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Monday, March 03, 2008

In Which I Infiltrate Chanel

On Saturday, I attended the "Perfume Master Class" organized by Chanel and Sniffapalooza. The event took place in a newly built Chanel Education Studio, in their HQs on 57th St in New York. I can't say that I expected some breathtaking revelations about Chanel ingredients, scents and the give-away of top-secret inside information. Really, all I wanted was to see what it's like inside the Chanel offices. The Education Studio, apparently shaped as a No. 5 perfume box, did not disappoint: it was all white-edged-in-black, minimalist, elegant and cold (literally and figuratively).

The "Master Class" itself was a two-hour talk on Chanel star fragrances and Les Exclusifs. I can't say I learned anything new, the information was pretty basic. But neither did I expect to, the presentation was lovely and sniffing absolutes is always fun.

What I learned:

- Eau Premiere is expected to finally really launch in the 2nd half of 2008
- The citrus-heavy Eau de Toilette is my preferred concentration of No. 5
- Birch tar smells beyond yummy, like very oily smoked fish
- Prior to No 5 ALL perfumes were "single note". They really said that. I am sure Guerlain would be a little surprised to learn that their Jicky is just a humble soliflore.

And, um, that's it really.

I did get to smell and wear the new Les Exclusif, Sycomore, the "free of frills" blend of vetiver, woods and spices. It is...nice. Smoky vetiver, done the way I like, with a bit of darkness lurking underneath the pungent greenness. But it doesn't seem to me to say anything new in the vetiver genre. In fact, I prefer another recent vetiver release, Lubin Le Vetiver, which is smokier and has more depth and details. Still, vetiver connoisseurs should make an effort to sample Chanel's rendition of the note.

So would did you do this weekend?


Blogger elle said...

Would have loved to see the design of the offices! Hmm...Sycomore doesn't sound like it's the second coming, but, as I'm in the early days of my new found love affair w/ vetiver, it definitely sounds like it's worth sampling. Who am I kidding? Sampling sl*t that I am, I'd try it even if you'd said it was predominantly c*l*r*.
I know I have birch tar in that olfactionary I got from the Perfumer's Apprentice (again, thanks to the post at Perfume Journal for suggesting that wonderful place!). *Still* haven't had time to play w/ everything, but will have to go dig around and see if I can find it.

9:59 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

No, no c*l*ry there!
My blotter with birch tar smells so yummy, I am fighting the urge to snack on it...with beer.

10:05 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I was unsuccessful at getting a smell of the new Serge (not in yet anywhere) but as consolation I did have a great dinner at Cube: wild boar tortelloni with
browned butter and red cow parmesan. Yum!

10:11 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

That sounds better than any Serge.

10:17 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

I accidentally got invited to a concert at a small Italian restaurant . What I mean is that I was the third choice, because the first two that were asked couldn't go! But, who cares because I got to see Gil and Cartas play their wonderful jazz/Mexican fusion music with guest artist Doc Severenson on the trumpet with about 30 other gringos. It was a magical evening. I believe that the band (with Doc) leaves to go play at Carnegie Hall very soon. Doc's wife has a gallery near mine and we have lunch upon occasion, so my friend Jeanie was shocked when he came over and started talking to me about the concert. It was fun!

11:10 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't wait to smell Sycomore! Did you find out when exactly it will be released? I was at the Chanel boutique in NYC this weekend and forgot to ask.

11:28 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am only saying this because it's kind of funny. I painted my apartment... for the FOURTH TIME in 2 weeks... no, I'm not kidding. The first time, I wanted something brighter and cheery so I did a color called "champagne bubbles" which turned out unexpected yellow... then I did a creamy beige that turned out the color of old computer equipment... then I did a tan which had too much red in it and looked like the earth in Georgia (red clay) AND FINALLY settled on a beautiful putty color that is a mix of gray and dustiness which made me skip and jump. I have hand callouses and a back ache but it's worth it to have found a color I love. All of this was done (yes, each color) wearing Straight to Heaven by By Kilian. Swoon. :)

12:07 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Monday, M!

I'm depressed that Sycomore is a vetiver scent. Im just not a fan of the note. I had a different vision of the scent and was eager to smell it.

Who knows though, maybe this will be the scent that turns me on to vetiver. Who can say, really. There's always that ONE fragrance...

Glad you enjoyed the event, M. Wish I could have attended. Prior engagements kept me away - but in the end, illness kept me in bed so I wouldn't have been there anyway.

Can't believe we've all been mislead for so long about single note fragrances prior to No5. When I think of all the books on my shelf that will have to be re-written, now - well, I could just die.

Incidentally - if you search for Sniffapalooza on YouTube, you can see some footage from the event - shows the room nicely. Karen A posted it last night.


2:24 AM EST  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Hi M.,
I actually printed out the invitation that was sent out for that Chanel visit for a giggle -- quite the example of purple prose. Seems the experience was a little underwhelming. I'm astonished that they would perpetuate the "soliflore" myth. Did they also tell you that N°5 was all natural? With all due respect for the house of Chanel, they really should be more accurate. Do you think the trainer was an S.A. trainer?
As for Sycomore, I still haven't got hold of the friend who went to the Chanel couture show and has the sample. I believe it's got some ionone (violet) notes in addition to cedar and vetiver, which seems to at least have been inspired by the original Ernest Beaux composition. Smoky vetiver sounds nice...

2:41 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

Well, that sounds like a lot of fun--and Sycomore sounds good, if not great! I'm very envious b/c I just worked all weekend.

7:31 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I've been buried under a pile of work-for-pay and taxes since mid-week last. Finally starting to see the light this morning.

Am sort of glad I missed the unlucky Friday post...I find Leap Year's magical. Who doesn't love an extension, is how I see it. :-)

8:56 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

wow, that is impressive. Why don't I have accidents like that :-)

8:57 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

They said, March. And they said to put your name on the list if you wanted it asap.

9:00 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I looove that kind of grey! Very elegant.

9:01 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I hope you feeling better soon!
Yes, I am depressed about vetiver too. I do like the note, but...there is no need for that many vetivers on the market, as far as I am concerned :-)

9:02 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

They did not mention naturalness, strangely enough. I am not sure who the main educator was. She was lovely, great speaker, that's for sure. But the education Studio WILL be used priamrily to train SAs and staff, as far as I understand.

9:03 AM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Damn it all to HELL, girl-
I missed YOU again-
That's what I did !

[Afternoon class, that was me !]

I went to NYC to do the class, stay with a dear friend, go to Kol Jeshrun, the Brooklyn Museum, walk my 'dogs' off, eat Thai, and spend OUTRAGEOUS amount of pre-Sniffa money at Caron [ Or et Noir, Farnesiana, En Avion extraits- 1/4 oz. each], Alahine, and Balkis.
Kissed every dog on the West Side [that would hold STILL long enough !]

9:04 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I worked all weekend too :-(

9:04 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Work and taxes, ugh :-(

9:05 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

How could you! :-(
But it sounds like you had a lot of fun. Next time come to see the dogs on Upper EAST side, heaven knows we have plenty of them there.

9:07 AM EST  
Blogger Nancy said...

Hi M!

I wish I could have gone up to NY, if only to see you.

My husband and I went to an estate sale on Saturday. The dearly departed was, how shall we say, a bit eccentric. There were truck loads of books, cloths, jewelry, chatchkas. I'm sure any normal person would have found treasures galore. I'm on the hunt for vintage frags, but found just one bottle of perfume: Sunflowers.

Yesterday I got together with two wonderful perfumistas for some sniffage. I tried samples of the two new Amouages (nay) and finally got a good sniff of Mona di Orio Nuit Noire. (big yay!). I also tried Neil Morris Gotham this weekend. (HUGE rave for that one.)

9:13 AM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Believe me, chica-
I feel worse than you do !

[ I didn't know if you were working, that you were attending-
And no phone number !]

Mea culpa "beats breast in dutifully Catholic fashion!

I'll be back with DH at Spring Fling- we will PLAN on it.

9:26 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I do wish you could come!
The estate sale sounds like fun :-)

9:28 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I will be waiting!

9:29 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forgot to tell you what I did this weekend--it was my birthday, so the bf and I went down to NYC to see a show and do a little (window) shopping. We saw The 39 Steps, which was incredibly stupid (rent the movie, it's fantastic) and then stopped in to Barneys, Bergdorfs, Lohmann's, and a few other boutiques. Prada didn't have any of the new little parfums, and Dior Homme was really boring. I tried on the most gorgeous Versace blazer in Barneys, as well as finally sniffing some Le Labo's (I like the Rose and Vetiver a lot), but everything was much too expensive.

Hmm, why would we need to put our names on a list? Has their been a clammoring for this scent already? I'm guessing by March they mean mid summer.

10:01 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Oh, happy birthday! Many happy returns.

Everyone likes to have pre-orders in for new products, that's why there is always The List. :-)

10:33 AM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

Soliflores, huh? Did you manage not to giggle or snort when they said that. :)

I love birch tar, I think it's one of the single best/most comforting smells out there.

do want to test sycomore, have heard at least okay things about it so far!

10:57 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I managed not to giggle, but my eyebrows went dangerously close to my hairline and have been refusing to come down ever since.

11:01 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. Would that you really *had* infiltrated Chanel and were head of their creative team by now! What would you bring us?

11:36 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, what perfume were you wearing when you infiltrated Chanel?

11:53 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second Sweetlife's comment.
And I like the name "Sycamore" for a scent. I wonder if the pungent green you describe smells like an American Sycamore? As for this weekend, I did my taxes. Blah. At least it's done.

11:55 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I would have brought you no flankers and no dull releases. I would also finally re-release some of the long-forgotten scents, like Ivoire. And I would offer everything in a variety of sizes and would get rid of the 200ml vats. :-) Oh, and perfume versions of everything would be easily available.

12:06 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Knowing that I would have to smell a lot, I wore just a drop of No 22 :-)

12:07 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

The name is bigger than the scent so to say.
Congrats on having finished the taxes!

12:07 PM EST  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

Seriously, is Sycomore "free of frills"??? Very disappointing.

What a crack up about No. 5! It is hard to believe they said that to a room full of perfumistas.

1:08 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Yeah, very unfrilly.

1:11 PM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Carmencanada said it -- I think Chanel is one of the houses that teaches its SAs to tell customers the juice is so nice because it's "natural." The soliflore bit -- I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

I love your illustration.

1:23 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you. I am desperately searching for the name of the photographer.

1:25 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I envy you! Hope you had fun. Did you see any beautiful fashion?
Oily smoked fish, I love it. Can I have a beer with that?

7:36 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

You are a girl after my own heart! Of course we must have smoked fish with beer.
No, I just saw some bags *sigh*

8:08 PM EST  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

Ok.....Count me in with the smoked fish and beer...only lets add some exquisite pumpernickel, fresh butter and some thinly sliced red onion....Honest M, what a lovely day that sounds like and I adore the smell of birch. It's right up there for me with sap and woodsmoke. Every year at our county fait there is a stand that sells honest to goodness real homemade birch beer.I adore it and would kill for some massage oil made with it. Heaven!

9:34 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

That sounds like a plan!

9:38 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I attended the PM Chanel session, so unfortunately missed meeting you, Marina!

I did not hear Eden (Chanel's education executive/fragrance specialist) say anything in our session re: perfumes before #5 being single notes, so maybe she realized it was a misstatement after your session. I do remember her saying that there are 2 eras of fragrance, before #5 and after #5, but I assumed the difference was with #5's use of aldehydes.

Like you, I enjoyed smelling the dominant single notes, then the perfumes themselves.

I got a kick out of the info about Chanel's marketing philosophy (I'm a bit of a marketing geek) and expected some "fluff", so the reverence about their symbols and history was fun.

In the end, I found it significant that Chanel devoted a lot of resources to the event: a top executive (Eden flew in from CA), 6+ other staff, high-end catering, custom-made chocolates for the "taste & smell" discussion, gifts, etc. It demonstrated a desire to take perfume enthusiasts seriously. This was the 1st class they have ever done for "consumers" at Chanel. Will the other perfume houses take note?--GGS (Gail)

10:37 PM EST  
Blogger Alyssa said...

Gail -- according to an article in the NY Times, they also flew a group of bloggers to Paris to meet with Jacques Polge before the release of the Exclusifs.

Not anybody I know, though... :-)

Nevertheless, it's nice to see them taking the true fans seriously.

10:49 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Oh I am so sad I did not get to meet you! I KNEW I should have chose the PM instead.
And I forgot to mention the chocolates in my post. each was meant to somehow represent one Chanel perfume. I loved the one with curry :-)
And yes, kudos to Chanel. For a hosue so- seemingly- what's the word I am looking for...above prosumer concerns? traditional?...the have been busy lately involving prosumer groups like Sniffapalooza and bloggers.

8:28 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Not anyone I know either :-)

8:28 AM EST  
Blogger Karen Dubin said...

Hi M,

Enjoyed your account of the Chanel Master Class, but I have to say I am puzzled by your comment that Chanel claimed that there were only soliflores before No. 5--- I didn't hear her the speaker say that & I attended both sessions as I was an organizer. I emailed several others who attended your session, just to make sure I didn't miss it, and no one else heard that either!

So I think you may have misinterpreted her... one gal suggested that since English is not your first language and Eden was giving us a lot of information in a short period of time, you may not have understood what she was saying?

Glad you could join us & enjoyed yourself, and I got a chuckle at the word 'infiltrate'...
but I guess that is what they call creative license, isn't it? You signed up just like everyone else and we all knew you were coming...
so it was not such a clandestine caper on your part!


9:15 PM EST  
Blogger mcsia said...

i saw this rare chanel no. 5 that's listed on ebay, anybody know how much it should be?

2:04 PM EDT  

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