Looking more closely at the work of Coco Chanel, the French designer who revolutionized and dominated the trends in women’s fashion, we notice how the lion – the astrological sign of Gabriella Bonheur Chanel, i.e. Coco – has become a recurrent motive in her creation, inspiring her work, embellishing the buttons of the Chanel garments, bag clasps as well as pieces of jewellery.
Furthermore, factual evidence points towards the presence of the lion in the designer’s apartment in Paris, where sculptures, emblems and figures of the lion can be seen all over the place.
Sculpted in marble, bronze or wood, encrusted on numerous objects and surfaces, including her cigarette case and even the scissors which she used at tailoring – the lion become the guardian of the Chanel domain. For Coco, the lion and all that it stood for became a passion.
Savage, majestic and indomitable, the lion is also called ‘king of the beasts’ or ‘king of the jungle’, although its habitat is not the jungle but the savannah and the dry forest, places which allow for visibility from a distance. The expression suggests a competitive world, struggling for survival.
Analyzing the first decades of Coco’s life, we understand how she could identify with the spirit of the lion during her life. A strong, courageous nature, she became one of the most important fashion designers of the 20th century. Thus, the lion became more than her astrological symbol – rather, it became her totem.
Coco Chanel viewed the ‘majestic cat’ as a personal emblem, a magic talisman, and an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Even her self-conceived tombstone displays five roaring lions.
Moreover, it should be noted that the winged lion was one of the most influent symbols ever conceived – it was an emblem of force and nobility as well as a symbol of Venice, appearing almost everywhere in the city. Unsurprisingly, Venice represented one of the greatest revelations for Coco, becoming a symbol of her emotional recovery and inner strength of character, having arrived there at the end of 1919 after the death of her great love (her high school boyfriend).
Chanel also developed a special attachment to the Venetian golden lions. After her stay in the city – a place brimming with life, noise, energy as well as beauty – the lion meant to Coco more than a lucky zodiac element, becoming her personal emblem.
A symbol of force and wisdom, the lion is being constantly reinvented in the creations of the house. More recently, the multiple facets of the lion also appear in the perfume franchise. The common denominator is a certain notion of power which is also conveyed with elegance.
More precisely, at the beginning of January 2021, Le Lion de Chanel was launched – the new essence of the series Les Exclusifs de Chanel. This work stays true to the vision which the house of Chanel has developed regarding the emblematic Chanel lion, which evokes the spirit of the house of Chanel and is supposed to embody the glamorous personality of the so-called Mademoiselle.
Olivier Polge, the perfumer of the house of Chanel, took the Mademoiselle’s obsession for the lion as a starting point when he began to create what was to become Le Lion de Chanel, the newest perfume of the deluxe collection Les Exclusifs de Chanel. During the creative process, the perfumer had in mind the specific image of the lion which Chanel herself recounts when talking about her encounter with the shiny, floating, golden city. Polge imagined that Coco was attracted to opulent oriental notes such as amber, vanilla, patchouli and sandalwood. Furthermore, he envisioned the place occupied by the lion in Chanel’s personal mythology and embellished it with symbols of good omen. ‘Apart from its astrological features, the Lion evokes the duality between force and craftsmanship’, opines Olivier Polge. ‘I was seduced by the resonance of Chanel’s symbols. The lion is not just Gabriella’s astrological sign, but also the fifth sign of the zodiac, her lucky number, that is.’
With its profound display of combinations, Le Lion de Chanel presents itself as a luxurious, refined, oriental perfume (where ‘oriental’ is tied to the colour of amber). For this reason, Le Lion represents a premiere for Chanel, since by giving up the more typical pungent, woody spices, the composition of Le Lion is defined by radiant resins and animalistic harmonies, on top of which the perfumer has assembled a symphonic feel of the oriental which appears to be new for Chanel, while still remaining in tune with its line of fragrances.
As regards its composition, Le Lion de Chanel opens with a few effervescent citric notes, more precisely lemon and bergamot. These constitute the top notes which pave the way towards the hot, oriental core of the perfume which consists of labdanum (a resin with animalistic notes) tamed by soft tones of amber, Madagascar vanilla, patchouli, sandalwood and musk.
The result is a refined oriental perfume which Olivier Polge describes as being ‘opulent, radiant and profound’. He asserts: ‘We have refined an essence of cistus labdanum in order to concentrate its effects and intensify its smooth features on the skin. We also used an infusion of Madagascar vanilla, internally produced out of first-rate beans. These two ingredients contribute to the refinement of the perfume and make it unique.’
Each of the primary notes of the perfume plays an important role in communicating the audacious dynamism of the lion’s sign and in evoking the perfumer’s vision, which stresses the majestic character of the lion shaped out of baroque gold. ‘The bergamot and the citrus fruits intensify its radiance, while the cistus labdanum parts perfumed with amber’, Polge explains. ‘The infusion of vanilla adds a suave, enfolding element, the sandalwood reveals a sensual, creamy side, whereas patchouli stands for power.’
This sophisticated composition springs into view discretely, avoiding any shrillness.
Consequently, it was only a question of time until the lion would break into Chanel’s niche perfumery house, where Le Lion stands for Coco Chanel’s conception of the lion as a totemic animal, an emblem of absolute elegance and inner power. In this creation, the fire of oriental essences meets the refinement of the French in a profound combination, with lots of leather, vanilla and delicate amber.
By testing Le Lion de Chanel, you will realize its true uniqueness – you will see a lion which does not need to roar in order to impose respect, a lion taking the shape of a strong, refined perfume in warm and gentle wrapping.
Needless to say you do not need to be a lion in order to wear this refined power which subtly reveals itself and attracts attention as a result of depth, not noise: Le Lion de Chanel – an Exclusifs ‘Greatest Hits’.