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The unauthorized biography of the world's most famous, seductive, and successful perfume
With its rich golden hue, art decoinspired bottle, and timeless, musky scent, Chanel No. 5 is the world's bestselling perfume. Reverently known among industry insiders as le monstrethe monsterit is arguably the most coveted consumer luxury product of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Yet how did this pioneering celebrity fragrance, introduced in the early 1920s, eventually take on a life of its own, becoming a cultural monument celebrated by millions of devoted consumers?
The Secret of Chanel No. 5 is Tilar J. Mazzeo's far-ranging and fascinating search beyond the stuff of legend to uncover the full story of No. 5's creation, iconic status, and extraordinary success. Mazzeo goes back through time and deep into the life of Coco Chanel, the brilliant, controversial, and steel-willed businesswoman at the heart of the fragrance. She takes readers to the rose plantations and celebrated jasmine fields where the perfume begins and then to the laboratories and boardrooms where scent and sex are forever intertwined. And she travels to the heart of the Chanel empire: 31 Rue Cambon, Coco Chanel's flagship boutique, where six decades ago American GIs stormed the counters to possess the magical elixir that captured the luxury and romance of Paris for their girls back home.
A blend of evocative history and thoughtful research, here is a glittering account of where art and sensuality mingle with dazzling entrepreneurship and desire: Chanel No. 5.
“[Mazzeo] explores interconnections between designer and perfume, teasing out the relationship with delicacy.”
-New York Times Book Review
“[In] the skilled hands of cultural historian Mazzeo, [the perfume] becomes a magnificent window through which to understand [Coco Chanel] and her milieu... Impeccable research and crafting make a seemingly narrow topic feel infinitely important.”
“This is one case where historical fact eclipses the legend and lore of the object itself—there’s much, much more than meets the nose to discover in these pages.”
-Wall Street Journal
“Mazzeo’s lush prose...never bogs down in the details—despite the extensive research showcased in the bibliography—and a smooth pacing keeps it moving along at a fast clip. This work is definitely recommended to lovers of 20th-century cultural history, Coco Chanel, and, of course, the world’s best-selling perfume.”
“Mazzeo has written an account of the rarest of things-an international olfactory icon-that fairly rushes off the pages. Here is the life of one of the 20th century’s most interesting and deeply complicated women, a fascinating cultural history, and the story of an extraordinary perfume.”
-Chandler Burr, New York Times scent critic and author of The Perfect Scent
“The true brilliance of The Secret of Chanel No. 5 is Tilar Mazzeo’s ability to take a subject one would never have thought possible to think very deeply about and then cover it so captivatingly. Who knew that such a tiny bottle housed so many secrets?”
-Michael Tonello, author of Bringing Home the Birkin
“Anyone who’s ever dawdled in front of a perfume counter will love Tilar Mazzeo’s fascinating history of the perfume known simply as No. 5; her rich and witty account is as compelling as the fragrance itself. ”
-Karen Karbo, author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel