The perfume blogosphere is agog with the news of a flanker to Chanel No 19. To be known as Chanel No 19 Poudre, the fragrance will launch in July/August.
Flankifying a great classic like No 19 is obviously risky. However, encouraged by the quality of Chanel No 5 Eau Premiere, many perfumistas are at least cautiously optimistic about No 19 Poudre. I doubt anyone expects it to have the great character and originality of the original – has a flanker ever improved on its original? – but even so, it is unlikely to be bad. To a fair extent, most of us trust Chanel.
Perfume-wise, Chanel has had many more hits than misses. The best of its perfumes are great classics, perfumes you can spend a lifetime with. Year after year, decade after decade, Chanel rewards customer loyalty by ensuring raw materials are first rate. Reformulations have been acceptable. Even the perfumes aimed at the youth and mainstream markets are well put-together (if safe) examples of their type. Bottles and packaging are never anything less than superb.
Meanwhile over at one of Chanel’s great perfume rivals – the house of Dior – things are not so good. For many years after its founding in 1947 Dior put out fragrances that any woman or man would have been as proud to own as any of the Chanels. Prouder, even, as Chanel was in a fallow period in that early post-war period when Christian Dior was making his name synonymous all over the word with beauty, femininity and French chic.
Today, in my opinion, that reputation has declined. True, many of Dior’s mainstream fragrances are very good and widely loved, but many of the great classics have been unconvincingly reformulated, or discontinued. Those that survive are sold only in inconvenient and expensive 100 ml bottles. There is some nice work in the ‘La Collection Privee Christian Dior‘ series but not much that is innovative, challenging or original. Admittedly I’ve only smelled a couple (I loved Granville), but the muted reaction to the collection has not impelled me to try any more.
Now Dior has embarked on a new exercise. A recent article on Grain de Musc quotes a French media report to the effect that Dior is deliberately reformulating three of its perfumes – Miss Dior Cherie, Dior Homme, and Fahrenheit, not because of availability of materials or to conform with IFRA regs, but because by altering the formulas it will then own them outright, and need no longer buy the perfume oils from the companies that composed them and that have been supplying them to Dior for blending with alcohol, packaging and selling. Dior is reportedly making the entire product itself in its own (or at least, LVMH’s) manufacturing plants. By making its own products and buying materials in bulk, LVMH is saving money.
So, in the case of Miss Dior Cherie, originally composed by Christine Nagel for Givaudan, Dior’s Francois Demachy has tweaked the formula and it is apparently being slowly re-branded as ‘Miss Dior’. (See the Natalie Portman ad illustrated here, and note that the main graphic lacks the word ‘Cherie’, although it still appears on the label). The original Miss Dior from 1947 will reportedly be known as ‘Miss Dior Original’, or some footling nonsense like that.
The new situation really just brings all the processes of composing, manufacturing, packaging, and marketing a fragrance back into the one company, and that may make no difference to the consumer. Probably Dior’s Escales and Collection Privee have already been produced in this way.
But it is too bad if you liked the old versions of of those three perfumes. I didn’t like MDC, but if I had, I’d be deeply pissed off (a fine Australian expression, that). Givaudan and other suppliers to Dior, and their perfumers, must be in a very deep state of pissed-offed-ness too. Naturally the ordinary consumer is never told of these shenanigans. She or he is just left wondering why their perfume is not the same any more, and why there are these weird changes of name.
Whereas Chanel (I think) deserves the trust of its customers, Dior is frittering it away. Chanel is still an independent, privately owned company, but Dior is owned by the luxury conglomerate, LVMH. Therein lies the real issue. No wonder Hermes is fighting to keep LVMH from sniping at its door.
Anyway, back to No 19 Poudre. I spoke to a lovely Chanel SA yesterday who promised to phone me the instant the new fragrance becomes available. I trust she will.