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Marketplace Morning Report

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Aug 21, 2019

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Chanel launches its first big fragrance in 15 years

Kristin Schwab Sep 22, 2017
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A perfume flask of 'Chanel N°5', created in 1921, is displayed as part of the exhibition 'N°5 culture Chanel' referring to French fashion designer Coco Chanel (1883-1971) at the Palais de Tokyo art museum in Paris
ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images

Chanel launched a new fragrance this month called Gabrielle, after Gabrielle Chanel, Coco Chanel’s real name. The luxury brand dropped its last completely new perfume, Chance, 15 years ago.

Gabrielle has notes of  jasmine, orange blossom, ylang ylang and grasse tuberose. Sarah Jindal, a beauty analyst at Mintel, says that making a complex scent like this takes a long time. Chanel had to think about sourcing, mixing, packing and marketing. “So there’s a lot that goes into launching those pillar fragrances because they really become the staples of the brand’s fragrances,” she said.

Luxury brands lead the $29 billion fragrance market. And Chanel only has four “pillar” fragrances: N°5, Coco, Chance, and now Gabrielle. The limited selection makes the fragrance feel exclusive, yet still affordable by Chanel standards.

“Buying a lipstick or a fragrance is a way to get a little piece of that luxury without spending three months of your rent,” said Jindal.

A lot has changed since the last time Chanel launched a fragrance. “Fifteen years ago the fragrance industry was in quite a different place,” said Virginia Bonofiglio of the cosmetics and fragrance marketing program at the Fashion Institute of Technology. TV and magazine ads used to rule the market. Now, customers are following social media influencers and celebrities, something the fragrance industry was slow to embrace. “Especially the luxury people kind of poo poo-ed it.”

The industry was also slow to keep up with Millennial tastes. Gabrielle’s spokeswoman is Kristen Stewart. She is not Chanel’s usual flowers and pearls. She’s edgy and androgynous. And in the Gabrielle ad, she’s running through a field of electric sparks with fabric trailing behind her.

What does it cost to smell like luxury these days? About $105 for 1.7 ounces. 

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