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To begin with, the personality of founder would be analyzed, as it illustrates the political and liberal belief of Coco Chanel. Coco Chanel is honored as a "woman of her own" due to her controversial acts which are rarely found from other French women at that time. For instance, her episode-like romance of being involved in a triangular relationship with Etienne Balsan and Arthur Boy Capel presents her belief of women have the rights to pursuit their own love and happiness, which was not acceptable for female to do so in the eye of conservatives. Besides her unconventional romance story, her strong will of establishing her own career projects her liberal belief of women should have their own career and business as men did. She believed that female could achieve what the men do, and they should be given "unalienable rights" such as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," which is similar with the announcement made "by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence" (The Illinois Conservative., n.d.).
Coco Chanel expressed such liberal belief through silent protest - her dressing style as well as the perfumes her brand introduced. She introduced an unprecedented dressing style in fashion history by modeling herself of dressing menswear fashionably, which became her immortal image later. This shows her belief of women could do what men do without being awkward. Besides fashion, perfume is another way to exhibit one's personality as well. According to the word which is used to collaborate with dressing and perfume - "wear", such as wear the clothes, and wear the perfume, this shows that perfume could collaborate with one's dressing style exhibiting one's personality. Chanel No.5 is introduced with the concept of "a woman's perfume with a woman's scent" (CHANEL, 2012, October 5th); the concept of which further elaborate Coco Chanel's belief of gender equity. It presents that women should be treated equally as men without giving up their femininity.
Coco Chanel another famous statement projects her liberal belief in gender issue as well. "A badly perfumed woman does not have a future," (Mazzeo, 2010, p.ix) in this statement, "a badly perfumed woman" refers to women who do not pay attention to the details of their appearance. She believed that the natural instinct of a female is beauty care. From Coco Chanel's perspective, if a woman does not care of her appearance, and is dressed in traditional way without thinking, she is likely to obey the rule set by the previous generation and the society without doubting the fairness and rationality. She then would not have the desirable future.
With these beliefs, Coco Chanel played an active role in feminist movement on inspiring French female to fight for the right of election vote. In 19th century, French women were yet entitled the voting rights in election. They were deprived of the rights for choosing their ideal candidate who would probably influence the society they were living. Without such right, female could not put stress on the politicians whose proposals they refute. On the contrary, as men were entitled with such right, the government policies were therefore more likely to be bias to male's rights and favors. Such injustice, in Coco Chanel opinion, should be eliminated. France, although is the last European city to entitle women of election voting rights, the revolution achieved its objective. Coco Chanel was not a politician. She yet had her political role played in French history, as well as female history.
REIFICATION of the FEMALE FIGURE
However, there is a contradiction between Coco Chanel's viewpoints of balancing the gender equality and the insinuation from the Chanel No.5's advertising video clip, which objectified women. According to Coco Chanel quotes, "a woman should wear perfume wherever she would like to be kissed," (CHANEL, 2012, October 5th) she is found suspicious of hypnotizing women that women should allure men. Besides her quotation, the emphasis on the linkage between Chanel No.5 and Marilyn Monroe is another proof of the reification of the female. In the two latest advertising video clips (CHANEL, 2012, October 5th; CHANEL, 2012, November 16th), it appears that the brand Chanel use Marilyn Monroe as a gimmick to attract customers to buy Chanel No.5. In the video clips, Chanel repeatedly uses Marilyn Monroe's interview answer which referenced her preferred and most frequently sprayed fragrance, through mentioning that the only thing she wore to bed was Chanel No.5 (CHANEL, 2012, October 5th), which secured Chanel No.5's position in perfumery history (CHANEL, 2012, October 5th; Keen et al., 2007). Together with the photos shot by MODERN SCREEN a year later, finding Marilyn poses on her bed nude, and most importantly, for Chanel branding in particular, in every image, a bottle of No.5 is found to be placed on her nightstand (CHANEL, 2012, November 16th); as well as the reports from London Daily Mail, stating that "Marilyn Monroe never had trouble attracting men," because "it appear[ed] her colourful love life may have been down to a simple choice - her perfume," (Mazzeo, 2010, p.xi); it appears that Chanel No.5 could win the love of the customers because women at that time believed that Chanel No.5 could help them "getting to boyfriend status," (Mazzeo, 2010, p.xiv) It reveals that women at that time, although strived for gender equity, they contradictorily objectified themselves with the desire of being another beauty creature like Marilyn Monroe; while ironically, the original mission of Coco Chanel branding is to help women in personal branding.
Overall, she succeeded in arousing female attention towards gender equity issue. She is the first one who expressed her political opinion through her unprecedented dressing style in fashion history. Her notable statements inspired numerous women beware of their appearance, as one's dressing style and sprayed perfume could reflect one's thinking and personality. However, the marketing strategies should be changed to make her brand consistent in the founder's political belief.
Besides political field, Coco Chanel's business success signified the economic environment in France and most of the European countries in wartime, when labour structure, in terms of gender, was changed. In wartime, male were away fighting in wars and fought for political power, while female were left behind for the economic development of the nations. The macro environment of which reveals the great demographic change in the societies. This implies that there were relatively adequate opportunities for many female to start their business and to obtain to the pre-man-dominated positions. The labour structure in terms of gender was imbalance that more female workers than male in the job market during wartime. This favorable condition was conducive for Coco Chanel to develop her business as well.
Besides external reasons, there were some internal reasons leading to Coco Chanel business success, which is her business sense. In the post-war time, the American soldiers were still in France, waiting for returning home for armistice. French fragrances were their most preferred souvenirs. Realizing the great potential purchasing power of American soldiers, Coco Chanel seized this opportunity by reintroducing Chanel No.5 to the market. Although it was unadvertised in France for decades after its invention, it was popular among the soldiers due to the words of mouths of French. She soon became one of the richest women at that time. She became a role model of many. Her business success inspired women at that time that even women could run their own business and could have a greater achievement than men.
Coco Chanel was not the only case of success women with independent economic power; it was, however, a general phenomenon. The great sales volume of Chanel No.5 implies that women at that time had great economic rights and power in purchasing such luxury goods. While the price of Chanel No.5 is maintained as high-end one persistently and the brand Chanel has never officially provided discounts to boost its sales volume with the concern of the may have down-gradation on its brand position; it appeared that most French women at that time could afford the price and purchase such goods which is traditionally considered as luxury, and even became loyalty members of the brand. This shows that French women at that time possibly had a certain economic power to purchase a luxury good like Chanel No.5. One of the reasons of their growing economic power is presumably they had succeeded in taking the fighting men's working position, which is mentioned in the previous paragraphs, and therefore became economically independent. This shows that the demographic feature in terms of female income level has changed.
This evidence reveals that there is not much difference in the ability and working performance in terms of gender, which breaks the stereotype that male is more capable than female. Such myth is unlikely to be broken if without the effort of feminists. Coco Chanel, one of the feminists, has played her role in gender equity as well. Her style of living as "a woman of her own" and her business success has demonstrated and inspired women at that time to rethink and reshape their position in the society.
Culturally, Chanel No.5, the most representative perfume of the brand Chanel ever, besides being endowed with the founder's liberal values, which is mentioned in above paragraphs, it materializes French nationality - imagination - as well. According to Ashton et al. (2004, p.357), the last factor in "the French psych-lexical study" - imagination, is "defined by terms related to creativity and unconventionality"; unlike other European countries such as Germany, which lexicon of imagination "is bias to intellect". This shows that French used to position themselves as creative and unconventional, even though Coco Chanel was ironically blamed due to this kind of behavior. In contrast, her perfume, Chanel No.5 gained dizzying success because of the same reason.
First, its fragrance texture is unconventionally rich. According to the video clip - CHANEL NÂ°5 - For the first time - Inside CHANEL, which conveys the events and people who led to the great success of Chanel No.5, Ernest Beaux, the perfumer of Chanel No.5 is repeatedly mentioned. In the age when perfume generally contained only single flower fragrance, he unprecedentedly combined over 80 scents in Chanel No.5, by which he could simultaneously realize and follow the humorous order from Coco Chanel, "a woman should smell like a woman but not a rose," May rose, Haitian vetiver, yiang-yiang, sandalwood, orange blossom, essence of Neroil, Brazilian Tonka beans, which are some scents involved in the perfume, radiate an extravagance floral richness in different level of notes. The combination of such number of scents into a perfume is regarded as a great breakthrough not only in perfumery history but also in the eye of French.
Second, the name of the fragrance is creative as well. It is named as No.5 as the number five was Coco Chanel's lucky number, and she believed in the magic behind this number, which could lead to a success of this fragrance. Coincidentally or intentionally, Chanel No.5 was introduced to the market on 5th May, 1921, on a date with double five. Although there is no scientific data proves whether her lucky number has brought the success of this fragrance or not, its achievement in perfumery is undeniable. Compared with the name of other brands' fragrances, which are tended to project a romantic image in order to attract women to purchase, Chanel No.5 gained the popularity by its simple yet memorable name.
As for the design of its bottle, No.5 has broken the rule again of being presented in "a simple laboratory flacon" (CHANEL, 2012, October 5th), which was different from the trend at that time that perfume bottles were generally aesthetically sophisticated. Inspired by the geometry of the place Vendome (CHANEL, 2012, October 5th; Mazzeo, 2010), Coco Chanel designed the bottle to be cut like a diamond. It becomes an icon of the 20th century, when it is honored by the MOMA of New York in 1959 (CHANEL, 2012, October 5th); and is further consecrated, when it is exhibited in "25 Years of Design", at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1983 (Keen et al., 2007, p.254). This once again shows Chanel's innovativeness.
Even in its advertising strategy, Chanel No.5 does not give up any chances to surprise the audience. In 2012, ninety one years after the introduction of No.5, Chanel controversially uses man, Brad Pitt, to be the representative of female fragrance. This, once again, shows that Chanel No.5 is a kind of realization of French personality - unconventionality.
Chanel No.5 is a true French fragrance ever, and beloved by not only French, but all around the globe. Even though it is over ninety years old now, it remains its irreplaceable position and remains a great market share, for which still successfully rates "most seductive scent" in poll of women. Its remarkable success results in the perfume being honored as the "legacy" of perfume. A perfume critic Chandler Burr even used the word "le monstre" - the monster, to describe the "terrible" achievement of this signature fragrance.
To conclude, the founder of Chanel, Coco Chanel, and her perfume, Chanel No.5, signify and reflect the situation of French society in 19th century in political, economic and cultural aspects. They are evidence of the rise of feminism and witnessed the break of myth of the superior of male.
In my opinion, Coco Chanel is a role model for many. In terms of liberalism, her style of living and the dressing style inspired and reminded women at that time female are no different from male in terms of ability. In economic perspective, her sensitive business and aesthetic sense are keys for her brand to remain high-end and irreplaceable position. In cultural aspect, there is no other perfume like Chanel No.5 could be endowed with numerous cultural values. Although they are both controversial in certain aspects, they are highly rated and praised by many, which could be evaluated and verified by the awards they won and the great sales volume they achieved; controversy even make them more popular.
Ashton, M. C., Lee, K., Perugini, M., Szarota, P., De Vries, R. E., Di Blas, L., & De Raad, B. (2004). A six-factor structure of personality-descriptive adjectives: solutions from psycholexical studies in seven languages.Â Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,Â 86(2), 356-366