Lightyears Collection

There are, perhaps, three Chanel stories which, of course, are closely related. First, there is the story of Gabriel "Coco" Chanel (1883-1971), the girl from a humble, nasty background who forced her way into the society world and became an international fashion icon for her fashionable dresses. That story has been well told by Edmonde Charles-Roux in her book, Chanel, although Charles-Roux makes it quite clear that Coco Chanel work tirelessly to conceal, obscure and distort her personal biography.

Next there is the story of A. Rallet & Co. of Moscow, Russia, and its chief perfumer, Ernest Beaux (1881-1961). Beaux "inherited" his position with Rallet through his father, a perfumer, member of the board, and superintendent of the company. Beaux learned his craft and art as a laboratory apprentice.

Rallet was one of two major Russian fragrance houses that had been founded by Frenchmen. (The other was Brocard. Coty too would establish himself in Russia — just before the Russian Revolution of 1917!) Both Rallet and Bocard were successful; both sold internationally; both had hundreds of items in their product lines.

In 1912, Ernest Beaux, now Rallet's top perfumer and manager of it's laboratories, had a grand success with his Bouquet de Napoleon.

Then came the Russian Revolution. Rallet, Bocard, Coty were all nationalized. The owners lost their capital. Managers appointed by the new government took over the businesses. A. Rallet & Co. — what was left of it — and Ernest Beaux decamped for Grasse, France, where they were taken in under the sheltering wings of Chiris, a major fragrance wholesaler, who had probably been a major supplier to Rallet.

In 1921, Gabriel Chanel, for reasons unknown, decided to create a perfume for her new, successful, fashion business. Previously fashion designer Paul Poiret — now a Chanel competitor — had established a fragrance house, Parfum de Rosine, named for one of his daughters.

Gabriel Chanel was introduced to Ernest Beaux. Although we tend to forget it today, at this point it was Beaux who was established in his career, although it had been disrupted by the Russian Revolution. Chanel, although her fame was growing, was still struggling to get a foothold in the fashion world. Their first perfume together was the greatest legend of all time — No. 5 — or, as we more commonly know it, Chanel No. 5.

The final link in this story starts with a small cosmetics business launched in 1862 by Joseph Albert Ponsin. Ponsin hired Alexander-Napoleon Bourjois, who expanded the business and, ultimately, came to own it. Before his death, Bourjois took on a partner, Emile Orosdi. After Bourjois's death, Orosdi acquired the balance of the business from Bourjois's family. Through circumstances, Orosdi became acquainted with Ernest Wertheimer. Wertheimer invested in Bourjois. Perfume was added to the product line. Wertheimer and Orosdi went on to build a department store, Galeries Lafayette, in part to sell their perfumes and cosmetics.

Ernest Wertheimer's son, Pierre, was a horse race enthusiast — as was Gabriel Chanel. Chanel bought forms for her hats at Galeries Lafayette. They became acquainted. On April 4, 1924, Parfums Chanel was established, with Gabriel Chanel a 10 percent owner. She was to complain about the size of this share for most of the rest of her life but her 10 percent share made her wealthy without having to do anything. She continued to own her clothing business 100 percent.

Ernest Beaux who, by this time, had created Chanel's No. 22, now went to work for the Wertheimers as director of their Bourjois laboratory. His greatest creation for Bourjois was Paris de Soir / "Evening in Paris" but he continued to create fragrances for Chanel. (Like Chanel No. 5, Evening in Paris is still on the market today!)

Click on image to enlarge

Chanel No.1
What was it? Where did it come from? When was it issued? Was it authorized by the Wertheimers? Probably not!

The business relationship between Gabriel Chanel and Pierre Wertheimer was colorful to say the least. The marketing power of the Wertheimers made Chanel perfumes world famous. Prior to World War II, a factory was established in Hoboken, New Jersey, to make Chanel and Bourjois products. Gabriel Chanel complained. Hoboken wasn't France. The Federal Trade Commission complained. You can't suggest that your product is made in France if it is made in Hoboken. Labeling was revised. The brand continued to flourish. Coco tried to introduce her own, non-Wertheimer perfumes. The Wertheimers had them seized by the authorities. During World War II, Gabriel Chanel closed her couture business. The Wertheimers sold Chanel No. 5 to the U.S. Army PX system. Chanel No. 5 emerged from the war as the world's best known fragrance. Gabriel Chanel's first post-war collection in Paris was met with a general lack of interest. Her outfits were considered to be dated.

When perfumer Ernest Beaux retired, he was replaced (in New York, where Parfums Chanel was now headquartered) by perfumer Henri Robert. (Elizabeth Arden had tried to hire Henri Robert but he wanted more money than Arden was willing to pay!). When Henri Robert retired, he was replaced by Jacque Polgue. Parfums Chanel continues its dedication to quality, even though their products have found mass distribution. Try any Chanel perfume on the market today — not just a quick spritz, but wear it for hours — and you'll discover just how good perfume can be.

Today the Chanel business, both perfume and couture, is in the hands of the Wertheimer family.

Perfumes for Chanel by Ernest Beaux

No. 5 (1921)Ernest Beaux 
No. 22 (1922)Ernest Beaux 
Cuir de Russie (1924)Ernest Beaux 
Gardénia (1925)Ernest Beaux 
Bois de Îles (1926)Ernest Beaux 

Perfumes for Chanel by (Perfumer Unknown)

Glamour (1933)Ernest Beaux 
No.46 (1946)unknownAdvertised as a victory celebration at the end of World War II

Perfumes for Chanel by Henri Robert

Chanel Pour Monsieur (1955)Henri Robert 
No. 19 (1971)Henri Robert 
Cristalle Eau de Toilette (1974)Henri Robert 

Perfumes for Chanel by Jacques Ploge

Antaeus (1981)Jacques Ploge 
Coco (1984)Jacques PlogeJacques Helleu
Bois Noir (1987)Jacques Ploge 
Chanel Pour Monsieur Concentrée (1989)Jacques Ploge 
Égoste (1990)Jacques Ploge 
Cristalle Eau de Parfum (1993)Jacques Ploge 
Platinum Égoste (1993)Jacques Ploge 
Allure Eau de Toilette Coco (1996)Jacques Ploge 
Une Fleur de Chanel (1998)Jacques Ploge 
Allure Eau de Parfum (1999)Jacques Ploge 
Allure Homme (1999)Jacques PlogeJacques Helleu
Coco Mademoiselle (2001)Jacques Ploge 
Allure Eau Fraîchissante pour l'Été (2002)Jacques Ploge 
Allure Homme Eau Fraîchissante pour l'Été (2002)Jacques Ploge 
Chance (2002)Jacques Ploge 
Allure Eau de Parfum (1999)Jacques Ploge 
Allure Homme (1999)Jacques Ploge 
Allure Homme Sport (2004)Jacques Ploge 
Allure Sensuelle (2005)Jacques Ploge 

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Comments On This Article
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  • Nataly, 11/14/2021. Here first film about Beaux. I was as consultant. Please, write me what you think?. [In Russian with English subtitles]

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  • Nataly, 10/19/2021. Catherine's bouquet was never produced and was never mentioned either by Ernest Beaux, or by his assistant Konstantin Verigin, who wrote the book. No labels or advertisements from any of the collectors. This is a mistake, most likely, due to the photograph of the Empress Bouquet bottle of another Russian perfume house - Brocard. On the label there was an image of a portrait similar to Empress Catherine II. And the legend about the connection of this perfume with the Soviet Red Moscow (no documents) was used to connect it with N5. I wouldn't be surprised if Red Moscow was created as N5 match.

    A comparative study conducted by Givaudan concerned a bottle of Rallet N1 produced by Coty after the purchase of Rallet. And of course their perfume was created similar to N5 since whether or not they got original recipes, they made the match.

    What we can know about the similarity of the N5 and the N1 Rallet that was created in 1913? For 7 years, a lot has changed. First of all in the life of Beaux, who survived the war and the loss of everything he loved (country, family, friends, job), and of course in the variety and availability of qualitatively new raw materials. Whether he changed his style - we do not know, it is our dream to trace how it was formed. But the fact that he changed the recipe and created many new ones is definitely.

    We work through all the archives of Russia to find documents of perfumers and the perfume industry. We are also going to prepare a list of royal family perfumes.

    If you are interested, let me know and I’ll be happy to share all the information.

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  • Nataly Timoshenkova, 10/03/2021. Ernest Beaux was the first perfumer in his family. His father never worked for Rallet. His older brother Eduard (same name as his father) was co-owner (0.5%) and managing director of Rallet in period 1898-1910. The main owner was Chiris (97.25%. Ernest Beaux began his career in soap laboratory in 1898 and became the chief perfumer in 1907. For Rallet, he created many perfumes. In 1913, the total production of Ralle perfumery (without soap) was 2.95 million rubles.
    More informaition -

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Philip Goutell
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