In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Chanel N°5, the brand unveils an equally iconic collection that celebrates the past by looking to the future.

Chanel N°5 first bottle circa 1921 PHOTOS COURTESY OF BRAND
Chanel N°5 first bottle circa 1921

How do you toast the most fabulous fragrance of all time? You launch a limited-edition line that is sure to be as highly coveted as the original itself. We sat down for an exclusive chat with Chanel’s global head of artistic direction, Thomas Du Pré de Saint-Maur, for a preview of the chic collection, launching on and at Chanel Fragrance and Beauty Boutiques June 29.

It must have been so challenging to reimagine an icon like Chanel N°5. Where did you start?

It was a challenge because a hundred years of existence— what do we celebrate? And how do we celebrate? We went back to something that was at the beginning of N°5—which was when [Coco Chanel] did the N°5 fragrance. And the first one, the bottle of N°5 was the lab functional bottle. So the first container was actually a nonluxury container that became a luxury container. It really clicked in my mindset that I’m not going to be doing a limited edition of N°5. Let’s go back to that idea that a commodity product or disposable product of N°5 can become a great luxury experience, and that it should be hyperfunctional. This is why we went for industrial products to try to make that collection quite unique.

I believe that luxury does help you to enjoy life. If it does not give you a very positive and luxurious experience, we’re not doing our jobs. So I really wanted that feeling of jubilation, which I think is even more important now. If you look at the world around us, luxury has become such a commodity in a way—because it’s available all the time in all the sizes, in all the colors, because it is almost disposable—so people have lost the sense of the experience. So that commoditization of luxury… taking a cosmetic product and making a commodity product—actually a luxury product—felt quite interesting as a little way to explain what’s happening.

N°5 can sometimes be a bit intimidating because of its history... because of the woman attached to it. … Now it becomes something a bit more approachable. To me this is quite modern by being a bit more inclusive. To be more approachable made sense.

Chanel Factory 5 Collection,
Chanel Factory 5 Collection,

How does the packaging of this new collection nod to the heritage and the history of the brand?

The packaging was really a trial of, let’s take a product that has no value, and in the experience of the container dressing it in N°5 and creating something quite extraordinary. We’re celebrating that for 100 years N°5 has been a celebrity. Bringing it back to that pop art culture with the color blocks... felt very relevant. It’s really a fresh take on N°5.

People have such an emotional connection to N°5. What is your hope for how they experience this?

What I hope is that people love and enjoy it. I think if we can bring a little joy in the way people will experience the product… if buying the product lifts up their mood a bit… then I think I’ve done my job—because I think luxury has a duty and a responsibility to lift up our mind and to allow ourselves to have a greater, deeper, richer, more beautiful, more surprising life. It’s such a joyful collection.

Chanel’s global head of artistic direction, Thomas Du Pré de Saint-Maur
Chanel’s global head of artistic direction, Thomas Du Pré de Saint-Maur

What do you think Coco would say about this collection?

I hope I don’t get a call from upstairs saying, “She’s really pissed off. You better go there. She wants an appointment. She wants a meeting with you.” I think she was actually quite brave. She was very radical. She was brave in a way of not really caring—so I hope that she would find this pretty much in tune with what she likes. And I think she would like that we have not celebrated a hundred years of history because she was always looking at tomorrow, never yesterday.