Monday, May 20, 2013

The $4,200 Bottle of CHANEL No. 5 perfume

A bottle of CHANEL No. 5 perfume is seen during the No. 5 CULTURE CHANEL exhibit at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris May 3, 2013. The exhibition, which runs from May 5 to June 5, displays works of art, photographs, archives and objects to provide an account of the inspiration which fed the imagination and world of Coco Chanel.

The pitch:

Ah, Chanel No. 5. The perfume that’s considered the world’s most iconic by many a fragrance fan. But if you’re still shopping for Mother’s Day, why settle for just any bottle of the “now and forever” scent when you can purchase it in “its rarest, most collectible form”? That’s how the brand refers to its Grand Extrait edition, which runs $4,200 in its 30-ounce bottling — yes, nearly two pounds of perfume. (A 7.5-ounce Grand Extrait bottle can be had for $2,100.)

But it’s not just the quantity that counts. The Grand Extrait bottle is itself of “exceptional quality,” says Chanel spokeswoman Ruthie Vexler. Each is created through the use of molds, but also benefits from a glassmaker’s individual touch. To complete the package, the bottle is placed in what Chanel describes as a “hand-assembled, artisan-crafted case.” Chanel doesn’t provide exact details as to how truly rare the Grand Extrait is, but Vexler says “very few pieces are produced” each year.

Of course, there’s also what goes in the bottle. Company founder Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel asked legendary perfumer Ernest Beaux to create “a fragrance for women that smells like a woman.” And the complex, floral No. 5 – unveiled on the fifth day of the fifth month of 1921 – was the result. Chanel says No. 5 is still made with care and precision, pointing to the fact that the brand sources the may rose and jasmine that go into the fragrance from its very own fields in France.

The scent has also had plenty of famous fans — and plenty of famous endorsers, from Nicole Kidman to current spokesman Brad Pitt. And then there’s Marilyn Monroe: When asked what she wore to bed, she famously replied, “Why, Chanel No. 5, of course.”

The reality:

As iconic as Chanel No. 5 may be, the idea of a plus-sized bottle of it — priced in the four digits, no less — doesn’t quite smell right to some in the scent biz. For starters, there’s the issue of how long a fragrance lasts once a bottle is opened. “The rule of thumb is two to three years,” says Pamela Netti, a veteran cosmetics industry professional who helped launch Elizabeth Taylor’s perfume and is now behind Kallini Beauty, a brand of antiaging products. And chances are that even the most ardent of Chanel No. 5 fans might not go through 30 ounces in that timeframe; Netti says many women need only a one-ounce bottle per year.

There’s also the matter of whether Chanel No. 5 is the right scent for the recipient — regardless of price. Perfume pros say it’s not just a question of individual taste, it’s also a question of body chemistry — the same scent works differently on every person because of the nature of their skin (and the same person’s skin can change, based on everything from their mood to medications). On top of that, there’s the question of fashion: As “timeless” as Chanel No. 5 may be, some experts say it represents an older-school (and, yes, floral) approach to perfume. “Each era has had a unique fragrance, indicative of the times,” says Mary Ellen Dorey, founder of DoreyAromaTherapy, a Texas-based company. As for modern approaches to perfume, consider the brand Bond No. 9, which takes as its inspiration different New York City neighborhoods and locales (for example, Bond’s Nouveau Bowery perfume, with notes of lime, bergamot, violet wood and Indonesian patchouli, is intended to represent “the sweet scent of Skid Row transitioning to ultra-modernity”).

But price plays a role too. Even the “cheapest” bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume (as opposed to eau de toilette) runs $120 for a quarter-ounce. And scent cognoscenti say perfumes priced under $50 with comparable floral appeal aren’t tough to come by. “It’s hard to replace Chanel No. 5, but you could find a fragrance that is very similar,” says Pamela Netti.

The folks at Chanel don’t argue with these points. Can’t afford the $4,200 bottle? They indeed suggest the $120 one. Looking for something more contemporary? They point to any number of other fragrances in their lineup, including No. 5 Eau Premiere — a “lighter” version of the classic No. 5. (One perfume writer described Premiere as “akin to a dance-club remix.”)

But regarding whether or not that $4,200 bottle could last a Chanel fan for years, the brand has a somewhat different take. As they see it, the Grand Extrait bottle is really a collector’s piece — more for show than for use. Says Chanel spokeswoman Ruthie Vexler, “I think that most people buying the Grand Extrait would not actually open it and would prefer to keep such an investment intact.”
“We are talking about mindfulness; people being mindful and connected. If people are not mindful and not connected, they are disassociated with their money,” explains Karen McCall, co-founder in MoneyMinder Online and author of Financial Recovery: Developing a Healthy Relationship With Money. “Healthy thinkers connect the consequences with their behaviors in one thought process and make the appropriate decision. Unhealthy thinkers disconnect the consequences and rationalize why it’s OK to spend,” she says.

There’s another benefit to tracking a purchase as soon as possible, Valterra insists: “Tracking slows you down and that’s a good thing.”

The Talbots, meanwhile, continue to track their spending carefully, and they even publish their monthly spending online. They’ve turned their trip around the world into a full-time life of travel, and published several books. And it all started with the simple act of tracking where their money was going.
SOURCE: Charles Passy, Yahoo! Finance

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