Amusingly, Beaux was actually working for the perfume house Chiris at the time and was therefore moonlighting as he did not get along with his immediate boss and promotion and professional recognition were out of the question as a result. He had his own laboratory at home.
Like other Russians of French origin or extraction, Beaux had served in the French Army during the war of 1914-1919. He also served in the Allied expeditionary force sent to intervene in the Russian Civil War. And when demobbed, like many others, he chose not to return to his post-Revolution homeland, having been told that he was a wanted man. Beaux would later attribute his olfactory style to his war service above the Arctic Circle, "where the rivers and lakes release a note of incredible freshness".
He was introduced to Mlle Chanel on the beach at Cannes in 1920 by the Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich, one of Rasputin's assassins and one of the couturier's many well-placed boyfriends, who was trying to find work for Russian refugees. Reviewing several scents Beaux had already prepared, Mlle Chanel chose the scent that would be branded as No 5.
Beaux was hired later by the Wertheimer Brothers, who had set up Parfums Chanel in 1924 with their partner in the Galéries Lafayette after buying the rights to No 5 from Mlle Chanel, a sale she would spend the interwar and war years trying to reverse by various means, including citing the Vichy race laws interdicting Jews from owning French businesses.
During the Second World War, Mlle Chanel launched a range of perfumes in Paris, branded 'Mademoiselle Chanel', in breach of her contract with the Wertheimers, who had fled to the United States for the duration, leaving their businesses in the administrative hands of gentile friends in order to protect them. Modern analysis of Mademoiselle Chanel No 1 and Chanel No 5 suggests that Ernest Beaux formulated both scents. The Mademoiselle Chanel perfume series was suppressed after Mlle Chanel won a lawsuit against the Wertheimers in 1947. A bottle of Mademoiselle Chanel No 1 is quite a collector's item nowadays, particularly a wartime example.
Pierre Wertheimer was quite a pragmatist, as his repatriation from Switzerland of Mlle Chanel in 1954 shows. It was a good business move. To the end of her life, Mlle Chanel would insist that she had been cheated all along by the Wertheimers but in truth, her success and her wealth owed a lot to their business acumen.
Of course, this is probably far too complicated for the makers of a fashion flick and their target audience but the reality is, as always, far more interesting than the fiction.
Here is an example of Mademoiselle Chanel No 1, which existed from 1942 to 1946. I cannot recall who sent it to me but it is reproduced here under Fair Use provisions for educational or reporting purposes. The bottle-stopper is rather neat.
Fashion is something barbarous, for it produces innovation without reason and imitation without benefit (George Santayana) - http://prosperkeating.com
Last edited by prosperk; 04-12-2013 at 03:59 AM. Reason: Edited to add image
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