The bold, independent character of Gabrielle Chanel would determine her fate and change the course of history. In 2017, Chanel created a fragrance in her honor, a reflection of her extraordinary, determined and passionate spirit: Gabrielle Chanel. From the scent to the bottle—both firsts in the history of Chanel —and the choice of name, it pays tribute to the woman she was before Coco Chanel.
In 2019, Gabrielle Chanel Eau de Parfum is reinvented with Gabrielle Chanel Essence. Familiar but unlike no other, this new olfactory variation shows a more vibrant and opulent side. To celebrate the launch of this new scent, we chat to acclaimed actress Margot Robbie – Gabrielle Chanel Essence's ambassador – about the fragrance, her partnership with Chanel and more.
When Chanel called, what was your reaction? I’ve been working with the Chanel family for a little while now. Everything’s always been easy; the relationship has grown in an organic way and I’ve loved our time together, it feels like a family. So I was really happy when they asked to pursue our partnership in fragrance. And it was exciting because I knew it was going to be a new fragrance, Gabrielle Chanel Essence.
What does Chanel represent for you? I’ve grown up knowing Chanel my whole life! It’s a whole legacy. Chanel feels timeless and elegant, but now that I have a personal and direct relationship with the House I have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the art that goes into Chanel products. When you go to a Chanel show, you really appreciate the work and the artistic expression behind it. It’s beautiful and wonderful to be a part of that. For Gabrielle Chanel Essence, I’ve really appreciated getting to learn more and understand the craftsmanship behind creating perfumes. It’s a beautiful process, a true means of artistic expression.
What’s your relationship with fragrance? Like so many girls, I grew up seeing my mom’s perfumes on her counter and they always seemed like a symbol of a woman. I knew that, one day, I would grow up and be able to wear it: I felt like the day I started wearing fragrance I would know who I was. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that it’s really a means of self-expression. And there’s such a strong association with memory. It’s cool to look back and see how your tastes evolve as your personality does.
Is it true that you wear a different fragrance for every role you play? Yes. I pick a fragrance for every character I play because I feel that certain smells can transport you to a time and place, or create a specific feeling. I like to be able to differentiate my characters, to place them in the timeline of my life. When I go on set and apply the fragrance, I find it’s easier to get into character. It’s a very powerful tool!
Gabrielle Chanel is perhaps the most personal of the Chanel fragrances because it bears its creator’s name. How does that make you feel? I think Gabrielle Chanel, the woman, means so many things to so many people. The House has explored different facets of her life and personality through fragrance but to me Gabrielle Chanel Essence feels like her truest self. The fragrance feels like it cuts to exactly who she was as a woman. If feels direct but a sense of effortless elegance. The scent feels vibrant, opulent, like it captures both the woman and the House in its entirety. It’s very specific, inviting and warm. You instantly understand who Chanel is.
What makes Gabrielle Chanel Essence the right fragrance for you? I think you know immediately when a fragrance is ‘you’. There are so many fragrances I distinctly associate with other people, but they’re not necessarily for me. Gabrielle Chanel Essence feels incredibly feminine and powerful. It feels warm. It has a creaminess, radiance and an effortless quality that I associate with Chanel. I especially love tuberose, which was already present in Gabrielle Chanel Eau de Parfum, but for Gabrielle Chanel Essence it’s been showcased even more. To me, this is a fragrance with force of character. It feels distinct. It feels vibrant.
Gabrielle Chanel once said: “I decided who I wanted to be and that is who I am.” Do you feel like you have something in common with her? I love that quote, and I really believe that you determine your own destiny. That said, I don’t know how I would describe myself. Ever since I was little my mom has always described me as determined and independent. I feel like I share with Gabrielle Chanel ideas about breaking the norm, creating and seeing beauty in chaos. It’s completely liberating: the world becomes your oyster. When I was on-set with Nick Knight, I sensed that maybe this is how Gabrielle Chanel might have felt in her day: that you can be liberated by creativity, that you can appreciate the beauty of chaos and make what you want of your world. Someone is always going to break the rules; it might as well be you.
What is your definition of style? All over the world, people covet, admire and try to replicate French chic — and it’s true, the French do it best! I definitely appreciate the ease that comes with really knowing your style. When you look good in something, you know it — there’s instant confidence.
I don’t really pay attention to specific trends, I am more interested in what I feel best in. Personally, I love beautiful things but I’m also pragmatic: I look for freedom of movement. I love a silk suit, flats and the mix of masculine and feminine style. That makes me feel powerful and feminine, comfortable but confident. I think nothing’s more alluring than confidence.
If you could ask Gabrielle Chanel anything, what would it be? I’d want to know at what moments in her life she may have had doubts, and what made her forge ahead anyway. That’s probably the secret behind her power.
• Text and interview supplied by Chanel.