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Today we find ourselves daydreaming about all things Chanel more than usual—because today is Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s birthday. Though a controversial historical figure, Coco revolutionized our fashion and beauty-loving lives, with her loose silhouettes, seductive fragrances and chic French sensibilities. Even 132 years after her birth, we’re still totally in awe of her.
So to celebrate, we’re taking a walk down memory lane with Chanel’s most enduring beauty creation, Chanel No. 5. Five was a significant number for Coco; No. 5 was launched on May fifth, 1921, and Coco herself said that it would always bring her good luck.
And it has. Not only has No. 5 been one of the top-selling perfumes in the world for the last 94 years, it’s also inspired some of the most incredible imagery the beauty world has ever seen. So in honor of Coco’s birthday, here are the 11 most iconic vintage Chanel No. 5 ads of all time.
1921: The New Woman.
The earliest advertising for No. 5 was strictly via word of mouth; Coco would invite women who would now be called ‘tastemakers’ to smart dinner parties, where she’d spritz them with this iconic perfume. In 1921, the cartoonist Sem drew this now-iconic tribute to No. 5: depicting Mademoiselle Coco herself gazing rapturously up at the classic bottle, dressed in the easy, figure-flattering style which Chanel popularized. She is the epitome of The New Woman, and No. 5 is her chosen perfume.
1937: Coco Chanel, “An artist in living.”
This ad, which appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, features Madame Gabrielle Chanel as the face of the fragrance. In contrast to the sleek lines of the 1921 sketch, she’s depicted much more sumptuously here—portraying herself with a grand sumptuousness that would have been like sweet nectar to a world still feeling the effects of a Great War and Depression. With her “Faultless instinct for drama,” Coco Chanel was not just the creator; she was the living epitome of the brand.
1954: Marilyn Monroe.
You can’t talk about No. 5 without talking about Marilyn Monroe; in an interview with Marie Claire, she answered the classic “What do you wear to bed?” question with “Why, Chanel No. 5, of course!” Suddenly, the fragrance was associated with the most glamorous movie star in the world—and sales skyrocketed. The funny thing is that Marilyn didn’t become an official Chanel spokesperson until 2013 with this ad for No. 5—meaning that the most successful celebrity fragrance endorsement of all time didn’t, at the time, cost the brand a cent.
1957: “Every Woman Alive…”
Post-Marilyn, many other actresses were more than happy to be the “face” of the fragrance, ushering in the era of celebrity advertising. Actress and model Suzy Parker was one of the first; in this ad shot by Richard Avedon, she’s portrayed as the perfect No. 5 woman of the ’50s: vibrant and happy, distinctly upper class, immaculately turned out. The slogan, “Every woman alive loves Chanel No. 5″ would remain throughout the ’60s.
1966: Youthful Rebirth.
As a result of pretty but conservative ads like the one above, by the mid-sixties, No. 5 was considered the fragrance of rich aunts—not something that the pretty young things wanted to wear. That changed with Ali McGraw, who fronted the Chanel No. 5 for the Bath campaign. Her wide-eyed, It-Girl beauty brought the fragrance to the youth—and kept it there. Because let’s face it, these images could be from a campaign shot today.
1972: Catherine the Great.
When you think about No. 5, chances are that you think of this ad; Catherine Deneuve and Chanel created some of the most iconic and enduring images in the history of beauty. There are no slogans and no ad copy: just her face, the bottle, her name and the brand. No. 5 has become synonymous with elegant French beauty. These Avedon-shot images are the reason why.
1986: A Classic, Reinterpreted.
Carole Bouquet, a former Bond girl, became the face of the brand in the eighties. Chic, French and gorgeous, she represented the brand in brightly colored print campaigns and romantic television ads (directed by visionaries like Ridley Scott). The No. 5 advertisements of this time were simple, with minimal writing and bold visuals; they were all about showing women how this classic perfume fit into their modern life.
1997: Chanel Goes Pop.
Andy Warhol did a series of prints featuring the iconic No. 5 bottle, and in the late nineties, Chanel bought the rights to use them in their advertising campaigns. The result: a world famous, indelible advertising campaign that gave the heritage perfume a much-needed dose of pop art cool.
2005: Nicole Kidman.
Nicole Kidman became the face of Chanel No. 5, instantly imbuing it with her elegance and movie star glamour. The print and now-famous TV ads were shot by Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann, who turned both into a genuine spectacle—this campaign was a sumptuous visual feast that equated the fragrance with beauty, romance and star power. If you want to be an icon, this ad says. You should be wearing Chanel No. 5.
2012: Brad Pitt is Inevitable.
The needle swung back to simple, minimalist ads as Brad Pitt became the first man to front a No. 5 campaign. Stark in black and white, with the bottle in color, the perfume—and therefore the woman who wears it—is positioned as the star here, with Brad as the gorgeous accessory. This is underlined further in the oft-joked about television commercial; the story is about the Chanel No. 5 woman and the romantic, adventurous feelings she inspires in the object of her affection, rather than about Brad Pitt himself.
Supermodel Gisele became the face of No. 5 in this simple, yet utterly iconic ad. Reclining in a lit-up number 5 wearing a simple black dress and lots of diamonds, Gisele is naturally beautiful, confident and glamorous—the perfect No. 5 woman for the decade. Mademoiselle Chanel would no doubt approve.