Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Chanel Beige: new addition to Les Exclusifs?

It's uncanny how one comes across the most shocking and astounding news sometimes. Forcing us to interrupt what is a series of posts on something particular even! On hindsight, since I am about to talk about Sycomore by Chanel later on (as it is a vetiver-based scent after all), maybe it isn't that irrelevant as it seemed at first.
But let's revert to how I found out about it. There I was casually reading one of the blogs I visit often, Perfume Posse, and LizS posted this:
"I was jogging by Saks in NYC last night, and they have in the window all the les exclusifs by Chanel. There is a HUGE poster of one called BEIGE. its sitting next to the bottle of Sycomore. New Release?? I can’t find out any info online…has anyone else heard of this? I hadn’t been to Saks this weekend despite seeing the window displays, I guess I didn’t notice the name on the bottle".

Of course Beige by Chanel was one of the rare vintage fragrances that hark back to the days of Gabrielle Chanel herself and formed a holy triad: Rouge, Bleue, Beige. According to Octavian Coifan, fragrance and fashion historian:

"Chanel created in 1929 a very fresh spring collection with dresses in red/blue/beige in jersey (a sport style with stripes and geometric pattern) as depicted in a Vogue review from that year. In the same year Jean Patou launched Le Sien, the "unisex" perfume (chypre) that was inspired also by the sport spirit. Chanel and Patou promoted in those years a day fashion inspired by sports, with geometric patterns and young look. Maybe Chanel wanted to answer Patou's sport perfume (Le Sien = Her's) with her famous colours - red, blue and beige - used in jersey's sport dresses. But those perfumes are also an echo of the French Flag (bleu, blanc, rouge)".
The fragrance itself is described as echoing the composition of No.5 (much like the other two in the triptych do), yet the resulting scent being like a cross between Vol de Nuit and Arpege (which is formidable I bet!). The basic chord seems to be jasmine, orris and amber.

So what is happening? Is Chanel planning on re-introducing their old Beige (and maybe eventually more older compositions) in their Les Exclusifs lineup? Or are they changing the formula enough not to resemble the vintage, very rare juice, like they did with the chic Sycomore? (another defunct Chanel from the days of Mademoiselle). Are Bleu and Rouge next?
And why are they aiming these splurgingly luxurious fragrances at the American audiences first? May I remind you that the equally quitessential house of Guerlain went the same route with their exclusive editions of Cruel Gardénia and Spirituese Double Vanille...which is interesting in terms of marketing, to say the least.
The plot thickens; mark my words!

Pic of Beige by Chanel courtesy of Octavian Coifan.


  1. Wow, great info as usual. Saves me time blogging extensively on this subject! Thanks.

  2. Just want to point out another thing...to answer your question Chanel is probably doing one of two things:

    1. (Like you've said) releasing the vintage fragrances.
    2. (More likely) using the old name for a new fragrance.

    Based on what happened to Sycomore I think the second strategy is what they are after: paying a hommage to Coco Chanel while doing something on their own. It saves some hassels as well since Polge often finds the name registration process very time-consuming.

  3. Chiming in to say thanks as well for providing some background, after LizS's intriguing poste to P.Posse. Isn't it funny that Chanel would launch their promotion of Beige, without at least a heads up or a press release to the perfume bloggers?

    Guess that will show us for thinking we know what's up in the niche perfume world!

    (Although I must say that the Chanel folks could not have been nicer at their master class in NYC for Sniffapalooza members this spring. No hint of a historical re-launch like this though.)

    Good to know it's a re-release, because I was baffled by the name "Beige"! Not an alluring word in English,is it?!

  4. Dear A,

    thank you! It was sort of an epiphany as soon as I saw the word "Beige" I knew they were up to something, as I recalled the old fragrance.

  5. Oh and yes, I think they're using the "schema" of the old one for creating something completely new. That's what happened to Sycomore, so I don't have any illusions.
    What you say about the names, makes of course a lot of sense: not easy to copyright something new!

  6. Gail,

    you're very welcome. It just needed clarifying and it was a great scoop on Liz's part which needed quoting, no?

    I think they haven't really released anything yet; otherwise one of my connections would have known something. I think they're planning to issue this (if true!) later on this year, in the autumn; maybe in October or November to catch the Xmas market.
    In that regard it makes sense that Saks has been provided with the banner/poster whatever but the official info hasn't been released yet. Again I am hypothesizing here, so I might be off base. We will find out soon enough I gather.

    "Beige" seems all right to my non-native ears, though, but then I am thinking of it the French way (sort of like baize with a prolonged z). The colour is a bit drab, more Armani....LOL
    I recall that Allure in EDT (which preceded the EDP by some years) was heavily advertised as being in a beige box, which represented one of the key colour schemes of Mademoiselle's fashion from the 20s.

  7. I read the same info somewhere on basenotes weeks ago but I'm curious to see the poster from Saks. I hardly believe it would be the old perfume... maybe only the name. It contained to many "impossible" ingredients today (like natural musk) and it would seem "old style" near all new Exclusif perfumes. I'm also curious to see if any refference to the old one will be done or if it will be presented as a new perfume.

  8. A ha, thanks Octavian, always having the best info and resources.
    So it seems that there has been some leak...

    It strikes me as if they're drawing upon their tradition (trying to compete with Guerlain in that regard?) and re-vamping things olfactorily, but keeping the name.
    Of course anything with impossible to source ingredients is always prone to be reformulated and Les Exclusifs are really very modern in feel, I agree with you: sparser, airier, somehow recalling the "haikus" of Hermessences (that has always been my impression).

    It would be such a waste NOT to reference the old one however, even if it is a completely new take on the fragrance itself, because it is their prized tradition after all, isn't it?
    If they're just doing it to be able to use an already copyrighted name it seems a little...how shall I put it?...bored to search and come up with a fascinating new name?

    BTW, just how long does a copyright in those matter last, I wonder!

  9. I very very much doubt that it would be a faithful interpretation of the original Le Beige (doesn't it sound/look better with the article in front?).

    Maybe they'll go for a gourmand, say with almond, to echo the calming, soothing connotations of the color itself. As such, it would be the LE's first foody scent, which is of course a very popular trend right now and especially for the Holiday season. Will we get Glamour and Le jasmin or even Ivoire (Balmain issues?) soon? I bet a few more old copyrighted names will be trotted out. Now if only someone from Chanel could go shake up Lanvin perfumes. I know there would be a huge contingent of fans rushing out to buy some new My Sin (unless they put it in one of the hideous bottles they insist on using now).

  10. B,
    indeed it sounds better with the article!

    A gourmand, you say, huh? The idea of the name suggesting something soothing is not bad at all!
    It would be rather out of step with the rest of the line, though, which is rather cool and aloof (OK, with perhaps the exception of Coromandel)

    Balmain is seriously neglected, it's not even funny and they changed hands again fairly recently, so I am hoping for the best instead of the worst.
    I'd get My Sin in a milk carton, mind you!

  11. Just a thought, but maybe this will be launched around the time of the next Chanel runway presentation (scheduled for Oct. 3 this year). Last time, I first discovered Sycomore in a set of mini's given out at the last couture show (yes, I broke the story!! on POL and to Octavian).

  12. Sounds very, very plausible (and coincides with the busiest time of the year in the fragrance market)! Thanks B!

  13. billy d,

    Thank you so much for breaking the Sycomore story! I'm not a part of POL so a belated congrat!


  14. Dear Helg,

    Another theory, Chanel is using "Beige" instead of "Le Beige" maybe because of the Chanel restraurant at Ginza, Tokyo? It's called "Beige"...short for "Beige Tokyo" (no words on whether the dining destination will be opened in other places).

    In this case the gourmand theory will tie everything together, doesn't it? And let's not forget Sheldrake is very, very good at working with gourmand ingredients.


  15. Dear A,

    now there's a thought! I confess I hadn't thought about it this way (of course they couldn't say "Le 1940 Beige" but anyway). But since the rest of the line is evoking places and things that are Chanel-tied, then why not that too?

    If it is meant to evoke Ginza and a resto, and if it is a "gourmand" (I am using the term in a broader sense, not specifically sweet and dessert-like), then there are subtle ideas which could get incorporated: I am thinking wasabi, ginger, rice steam (very aucourant), Japanese ink and the ink of certain seafood, soy, sake, the Geishas' tea and incense ritual (Ginza is of course famous for them)...all sorts of ideas.

    Could be very modern ;-)
    (OK, now I am giving Hermes and Jean Claude ideas!)

  16. Helg,

    The scents you've mentioned are lovely at their own right but Beige Tokyo is a joint venture with Alain Ducasse...which means it's a French dining destination with a Japanese touch here and there. The place is now famous for serving some of the best Parisian macarons in Tokyo. Here's a photo:


    I can think of two wonderful things about Beige Tokyo:

    1. The chairs are all ulpostered with Chanel tweed.
    2. The restrooms are equipped with Chanel fragrances. (Yes, including Les Exclusifs.) The patrons can use any one of the scents for free.

    Who knows? Maybe the newest Les Exclusifs has nothing to do with this place--just a thought really. (The connection is quite interesting, no?)


  17. Wait...I got your joke...sorry!

  18. LizS01:23

    ok i just got back from checking this out at SAKS5A. It is actually launching tomorrow. i got to smell the tester (and preorder, of course!) VERY big white floral. notes are gardenia, jasmine, may rose (?), i forget what else the SA said if anything. I smelled nothing other than florals, but the tester was empty so i didn't get to try it on, sadly. Will be exclusive to Saks for 1 month. Was named that because Beige was "her" favourite colour. "her" i am assuming is coco chanel. I have to say, Saks has done a lot with their first floor, they will be carrying all the les exclusifs, and as well they have greatly expanded their Guerlain counter, and they now carry the bee bottles, the l'art et la matiere collection, and they had a tester of Double Vanilla, which was supposed to be limited and sold out. They are really trying here to compete with BG's selection and exclusivity imho. anyways, beige is supposed to be mostly sold out already due to pre-orders. i'll report again after tomorrow's testing.

  19. Dear Liz,

    thank you for the *excellent* reporting on this no doubt fascinating new development!!

    From what you say it sounds as it is indeed a completely different composition than the vintage and that Beige is advertised as reflecting the fav colour of Coco (which it was! OK, among others, such as black). So I deduce they do not reference the vintage, any more than they did with Sycomore, right?

    Now, I wonder who is doing all the pre-orders, since I very well know that apart from a brief mention on Basenotes and your own fabulous and timely reporting, the perfume community is at large oblivious of this new development.
    Seems like there are other people, besides us vocal perfumephiles, who hanker after these exclusive fragrances and just happened to see the posters??? (I am assuming that the media people already got their own samples/press info on this, so it can't be them!)

    Please do report again tomorrow and I will be sure to devote a post on it quoting your experience (if you prefer, you can do a brief REVIEW which can be posted under your own name/alias; it'd be my pleasure to let YOU do all the talking, since you obviously unerathed the sccop, just mail me ~mail available in Profile :)

  20. LizS16:54

    !?!? Just got a call from Saks, they said Beige isn't in and it will be 1-2 weeks, and i can have it shipped to me if i wish. Very strange that they would plan a launch, and then this would be the case? I am dissapointed to say the least.

  21. Liz,

    Thank you so much for the advance report! Wow, white floral...so different from what I would have guess.

    (Don't we have two white florals in Les Exclusifs already? Seems like Chanel is focusing on the women's market again...)


  22. Noooooooooooooo.......Liz you had me all reved up and excited! (actually I do understand that that's nothing to do with you and you're just as crestfallen as I am).
    This is serious taunting!! Bad Saks, bad! Spit it out! Good dog!

    (LOL I think)

    In any case, when they do have it and you do try it, I would be very happy to have you report about it, if you so wish :-)

  23. A,

    I believe there were about 3 frags focusing on iris in Les Exclusifs, to different degrees, along with other florals (some of which are indeed white) and the rest are ~ let me think~ one patchouli, one Cologne, one green floral and one vetiver.

    So...enter gardenia (maybe because Guerlain issued one thus named?), the favourite flower of American women, per Laurice Rahme who urged Goutal to make one for them (resulting in Gardenia Passion which actually smells of tuberose). Could that be another reason they're issuing this first in the US? ;-)

  24. LizS03:39

    To be honest, i didn't believe Saks, i thought they had just sold my bottle, so i went over there anyways. they indeed had removed all the full size testers, so I suppose I believe them now. Poor launch if you ask me. I also called the other Chanel boutiques today, and none of them had ever even heard of this. way to inform your people. But on the plus side, i was able to actually get a test spray on me, and i have to say, it doesn't remind me of the color beige. maybe like wedding white. at first spray, i love it, then i wasn't so sure. was i just lemming this? But that passed, thankfully, and it has now turned into a white-musky floral. completely inoffensive. i like this much better than cruel gardenia, which i was so close to purchasing until it turned sour on me. (wow, it was terrible, what happened?) I have to say, lasting power is great on this. i think right now its completely turned into light musk, but i did spray it on my hand, and i have washed dishes since then, but it is still there, amazingly. I think this will be a really good seller for them, if they ever get it in!

  25. That's all very interesting Liz, thank you (it does sound like they're aiming for a Cruel Gardenia, now doesn't it?): I think I will do a recapitulation on the info, research a bit more to see if there's more and quote you again for those who are eager to learn what's happening.
    Thank you very much for your time and effort. I appreciate your sharing your impressions with us!

  26. Dear Helg,

    I was thinking of No. 22 and Gardenia by Ernest Beaux, both of which have white floral facets no matter how one looks at them. I know No. 22 is an aldehyde floral but it's the white flowers that form the heart of that fragrance...

    I also want to let you know that Hermes will be releasing a new Hermessence fragrance in early '09...at least in my part of the world. I blogged it so I won't waste extra space here!


  27. Hello --

    I went down to the Saks in Boston today to sniff out anything I could about this Chanel Beige. The SAs had no idea what I was talking about. So if there is a launch planned, it is a state secret, apparently.

  28. Madelyn19:38

    I am flbbegasted -ay a loss of words !
    Another Exclusif //At Saks/
    I do not like the color Beige but I love the name for a relauch -
    I am shocked about this news-
    Thank you to LizS (maybe I knoiw you?)for your updates
    I agree - a very poor launch.They should be sending fliers, sampling
    and at the very least communicating with their brethren Chanel doors- like ahem.. the boutique - a few streets away-
    I am dying to sample this !

  29. The Chanel counter manager at Saks today in Boston told me that the Beige will launch in about a week, and be exclusive to Saks in New York (i.e. they won't be getting it in Boston).

  30. A,

    for some reason I never include No.22, Bois des Iles, Gardenia and Cuir de Russie in Les Exclusifs in my mind. That happens because I always remember them as the Rue Cambon collection that got re-issued at some time in the early 90s if I am not mistaken.
    Of course No.22 and Gardenia focus on while florals, you're right.

    And I thought you would have already seen that I caught the news on the new Hermessence, Vanille Galante, and elaborated quite a bit!
    Thanks again! :-)

  31. J,

    if even the people selling it don't know they're getting it....

  32. Madelyn,

    yeah, isn't it so surprising? Not a word out!
    Sycomore was also quite a hushed launch, but not so much! Wonder why....hmmm...
    I am glad in any case, gives us something to anticipate.

  33. J,

    aaaargh, I was counting on your reportage on this.

  34. Anonymous02:10

    I just purchased Beige. It is beautiful - warm, powdery, white floral, honeyed, like the most wonderful chai in the world, but elegant, so elegant, yet approachable. Breathe it in deeply.
    It is gorgeous.


Type your comment in the box, choose the Profile option you prefer from the drop down menu below the text box (Anonymous is fine if you don't want the other options) and hit Publish! And you're set!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin