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The sales of No.5 have been steadily dropping, no matter the glossy campaigns. The French sales of No. 5 dropped from No. 1 in 2010 to No. 5 in 2015 in favor of Lancome's La Vie Est Belle, the incontestable top slot since its introduction a couple of years ago. The American market has been worse still. Young women find it too strong, too "matronly" in its odor profile; something they revere as a myth but not as a personal fragrance for themselves, perfume "for old ladies".
But it's also the rest of the Chanel fragrances which haven't been going that well either; Coco Mademoiselle seems to have run its culmination arc with a drop of 3.9% last year, the original Coco de Chanel perfume dropping a rather predictable 5.2% (nothing is as obsolete for young women now as 80s spicy orientals) and Allure dropping a whopping 8%. Only Chance and its various flankers are doing really well, woe to the discerning perfumephile: they have risen up to 6% only last year. Bleu de Chanel, another mainstream lukewarm soup, has become the prime choice of the banlieu, i.e. French suburbia material.
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Chanel has always been meticulously attentive to their treasured heritage. No.5 has been the emblem of the house and its advertising, stirring the fantasy and solidifying the reputation of a classy yet sexy fragrance, especially as boosted by Marilyn Monroe's infamous quote. In later years a string of advertising campaigns have tried to re-inject interest in the formula of No.5, sometimes with impressive if a tiny bit laughable results (the Luhrmann commercials, first with Nicole Kidman, then with Gisele Bundchen), other times with spectacularly laughable results (Brad Pitt...I'm looking at you) and on some occasions with truly fantasy-cart-wheeling side-effects (such as the Jeunet commercial with Audrey Tautou aboard the Orient Express).
The introduction of No.5 Eau Première a few years ago indicates that apart from rejuvenating the brand, through targeted advertising using the faces that people love to look up to, the jus needed its own rejuvenation as well. Highly praised critically, this new edition by then in-house perfumer Jacques Polge, however, didn't do as well as had been expected commercially.
According to reportage from Fortune, seeing the light of the day in late January 2016 and brought to my attention by an eagle-eyed friend, CEO Maureen Chiquet, one of the precious few women CEOs in luxury brands (a fact she was meaning to stress in an upcoming book, which might have created an unfavorable stir at Chanel) and a force to reckon with regarding the inspiring growth of the company at large in the last few seasons, stepped down "due to differences of opinion over the strategic direction of the company" after a 9 years long tenure. Alain Wertheimer, chairman and grandson of the original owners but also a recluse billionaire till now apparently, is taking control of the company's operations for the foreseeable future.
With La Vie Est Belle cornering the top spots reserved for Chanel and with contesters Christian Dior (with the new Poison Girl fragrance heavily promoted) and Yves Saint Laurent (with the rather bad Black Opium as well as the rectified, while still very approachable Black Opium Nuit Blanche) Chanel has entrusted a major bet on the slender shoulders of its newer perfumer at the helm, Olivier Polge.
The new No.5 flanker must therefore reflect the legend, surely, but it should also get a slice of the pie of La Vie Est Belle buyers. September 2016 has been the rumored date of the introduction to the market, although Polge is said to have been working at the wings ever since Olivier's tenure starting in 2013, funnily the creator of...La Vie Est Belle. It's a battle against one's self. A William Wilson tale, if you will. A Chanel for millenials, that prized segment of the market aged between 20-35 whose tastes influence everything.
There is no concrete info on the finalized name yet: Chanel has re-copyrighted the old 1929 name of Une Idee, which could be a good fit for a No.5 flanker, as in "Une Idee de No.5, which has the added aventage of working equally well in the French and Anglo-speaking audiences, but this is pure speculation on my part.
It thankfully remains doubtful whether the extra strong, extra syrupy tentacles (don't get me started on Repetto or Flowerbomb) are going to engulf everything. Polge's Les Exclusifs Misia eau de toilette is super refined excelling in the "cosmetics accord" fragrance genre and his Chanel Boy sounds mighty interesting too. With No.5 holding its own in at least the "spirit of Chanel" maybe the bet won't be against all odds. Come September we will see, I guess.
EDIT TO ADD: Chanel has officially announced the new version Chanel No.5 L'Eau which is supposed to be built upon Grasse May rose by perfumer Olivier Polge and aimed at millenials.