with the shares divided that Pierre received 70%, Theophilus got 20% and Coco got the last 10% (*they created Parfums Chanel to distribute, hiring Ernest Beaux to be their chief perfumer). Now, that sounds bad, but remember, this was before she became famous for her LBD in 1925 and she needed their connections, money and distribution capabilities. Of course, this ate at her and she felt taken advantage of, so she decided to go back to Ernest and created “Mademoiselle Chanel Nº 1”, to be sold exclusively in her shops. Well, the French government considered that “Counterfeiting” and prohibited it. However, Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and Neiman Marcus in Texas, in the US, kept on selling it. After the customers were all puzzled, Pierre ended up raising Coco’s share. They eventually made nice, to the point that when Coco wanted to restart her couture house in 1947, Pierre financially backed her. However, all niceities aside, for the rest of her life she still felt like she had been shafted out of a huge sum of money.

As for the smell, I’m not even going to try to describe it myself, because I have told you guys I am not one to know “notes” or anything like that to be descriptive. I will say that there are legions of fans, including Marilyn Monroe who, when asked what she wore to bed, famously said, “Five drops of Nº 5.” And, I will quote others who have tried to describe it:

According to Luca Turin, author of The Secret of Scent and, with Tania Sanchez, the recently published Perfumes – The Guide: “Those who have been brought up on stunted, suburban fragrances must find it hard to accept the existence of such a regally beautiful thing,” he writes. “The top notes surprise every time: a radiant chorus of ylang and rose floating like gold leaf on the chalk-white background of aldehydes. Curiously, this most modern of perfumes evokes an image of great antiquity, perhaps a Scythian jewel on a white dress. “The drydown fades the way white flowers do, slowly becoming soft and flesh-coloured. And to get an idea of No 5’s quality, smell it on a paper strip after 24 hours. Now try this with whatever else you’re wearing. See?”

New York Times perfume critic, Chandler Burr: “Chanel No 5 hits you like a bank of white-hot searchlights washing the powdered stars at a movie premiere in Cannes on a dry summer night. If you haven’t smelled it in a while, do so again. It’s great to bathe in that light.”

Get it now? It clearly rises above simple description. If you haven’t had a chance to smell this, please take the time to stop by the Chanel counter and take a whiff then come back here and give me YOUR description of this iconic scent. If you have this, what do you think? Do you think the descriptions are accurate? Let me know!

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Pretend French Vacay, Pt. 4: The History of Beauty – Le Rouge Baiser – "Red Kiss"

On any vacation there is usually a stop at a museum or something that has some kind of historical significance, where you can find out about something you may not have previously heard of before. For our version of that on our Pretend French Vacay, we’re going to learn about an almost mythical lipstick – the “Rouge Baiser”. I say “mythical” because getting information on these cult status lippies is as easy as getting a picture of Nessie in the Loch at sunrise on a Tuesday – damn near impossible. Now, I’m not saying it’s not talked about, I’m just saying that I couldn’t find an official page for it at it’s parent company, Deborah Milano, nor any other really informative pages out there.

But it exists. I know that it does, because I have *3* of them. (*Thank you Christmas!)The “Rouge Baiser” was created in 1927 by a French chemist named Paul Baudecroux. It was the first “indelible” or “kiss-proof” lipstick. In fact, it “dyed” lips so much that it was pulled from the market because it was so hard to remove.

There are multiple finishes, and the three that I have are all different. From left to right:

  • 207: Rouge Evidenmment Cr`eme Satin Ultra Comfort Lipstick
  • 302: Mademoiselle Authentique Comfort Long Lasting Lipstick
  • 405: L’Authentique Ultra Long Lasting Lipstick

I can tell you that these don’t go anywhere – my hand was stained after taking these swatches off – after using multiple removers. If this is how these lippies last NOW, just imagine how they strong they were when they were pulled off the market due to “dyeing” the lips so much it was so hard to remove.

Besides being the first long-lasting lipstick, it also has the distinction of having an iconic ad to sell it. French artist Rene Gruau used his style of “a few ink lines and blocks of color, often red and black” to create the image of a blindfolded woman with red lips. This image became synonymous with “Le Rouge Baiser”. Rene worked on many couture ad campaigns, including Pierre Balmain, Jacques Fath, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Rochas & created the image for “Miss Dior” by Dior. He also created the recognizable posters for the “Moulin Rouge” nightclub.

As you can imagine, I hoard these lovelies in a special place, esp since I can’t pop over and just pick up some more. In fact, I have only found one place online to purchase any more, a UK site called “Be Beautiful Boutique”. Of course, if you happen to be in Paris, feel free to drop by any Monoprix and pick yourself up one or three or more. I think the mystique is worth it.

The History of Beauty: Ungaro is NOT Lindsay Lohan

Nowadays, when you hear “Ungaro” you think of the dismally received fashion show fronted by “artistic designer”, Lindsay Lohan. Thankfully, it has not always been that way.

Emanual Ungaro, born in 1933, took to sewing, as his father had done. So much that by the time he was 22 he moved to Paris, & 3 years later he was designing for the House of Cristobal Balenciaga. He stayed there for 3 years before moving on to design for André Courrèges. Only 4 years later, in 1965, he opened his own fashion house – having his first Prêt-à-Porter collection and opening his first stores in 1968.

For the next 30 years, he expanded stores and licensing agreements. Along the way, he created perfumes – Diva (1983), Senso (1987), Ungaro (1991) and Emanuel Ungaro For Men (1991). In 1997, Emanuel Ungaro partnered with Salvatore Ferragamo and Bulgari to create a new company: Emanuel Ungaro Parfums. This company produced the fragrances Fleur de Diva (1997), Desnuda (2001) and Apparition (2004).

Keeping with the history of creating scents, in 2008, Ungaro teamed with Avon to create two new frangrances: Avon U by Ungaro for Her and Avon U by Ungaro for Him. The sucess of these fragrances led Avon and Ungaro to collaborate again – this time with color cosmetics – “U by Ungaro Color Collection”.

This Limited Edition collection contains 8 pieces, ranging from $10 to $20. It includes 3 lipsticks (*including one in the iconic Fuscia color “Ungaro Pink”), 3 eyeshadows and 2 face shimmer powders.

I’ve had a chance to try some of these, and I gotta say that I like the pink packaging – looks very luxe. The only thing I didn’t care for, was the lipstick case. It looks nice and sleek, but the top to pull out the lipstick is small and the tube itself is slick, making it difficult to open. It has a sheer ribbon on top, and while it may just be there for decoration, it became my go to way to open it. But, once it was open, I liked the texture.

So, when I tell you this is Limited Edition, I mean it – it’s only going to be around until December 31st. Then *poof*, it’s gone. So, hit up Avon.com or your local Avon representative and take a look at this collection with a pedigree for yourself.

The History of Beauty: You actually *CAN* walk in those??

I am *not* your fashion info go to girl, by any stretch of the imagination. However, I have picked up a few things here and there over the last year. Like, when people started talking about the “armadillo” shoes from Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2010 show, it was hard not to listen. They were unmistakeable – to the point that when I saw the new Lady Gaga “Bad Romance” music video I heard myself saying (out loud, mind you, in an empty room) “Holy crap, she’s wearing the Alexander McQueen’s!” Yeah…I don’t really do that – at least not about fashion stuff.

I kind of did that again when I read that someone had actually worn the AM shoes in public, on a Red Carpet, and hadn’t needed anything to assist in walking in them. I had to find out who this creature was and see proof of them out in the real world. Turns out it is the rich “couture collector”, Daphne Guinness.

I had no idea who she was, so I did some googling and found out some things:

    • She is the daughter of Johnathan Guinness, of the Guinness Brewery family – making her an heiress.
    • She spent part of her childhood in an artists’ colony in Spain, where she used to swim in Salvador Dali’s lobster-filled swimming pool.
    • She says that her weird obsession with armour “might have come from the Surrealists” that were there.
    • In the 80’s, she lived in NYC with her sister, and hung around with the likes of Andy Warhol, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, the owners of Studio 54 and Fred Hughes, the editor of Interview magazine, while playing wih the idea of being an opera singer.
    • At 19, she married Spyros Niarchos, son of the Greek shipping billionaire Stavros Niarchos, whom she had 3 kids with and divorced in 1999 with a (disputed) $40mil settlement.
    • Her trademark skunk colored hair was “accidental”. She “..glue(s) bits on to it and this is how it turns out.”

All of that is just background to the woman she has become. She can be described as many things: “a designer, stylist, writer, filmmaker, collector and now a perfumer with a scent called Daphne”, but she can not be called boring, that’s for sure. In fact, some of her quotes crack me up:

Discussing why she created her own scent:

“She dismisses most perfumes, describing being sprayed with scent in a department store as ‘disgusting’, like being covered with mosquito repellent”.

Or when discussing how she didn’t fit in St. Tropez, while she was married:

“I remember, for example, going to that ghastly place in St Tropez, Cinquante Cinq, with all these people at the table eating in their bikinis and getting sprayed by those horrible hoses they’ve got in the canopy above, and there I was in full riding gear. Well, I didn’t want to be half naked in front of all these ghastly, repulsive pink people in their horrid little floaty dresses getting sprayed with water, did I?”

Gawd, so pretentious, but you can see how she completely wouldn’t think that – maybe that’s why it cracks me up.

 So, there she was, walking the Red Carpet with François Nars (NARS Founder and Creative Director) for the launch of the NARS 15X15 Project. The project is a celebration of the 15th Anniversary of NARS and the centerpiece of the project is the “15X15” book, in which Daphne is included. There is only a limited edition run of 1500, with the full $80 purchase price being divided between 15 different charities. However, there are indivdual portraits available for purchase, too.

Man, I love learning about creative people and things. Don’t you?

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