Testing out a perfume’s popularity

Chanel’s No 5 an instant hit when it was released for the first time in May 1921.

Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel launched the first perfume from her brand in 1921. But she made sure that the scent would be an instant hit before it hit the market

If someone makes a list of the most famous perfumes in the world, chances are Chanel’s No 5 would be among the top ones. It was an instant hit when it was released for the first time in May 1921.

In the late 1920s, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel went on a holiday to Cote d’Azur. There she met Ernest Beaux, a perfumer who worked for the Russian royal family. Chanel gave Beaux a challenge to make a perfume that smelled fresh and was long-lasting. After several months, he presented her with 10 samples of perfumes—numbered one to five and 20 to 24. Chanel liked the one titled number five, and therein lies the history of the name.

Chanel, however, was also a smart businesswoman and marketed it with her own name so that it would gain from her personal brand. Before launching the perfume, she invited Beaux and his friends to a popular upmarket restaurant on the Riviera to celebrate and decided to spray the perfume around a table. It is said that each woman who crossed that table stopped to ask about the fragrance and where it came from. This gave Chanel an idea just how popular the perfume was about to become.