Celebrating 100 years: talking all things No. 5 – from the meaning of luxury to Chanel’s experimental pop-up – with Thomas du Pré de Saint Maur, Head of Chanel Global Creative Resources – Fragrance & Beauty, Fine Jewellery & Watches. Head below to read the interview…
First of all, I’d love to hear the story behind Chanel Factory 5? What inspired the creation of the space?
It always comes down to the same question when you have that kind of celebration: what do you celebrate? Do you just want to go for a celebration of 100 years of history? Or do you want to celebrate the fact that after 100 years of existence, the product still has a freshness and an ability to re-invent [itself]? That’s the route we chose. I didn’t want something looking backwards, it was more about saying, ‘If No.5 was a revolution 100 years ago, could we again spark something that could surprise people?’ Being very Chanel, it’s very unexpected. When Coco Chanel created No.5 in 1921, the bottles were functional – they were not bottles coming from the luxury world. She made it luxury because she dressed it in Chanel and filled it with No.5. So we went to the DIY world, took this idea of anonymous packaging, dressed it in No.5 and saw where we landed. The name ‘Factory’ comes from that industrial way of approaching it. We live in a world where luxury has become such a commodity in so many ways, and so disposable. The idea about taking something un-luxury and making it luxury is also something that Pop Art did. They were questioning the value of a product and saying, ‘Can a non-value product become a piece of art?’ The concept of the pop-up is an amplification of that. A lot of the visuals are super colourful, very much Pop oriented, using the product in an unexpected way. It was also about making sure this was not just an intellectual or creative exercise, it would bring something fresh and fun to the table.
What were some of the challenges you faced when conceptualising and working on this particular project?
I think the first challenge was confidence. The capacity to have the desire, the appetite, and also the confidence to do something quite incredible with No.5 – you have to have guts to do it. At some point, you think, ‘How crazy am I gonna do it? But also, ‘Do you want to stop halfway?’ There’s an expression that my mother always tells me, she says, ‘Thomas, you’re not half pregnant! So go for it, just go for it.’ So we’ve been confident. I think the biggest challenge we’ve had is these products are pretty much industrial. So at some point you ask yourself, ‘How do you make sure that the product will meet your expectation?’ The quality of the craft, ingredients, printing and the durability…because I think you can be fun and bring a twist [only] if the quality is there. It was hard work, I had many sleepless nights. But the minute you start to get scared of change, the minute you get scared of reinventing yourself, the minute you start to only think about preservation is the moment where you really get old in your mind. I don’t mean young or old in terms of age, but the freshness of being excited by change. This product might be 100-years-old, but it still has a teen spirit.