The woman behind Chanel’s visual identity talks us through designing its new fragrance
Sylvie Legastelois has dedicated a lifetime to her craft. As head of packaging and graphic design creation for Chanel, she is the woman responsible for translating the house’s codes to the bottles and boxes of its beauty, fragrance and watch lines, a role she has worked her way up to since joining the maison in 1984, the year Coco was launched. Her unconventional background, which traversed art school, graphic design, publishing and painting, set her on the path to her current role, a role that has seen her create the look for such era-defining fragrances as Précision, Allure, Chance and Égoïste.
With the new Gabrielle Chanel fragrance, Legastelois builds on a reputation for innovation and beauty in design that began in 2005 with the launch of Rouge Allure lipstick. The seductive click-torelease lacquered bullet, which took 10 years to realise, introduced a fresh dynamism never before seen in packaging. The process for Gabrielle was almost as laborious, taking seven years from sketch to completion, a project Legastelois managed in partnership with perfumer Olivier Polge. It was a boundary-pushing enterprise, expanding, subverting and evolving what a Chanel bottle could be.
How would you define the aesthetic of Chanel? The vocabulary is very simple and complex all at once. It gives the impression that the graphic style on its own is enough to evoke Chanel, but this isn’t true. Black, white, lines, curves and chamfers are all very strong codes that always bring Chanel to mind. Olivier Polge ensures the lasting future of the house fragrances, while making them relevant for today. How do you do this for the bottle and box? When it comes to creation, there is no instruction booklet to follow; there is simple intuition and talent. There is also inspiration. This is why it is crucial to listen to women and be in tune with the times. The brand codes are anchored in our creation, but the spirit of the time stimulates our intuition and keeps us from following the market. The idea is that Chanel should always be surprising and inspire dreams, while keeping intact its identity. What is the process for designing a new bottle? It’s not something that is done haphazardly. The creation of a new bottle at Chanel reflects a statement and a new message, which doesn’t encroach on the personality of any of our existing lines. It is a general rule at Chanel to maintain all of our lines. So a new fragrance must find its place within the family. The desire to always go one step further, to continue to amaze… these factors mean that our work is never done. What was the initial creative idea behind Gabrielle Chanel fragrance? The house wanted to create a luminous floral. The goal was for the fragrance to dominate the object. The bottle had to stay in the background and put the spotlight on the fragrance itself. When creating this bottle, we strove for the purity so dear to Gabrielle Chanel, along with simplicity of design and exquisitely fine glasswork. Then, Olivier Polge, and the Chanel Fragrance Creation and Development Laboratory, created the fragrance and its solar dimension inspired us to work on the indefinable colour of the cap, the label and the sleeve. What were your inspirations? We were inspired by the subtle shades of certain lamés and tweeds interlaced with golden and silver threads. The box offered by the Duke of Westminster, and all the creations that are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside, also inspired us for the interior of the folding carton with its gold that is brighter on the inside than on the outside. Mademoiselle said “luxury is what you don’t see.” What were the major challenges with the Gabrielle Chanel bottle? In terms of the creative aspect, the challenge was to innovate while maintaining the brand DNA to surprise more than ever before and to be seductive. In terms of the industrial aspect, there were two major technical challenges. They are both innovative: The thin glass because it breaks away from what we see on the fragrance market with bottles made of heavy glass, and the corrugated liner, which has never been seen before except for No.5 L’Eau.
“Mademoiselle said ‘luxury is what you don’t see.’’’