1957 ~ Chanel “1957” Les Exclusifs de Chanel



On Sunday, Chanel was the look. But on Saturdays, in 1957 in the town of Los Parros everyone dressed casually, unless of course you were going downtown or into Hollywood to see a movie. Then you dressed up. But on Saturday’s little boys wore blue jeans rolled up at the ankles and tee shirts. Little girls wore pretty much the same thing, freed from the flouncy petticoats and ribbons that were the fashion for school days. Dads wore casual slacks with silky Hawaiian or bowling shirts. Mom’s wore pastel peddle pushers and crisp white blouses with pearls.  But on Sunday, at church it was a fashion show.

Marjorie was determined to get this right. She was not very domestic, she could barely sew, was not too handy with a Hoover, and she had a very small repertoire for making dinner, but her husband Bob didn’t seam to mind, not yet at least. They were just married and had just moved to Southern California from Red Bluff for his work. She didn’t know any of her new neighbors yet. But since joining the Los Perros Southern Baptist church she had come to recognize a two couples from her street. Now into the second month of attending church they were on nodding terms. The wives were always dressed like movie stars. Sporting what looked to Marjorie like real Paris fashions. Dior, Balenciaga, and Chanel seemed to be the mode of the morning sermons. Marjorie who was astounded by their taste and style, just wanted to catch up and fit in with her new neighbors. Nobody in Red Bluff dressed like these women. She looked at the second-hand sewing machine setting on the kitchen table which Bob bought for her that very morning. She was determined to get it right.


She picked up the MacCall’s pattern and studied the image of the two women on the front of the envelope that held in its pocket the dress pattern. They wore two versions of a tweed suit in white with black braiding piping the cuffs pockets and running along the collar down the front and along the hem of the jacket. Classic Chanel, just like in the Vogue magazines Marjorie had been collecting since she was a teenager. She loved fashion but on the streets of Red Bluff there wasn’t much call for it. She chose the Chanel suit because it looked simpler to sew than the Dior or any of the other patterns, she had seen at the fabric store. She’d picked out a nice cream wool tweed and a simple black braid and some rather pricey gold buttons. She was determined to get it right.

It was well after midnight when she finished. Bob had made his own dinner and she had gone without, as she struggled with sleeves and darts and all manner of things that didn’t make sense to her. He had kissed her on the forehead sometime ago and gone to bed. Just exactly when that was, she wasn’t sure. She was too wrapped up in the pattern that looked like the plans for a rocket ship. It didn’t matter, she was determined to get it right.

She put on a nice but plain black silk blouse and shimmied her hips into the straight line of the wool skirt. She struggled with the zipper as it caught on her slip and then some loose thread on the inside of the lining. It jammed half way up.  Tears punched her eyes and shimmered there threatening to spill on her cheeks. As well as being stuck, the zipper was crooked. She pushed her arms into the sleeves of the jacket and took a deep breath and turned to look at herself in the mirror. Her tears broke over the bottom lids and cascaded to her chin. Her sob was so loud she covered her mouth to keep from waking Bob.

The hem of the skirt was wildly crooked, and the lining was peeking out on one side. The shoulders were lopsided, one being higher than the other.  One sleeve was an inch and a half longer than the other. Marjorie ripped the jacket off and tore the seam of the zipper to get out of the skirt. She was determined to get it right.

Bob found her the next morning at seven A.M. slumped over the table sleeping on folded arms, the crumpled suit her pillow.  They didn’t go to church that morning. Instead Bob drove Margorie into Hollywood. He bought her a wonderful lunch at the Brown Derby and took her to see a matinee of Funny Face at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Marjorie who had been sullenly quiet all morning burst into tears when Audrey Hepburn made her transformation from Greenwich Village bookstore clerk to Parisian fashion model in all those fabulous Givenchy fashions.

“Honey don’t cry.” Bob said as he put his arm around her, she crumpled into his shoulder.

“I should have bought the Givenchy pattern.” She whimpered.




1957 by Chanel from the Les Exclusifs line smells to me exactly like the 1950’s. You can bet your bottom dollar that I know what that smell is all about. It is soapy, clean and upstanding in it’s sparkling Madison Avenue glitz. For years I have expounded my theory that the smell of Palmolive dish shop was copied from No.5 in order to make it more appealing to the American housewives of the Suburban sprawl. I grew up in Los Angeles of the 1950’s and 60’s and Chanel was the aspirational brand then just as it is now. But back then that aspiration was pure and clean and dreamy. Not as it is today when many of us aspire to Chanel for all the wrong reasons.

In the fifth decade of the twentieth century soaps and hairsprays smelled of the influence of Chanel in America. It was as if the thought of Paris glamour could be found with in the bubbles that floated up from the kitchen sink after dinner. Chanel No.5 is locked into my scent memory as the fragrance of not only my mother, but my aunt and my grandmother too. They lived for Chanel.

1957 pops from soapy bubbles as it opens in its aldehydic and musky glory.  With a sprinkle of warm pink pepper like the pepper corns from the huge old sunburnt pepper trees of my Southern California childhood.  It is bright, clean and arrestingly comforting.

Orange blossoms from my youth in the Inland Empire waft across the middle of the fragrance with hints of Jasmine and honey. A very thin hint of honey like one would get from a fresh warm piece of toast with a thin layer of honey slathered over it on a Saturday morning during Summer vacation. Olfactory tendrils of jasmine drift in and out in a summery shimmery dance.  And the musk goes on and on throughout the mid-notes into the dry down.

Here in the last phases of the eau de perfume there is a dry powder supplied by a delicious orris root. That floats in the air just like fresh flour when a baker is making croissants. It mixes well with the white musk, a scrubbed clean cashmiran and a dry woody cedar.

Some have said that 1957 from Chanel, like the perception of the decade of the 50’s is boring. Bu to me it is not. Chanel’s 1957 is a melding of the American fascination of the French elegance of the fifties and the need make something as mundane as doing the dishes glamorous. Like all those commercials of my childhood where a housewife is dressed in her best pearls while she scrubs that greasy pan in a bubbling fresh sink that smells exactly like Paris in springtime.  The Paris born of the imagination, of Hollywood and of her dreams.




Red and white automobile lights glittered in the rain choked gutters, like discarded diamonds and rubies being swept into the parched sewers of the city.  Long into the morning the three globed very elegant Parisian streetlamps along Market Street shown in a warm glow of amber which added a ribbon of gold to the rubies and diamonds in the street. The rain danced in sheets across the wide road snatching dead sycamore leaves from the nearly barren trees to bring them down to earth.  The first rains of January were the best rains of the year. So all of San Francisco agreed and no one loved the gray skies and perpetual twilight of a rainstorm more than Matt Simmons.


(Market Street ~ Artist  Hsin-Yao Tseng)

Wrapped in a long black Dior overcoat, with a white Pashmina scarf artfully arranged around his neck he made the dash across market at Stockton just as the yellow light turned red causing an Uber driver to swerve out of his path. The diver having just missed him peeled off toward “Twitterville” up at 10th in a shower of curses. Blithely unaware as the soundtrack of “Two For The Road” blasted through his earbuds he turned on to Eddy street. Diamond like raindrops sputtered from the ends of his Louis Vuitton Giboulées Umbrella. He felt filled with love for his city and radiated a joy for life that was infectious to almost everyone. This delight in life made him seem twenty years younger than fifty nine.

Seated at his favorite table in the warm cozy wood paneled old San Francisco glamour that was John’s Grill he ordered his usual, a Vesper martini.  He smilingly told Tommy  to make it three Vespers and that he would wait for his friends to arrive before ordering lunch.   Marie and Holly would be joining him for a fun run through the Union Square department stores on a perfume hunt. They usually met up about once a month to catch up, have lunch and go shopping. It was something to do on a Sunday.

maltese140.JPG The sign announcing John's Grill seen from the second story of the restaurant. The falcon statue was stolen nearby. A replica of the famous Maltese falcon used in the 1941 Humphrey Bogart film has been stolen from John's Grill restaurant in downtown San Francisco. {Brant Ward/San Francisco Chronicle}2/12/07

Tommy set the Vesper before him just as Matt noticed that there was beautiful piano music drifting down from the second floor.

“Live music in the afternoon Tommy? I thought that was only in the evenings. That wonderful Jazz I can’t get enough of.”

“We are trying it out on the weekends. You like it?”


Tommy vanished to the bar. As Matt sipped his cocktail he recognized the song. “Call Me Irresponsible” by‎ Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn. Matt began to hum along.


(Artist~ Seth Couture)

Just as the martini glass reached his lower lip for a second sip everything seemed to slow down around him. The glass wavered in his hand. He looked down at the swirl of lemon peel. His hand was shaking.

Had it really been only four years? Were there days now when he forgot to think of him? It was true, he didn’t think of him the first thing upon waking anymore. Matt set the martini on the white table cloth, took out his wallet and opened it. Richard’s movie star smile beamed up at him through worn and brittle plastic.   Eyes as blue as the skies over Paris and that noble nose that gave his face gravity as well as beauty.  Everything was still now only the rain outside and the piano playing.  He could hear Richard singing to him over the phone from Manhattan his broad baritone just as he used to on Sunday mornings.  His voice would come cross the Catskills and zoom effortlessly over the Great Plains. It soared over the Rockies, dipped low into the deserts of Nevada and finally climbed the over the steep shear eastern Sierra’s caressing a high note so effortlessly only to slip sweetly, softly into Matt’s waiting ear in San Francisco.


“Call me irresponsible, call me unreliable
Throw in undependable too.”

Matt recalled the dream they shared of Richard moving to San Francisco, the promise to marry and build a mature life together. The dream that never came true

“Do my foolish alibis bore you?
Well, I’m not too clever; I just adore you.”

Richard’s last three voice mails still lived Matt’s on phone, the last one from the hospital where he died so suddenly and unexpectedly.

“Call me unpredictable, tell me I’m impractical
Rainbows I’m inclined to pursue.”

Richard’s photo glowed more beautifully than the golden streetlights on Market and it was more precious than any diamonds and rubies that were ensconced behind the rain spattered windows of Bvlgari and Cartier.

“Call me irresponsible; yes, I’m unreliable
But it’s undeniably true: I’m irresponsibly mad for you.”

Holly’s voice broke the spell. The lights brightened and the world sped up again. Marie was just behind her with a big smile.

“Sorry we are late. What a storm! It is coming down like the end of the world out there. How are you darling man?”

Matt slowly and gently closed his wallet and placed it in his coat pocket over his heart.


 ( Hsin-Yao Tseng)


It is a perfume of lost love and rainy afternoons. Of missed trains to warmer climates and of melancholy cocktails in the twilight when everything turns lavender in the last moments of the day. It is a beauty that rivals its creators most famous creation. No.5.  Rumor has it that it was in the lineup for Coco Chanel to try when she chose No.5 to be her first perfume launch. If that is true it is no surprise for Chanel No.22 crated by Ernest Beaux released only a year after No.5, in 1922 is a more somber, romantic and even wistfully sad cousin to No.5.

Where No.5 is stunningly glamourous and breathtaking, No.22 is of a less obvious beauty. It has mystery a, blue dreamy sad mystery.

It opens with a gorgeous Aldehyde note that is less of a blast than you get in No.5. It is more like a breeze coming up from a damp garden after a rainstorm. In this breeze are carried the lovely floral note of Lily of the Valley and a fresh sharp Neroli. It is a dewy sun dappled and perfect opening to the beauty that is to follow.

Ylang ylang dominates the middle where it shimmers in all its golden glory supported by the famous Chanel jasmine, a subtle rich rose is denuded of its thorns and then there is the tuberose. This is not your grandmother’s screechy tuberose. Now that may surprise you being that this fragrance is from 1922 but in its reissue of 2007 by Jacques Polge it is a stubble touch of the tuberose that comes to lay close to the heart of the fragrance.

The bitter note that gives No.22 is melancholy is in the dry down where a crunchy dry vetiver marries with a creamy vanilla note. This is for me where the dance of the rising vetiver and the dying flower notes make this such a stunning fragrance. Sorrowfully dreamy and beautiful in its somewhat dramatic case of the blues, it likes feeling slightly tragic for after all it has lived in the shadows of No. 5 all these years.  Like that old Frank Sinatra song, No. 22 is “Glad To Be Unhappy.”

The longevity of No. 22 is very long, lasting on my skin a good 12 to 14 hours. The projection is not overpowering but at about a foot to eighteen inches. It is noticeable in tight quarters for sure but on the street it has a subtle grace about it. It is balsamic, aldehydic and powdery but not overtly so. It is a powdery scent for the faint of heart who shy away from the powder perfumes in general.  And as with almost all of the Les Exclusifs line No.22 works well on a man or a woman. If that man or woman is in the mood to be blue and sophisticated with an air of mystery about them.


NO 22

1932 ~ Les Exclusives de Chanel 1932 (Along With Guest Review by The Perfumed Dandy!)

diamant Gabrielle CHANEL

The Perfumed Dandy approached me with the wonderful idea of both of us reviewing 1932 at the same time and posting both reviews on each other’s blogs. Without letting on what we each thought of the perfume we dove right in and had a ball doing it. So here they are. 1932 times two.


DIAMONDS AND RHINESTONES ~ Les Exclusifs de Chanel 1932 

The rest of the world is broke and going to hell but here in this town, well baby were in the money.  From all over the country they come every day, young hopeful ex-homecoming rodeo queens and the not so young but just as hopeful. From the dust bowl and impossible impoverishment, from Mobile and Milwaukee and points further east they blow into town with cardboard suitcases filled with celluloid dreams. On that first walk down the Boulevard they wear a smile they can’t hide and stick out to the initiated as fresh meat for the glamour grinder. Mecca of the movies calls to them in the form of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. They always end up there that first day to kneel and press there hands into the cement prints of someone who had all the right breaks. This is where the prayers begin. Welcome to Hollywoodland.


At Warner Brothers someone new to town with soon to be gone platinum hair and eyes one could sing about is carving her place in the system. She is all seriousness as she stands on the porch of a cabin in the cotton conferring with the director. She would love to kiss you but Miss Bette Davis has just washed her hair.

 bette davis cabin in the cotton

At Paramount a blonde Venus is surrounded by as much smoke and mirrors as she is by hair and makeup people. Waiting to board the Shanghai Express she knows already from somewhere in her gut and the slight change of temperature on her face that the lighting is not quite right. Marlene Dietrich looks up above the false walls erected around her and sees that her key light has burnt out.

Marlene Dietrich Shanghi Lily

Too the south miles from Hollywood on a stage at RKO she stands at the top of the stairs all angles and Bryn Mawr bearing looking down upon the great Barrymore. Her big break has happened on Broadway and she is about to make it even bigger in the movies.  George Cukor calls for “action”, Katherine Hepburn’s star is about to be born.

Annex - Hepburn, Katharine (A Bill of Divorcement)_01

To the West on Washington Blvd. more stars have fallen from heaven to walk among the mortals at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer than any other studio in town. A shop girl is trying to make good as a secretary in the lobby of a grand hotel; she has made herself over and will again and again. It has been a long road from Lucille Fay LeSueur to Joan Crawford and she made her own breaks to get here.  There is still a long way to go.

 joan crawford grand hotel

Across the sound stage in a portable dressing room sits the Swede, the hated high heels kicked off she is waiting for her call to “action”. Perhaps she is the luckiest of all who came here to the edge of America. Greta Garbo doesn’t seem to care about being a star and thus shines the brightest of them all because of it. If she really does care she is not letting on. All she will say is, she doesn’t want to be alone, just left alone.

bull clarence sinclair 1932 greta garbo mata hari j

On stage 18 sitting in a rain barrel as if she is going to wash off the red dust of a rubber plantation, Jean Harlow laughs and jokes with Clark Gable. She is loved by the crew as just one of the boys.  She rocks back and forth in the barrel sloshing water on Gable and the boys in the rafters look down from above and smile. This girl is a platinum bombshell of a shooting star made for the movies. She will leave the limelight much too soon.

 Jean looks fondly

On the western edge of Beverly Hills at Fox the biggest break of all for the tiniest star in Hollywood is about to happen. She will be a symbol of hope to a nation and save the studio from going under singing of lollypops and good ships. But now, on this day in 1932 she is working on a one reeler spoof of “What Price Glory” called War Babies. Just a baby herself Shirley Temple is about to steal the show.

shirley temple 1

They all would be in their time the diamonds of the golden age of Hollywood, the ones who got the breaks and made it big in this town that eats people alive in order to make flickering dreams for the masses. No rhinestones for these women. These ladies are the real jewels of 1932.

When the police found Peg Entwistle lying smeared with blood and dust at the bottom of the big H at the foot of Hollwoodland sign she was wearing her fake diamond earrings.  As broken and dead as her futile movie career she was a never was star that failed to ignite above the town she, like countless others had come to conquer. No big break ever came her way. It ended with her swan dive off the sign in the Hollywood hills that brought a merciful end to the belly flop that was her career and sad life. As Peg’s body was loaded into the back of an ambulance the morning sun ricocheted through the fractured facets of the rhinestone earrings. They still gave off a flicker of glitter as the doors to the ambulance closed.

 Peg Enwistle

Peg Entwistle

And the busses and the trains still came loaded with the dreamers that day in 1932. They never stopped and they never will. Welcome to Hollywoodland.


1932 by Chanel was released in the Exclusifs line as homage to the year that Coco Chanel debut her diamond jewelry collection. Not a zircon or rhinestone was to be seen in that magnificent presentation of stones which Mademoiselle gave to the world in the worst year of the Great Depression.  But we are not so lucky with the premiere of this new perfume.

1932 is not a star shimmering in diamonds from the silver screen. This is only paste in a beautiful setting, faux beauty made of mirrored glass and presented as glamour only to be outshone by the real stars that have come before from this house. No.5, Cristalle, No.19, Sycomore, Coromandel, Cuir de Russie are but a few of the stars of Chanel.  1932 is something brought in from Central Casting, a day player, an extra that fades quickly into the scenery. At her very best she is a stand in for a star like No.19, a pale refection of the real thing.

This Floral Woody Musk has all the right notes that have created great stars before. Aldehydes, bergamot, and Neroli open fast and then are gone. The have cleared the sound stage for the arrival of Jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, lilac and carnation. This mid note arrangement is really dominated by the Jasmine, the ever familiar studio style of Chanel. Somehow none of these notes have the ability to present themselves in a mature manner. Then in the base it goes all wrong and too sweet with the notes of sandalwood, orris root, opopanax, iris, violet, incense and a heavy vanilla.  Too much is going on!  It is slathered with a strong vanilla that buries the vetiver and musk that might have helped to keep this from going to the prom instead of the red carpet premiere. 1932 is immature, a teenaged powdery sweet fragrance that may find admirers in girls under the age of 21. At Les Exclusifs prices they are going to have to be teens with their own sit-coms filming on the Fox lot.

1932 is depressed and failing to deliver the dreams its publicity department promised. Not even a feature length presentation comes from this effort, like Shirley Temple’s early films, it is a short subject. In an hour it is gone and like so many never were stars 1932 ends up for me to be just another broken heart in the shadow of the great stars of Chanel.






Who was she?

No one it turned out had thought of her for years. Everyone remembered her, but no one remembered a thing about her. Not one of them could even recall her name.


And yet there she was in nearly every photograph, almost hidden, somewhere towards the back, elegant, understated, almost, but not quite beautiful. Never looking directly at the camera, never, it seemed, talking or laughing or even, he realized now, even smiling. But then everyone said that no one had looked at those pictures for years. In his case it was true, very nearly exactly twenty years. Graduation shots, something to be taken, registered and filed away with a degree diploma and never looked at again.

Not until the day they thought of a reunion.

Of course they didn’t need a reunion for themselves, as thick as thieves those four from the class of 1992, lunch or dinner at least once a week, holidays together, married around the same time, parallel career paths. Settled.

rainy day lunch paris

It was at lunch: a hotel restaurant, in a conservatory, perhaps it was meant to be an orangery? Somewhere near the river? He was certain it was at lunch, over one glass too many of champagne, a birthday, a business deal? Yes, It was definitely at lunch that one of them suggested getting ‘everyone’ back together. The ones who weren’t in touch, the so and so’s who went to work abroad, or into teaching, who married and divorced young, who fell out of favour. Yes, it was time for a stock take, they would all be forty soon.

So he, with his forensic mind, was called upon to track them all down, all the missing so and so’s, all the loose ends and the dead ends and bring them back together again. And it was easy you know, a few feelers on facebook, half a dozen mutual friends, the notice in the alumni magazine and that was it, everyone accounted for. Dead or alive, willing or indifferent or opposed to the idea of a meeting. Everyone except for her.

jean seaberg 1958

And no one knew her name. The others said it didn’t  matter. Who was she anyway? But he would not be put off. He was determined that she would not be the only thing to elude him. The University wouldn’t help, couldn’t help, data protection they said. The protection fell away after a donation just large enough to the correct charity. Of course he would be welcome to have a look at the registry archives on the afternoon after he presented the cheque to the capital development fund.

No one had told the archive assistant, fine boned, grey haired, though only in her forties he guessed, somehow too done up: smelling of expensive make up, all powder lilacs and buttermilk irises, no one had told her to make him welcome. She thought it all very irregular and made no bones about telling him so as she led him to the files and back through the years: 2007, 2002, 1997, 1992.

Proper paper files he thought, though not for much longer: she assured him that all this would be hard disk within weeks. She seemed satisfied. Happy to be free of the smell he imagined: the slightly bleached smoke and wax of the copy paper, the incense-like dust collecting on files. No more paper chases he reflected.

She handed him one of those files and he noticed her hands: they were young hands, in fact, despite that grey hair he could see now that she was no older than him, younger perhaps. He started to look through the dossier, every student, their names, their applications, their academic records, exam results and all – so that’s what they had really got – and photographs on enrolment day.

Arranged alphabetically, he went from A to Z without seeing her face. Then, at the end, a file under separate cover. There she was, staring out blankly at him, that memorably unmemorable face. At that moment he realized that it wasn’t her face at all, not her face that he or anyone else remembered.


What they all remembered was her necklace: a striking piece of costume jewellery they had all supposed, a falling star set with crystals and a jeweled train behind it. There it was, sparkling at him through time, wrapped around her shoulders.

He looked down to where her name should be. Nothing.

No name or address, no test results or school references. Nothing.

Just a candidate number for her finals:

One. Nine. Three. Two.

He shook the file in anger more than hope. How was this possible? How could she, of all people, escape him? A piece of card fell to the floor and he grabbed at it, an invitation, in French, to an exhibition at 29, Faubourg St Honore, Paris. And in neat, flawless hand on the back:

edposition de bijoux de diamants crees par Chanel

“I am going away, I may be some time. I may return, perhaps not.”

No name or address, no signature or date, except that of the exhibition:

7 au 19 Novembre, 1932.

Paris 1932


For Chanel, 1932 is most remembered as the year in which the house unveiled its first mesmerizing collection of jewellery. The scent that bears the same name is unlikely to do anything to change that fact. This is a peerless example of a perfume with perfect poise, little personality and no apparent passion.

A practised opening of adroit aledhydes with sharp bergamot and neroli feels disconcertingly level headed, almost flat. The transformation into powder and wax floral heart is as seamless as it is soulless. Both the iris and a less latent than had been expected lilac are exemplary in their execution, but somehow fail to engender excitement.

The drydown is to a feint and faintly elegant smoke and sandalwood, with elements of the heart persisting. With a wave of jasmine and an undercurrent of wild grass, there is more depth to the conclusion that some may have you believe. In fact the formal structure is more than adequate but it is also simply unmoving.

For all the evident quality of the ingredients and the considerable consideration that has clearly gone into its composition, this aroma never catches alight. It might possibly have been a very slow burner, but to achieve this status the longevity must be massively improved. It is like something really quite good by a so so scent maker. It doesn’t feel like a Chanel. But it is.

Chanel 1932 is a beautifully made perfume, but it is not a beautiful perfume.


The perfumes in the ironically named ‘Exclusifs’ range to which 1932 belongs are the least exclusively male or female of any of those made by Chanel.

Whilst this might not be the most obviously ready to wear for men, if the cut fits, why not?

There are better reasons than gender alone to give this fragrance a miss.

(You can visit The Perfumed Dandy here: http://theperfumeddandy.com/ )


THE COMEBACK ~ Beige Les Exclusifs de Chanel


chanel on the stairs 3

Reflected in the prism of the descending mirrors like a painting by Marcel Duchamp, Mademoiselle Coco Chanel sat on the stairs in a beige boucle box suit with black trim.  She narrowed her eyes dropped her head slightly to peer from under the brim of her hat to the bottom of the steps. She could just see the shoes and shins of the first three people seated in the first row. Hundreds more were out of sight beyond the curve of the staircase awaiting this; her return into the world of fashion.

chanel on the stairs

“Why did I return? One night at dinner Christian Dior said a woman could never be a couturier.”  Ah yes, that quip to some American reporter was now being repeated all across Paris as the entire city and in fact the world waited to see if she still had it in her to be modern and innovative. In fact, if she was still No.1.

She could smell the freesias at the top of the stairs where the models were assembled waiting to walk down upon her command. There was also a hint of frangipani and hawthorn flowers which permeated the air like a golden honey and took her for a fleeting moment back to Chateau de Royallieu and Boy Capel. Her new line, even the beige suit she wore was really the result of, a refection of his style. If it hadn’t been for Boy: She stopped herself. It was time.

 chanel on the stairs 2

She looked up to the models. They were ready. No time left for nerves now, time to be courageous. She nodded to the first one, Marie and watched as the young woman passed her in the navy suit that would in only a few moments signify her signature look for the rest of her life and beyond. She could let herself smile just a little now as the model in black dress passed by, then the white, and then the beige, her favorite color these days.

She would prove Dior wrong, on this February day in 1954. She would show the world that she, Gabriel “Coco” Chanel was back to stay, indeed that she, a woman was a great couturier.


Beige is the new Black. It is what Bill Blass’ Basic Black wishes it could be. From Les Exclusifs collection by Chanel the very chic and smart Beige makes its entrance with the smooth glide of a legendary fashion model from the 1950’s. Suzy Parker is who I see as the perfect woman in Beige.



Jacques Polge took the idea of one of Chanel’s favorite colors (the others being black, white and navy) and turned it into a beauty of a perfume. This is what honey should smell like when done right. Not heavy or sticky and sickening but smooth and mellow with just touch of queen bee to add a bit of a sting. There is freesia here that is bright and a bit spicy adding the perfect complement to the wild honey. These two notes introduce the premier model of the show which is one of my favorite scents from years ago, frangipani. This wonderful flower also known in Hawaii as Plumeria, the most popular flower for the Hawaiian lei is invigorated with a sultry tropical beauty that gives this perfume sensuality and fullness.  Underneath the feminine curves of the honey, freesia, and frangipani is a straight forward masculine hawthorn. It really ties the four notes together and presents them with a seriously chic sophistication. Yes just four notes in Beige, simple yet elegant.


This is a perfume that stands up beautifully throughout the day. Impressive longevity but never in your face, no, this is a perfume that is great without having to be flashy or loud. It is self-contained, confident that it will always be the right choice for a woman of any age who possesses perfect taste and impeccable style.  The best part is that Beige goes with everything.

beige les exclusifs




The overcast skies of July in San Francisco called for hats. I met my buddy Joe at the big heart sculpture at Geary and Stockton at the entrance to Union Square. We had both decided to do it up old school and dress for the trip to Chanel. I wore black wide wale cords with a black tee and a white dress shirt over that and a few silver accessories. An homage to Mademoiselle Chanel, you bet! To finish off the look I wore my straw black ribbon rim Zara fedora. Joe wore casual summer yellow dress shirt, tan slacks and tan loafers. His topper was his yellow and black straw Frank Sinatra hat.

(Where everyone seems to leave their heart. Union Square ~  San Francisco)

As I stood by the giant metal heart tour busses passed and hordes of freezing tourists pointed cameras at me and clicked away. When those on foot asked me to move out of the shot, I realized it was the heart they wanted the shot of, not me! Joe arrived at a quarter to twelve, and immediately we both made the observation that nobody takes the time to look nice when they go down town. We were getting looks and smiles from the ladies and a few guys as well for our efforts to look like we even cared about the rags we were sporting.

(Madien Lane with Union Square at the end of the street.)

We had a light lunch at Mocca on Maiden Lane, tomato and mozzarella salad, escargot, baguettes and a nice crisp Pinot Grigio. I managed to squirt a bit of butter and garlic right slap in the middle of my white shirt. OH WELL! Maybe that is why nobody dresses for town anymore. We talked about growing up back in the 1900’s, he in Saint Louis and me in Southern California. We shared what we learned about style from the movies and how different we are in our tastes from our fathers. By the time my escargot stain had dried and faded to nearly invisible it was time to go next door to Chanel!

(Chanel right next to Mocca. How convienent.)

All my lovely new friends at Fragantica had armed me with truckloads of information, advice and clever points of interest about Les Exclusifs de Chanel line. After being warmly greeted by the man at the door we sauntered over to the fragrance counter. There was a stylish woman looking at some quilted bags and the only sales lady was busy with her. I looked at Joe, his eyes were huge; this was his first time in the Chanel Boutique. It really is amazing, the design of the place, the object d’art that they call purses, shoes, dresses, jewelry. Chanel is a stunner for a first time visitor. (I am still kicking myself that I didn’t walk into 31 Rue Cambon when I was last in Paris.)

Well, the sales lady was still occupado so I began spraying Allure, Chance, and No. 19 on cards and letting Joe smell them. Joe is NOT a fragrance guy. So I began to tell him all about Chanel and the history of the house to pass the time until we were helped. In that very instant a lovely blonde lady came from a hidden door and offered her assistance. I asked about the Exclusifs line and she directed me to a special display just for the line. Wow it looked like heaven. The bottles all lined up and with their own special lighting. There were cards for each scent so that you wouldn’t get confused as you test them.

(Bingo! Les Exclusifs!)

Buy now the only thing I could remember from my friends from Fragantica was, “Take your time and smell each one” EACH ONE? There are so many and I am only good for about four before my nose is overwhelmed and I can no longer distinguish one from the other. I looked over the bottles and picked up Cuir de Russie. “You might like this Joe, it is leather.” I sniffed it, Wow! Then Joe sniffed it, and he looked at me. “WOW I have never smelled anything like that!” he said in true virginal wonder. We tried a few more, Sycamore, No. 22, Jersey, 31 Rue Cambon. They were all so unique! But as my nose was shutting down I looked at Joe. “Cuir de Russie?” I asked. He nodded. “That’s the one!”

The sales lady returned and she could not have been nicer. I told her my choice and she told me that not only would she retrieve that for me but she would throw in some samples of a few others. Which one had I liked? I wanted to say “ALL of them.” but narrowed it down to just the few I had tested. Her name was Ann and she called me by my first name which was nice. Ann returned with minis of Beige, Sycamore and an extra mini of Cuir de Russie (which I gave to Joe.)

As we were leaving I told her how fascinated I was by the boutique and she invited us to go upstairs and see the new collection Paris~Bombay, inspired by the British Raj in India. Well now that was incredible. The charming David Mohammadi RTW Fashion Advisor at Chanel up top showed us all around, gave us a catalog and filled us in on what was up in the world of Chanel. I had no idea that Chanel did messenger bags for men a few years back and that the little black jacket was designed for men! He showed us an incredible book of photos of the jacket worn by people from around the world, men and women alike. There is an art exhibit of the photographs touring the world from which the book is derived. The show is in Tokyo at the moment then on to Hong Kong.

(Chanel San Francisco first floor. Fragrance up the short stairs in the back.)

I just have to say, if you get the chance to go into a Chanel Boutique do it. They are so nice! And be sure to ask lots of questions. Joe was impressed by the whole thing and who knows, this trip may have opened a new world to him. He discovered he likes leather, and oriental notes the best. As for me I found a really wonderful new scent (I will review later) and I am already planning my next visit to Chanel. There are so many more things there to smell!

Thank you to my friends at Fragantica, divine, Hiliare, dalmajen, amelie, Timdoeseell, Sacredsystem, lovingthealien, Lobster2010, ThatMakesSence, thanks to all of you who help make this a really wonderful fun experience.

(first posted on Fragrantica Sunday July 1, 2012)

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