Every woman alive loves Chanel N°5, and none perhaps more so than vintage perfume collector, Janice. Never throwing away a box or a bottle, Jan has been collecting Chanel toiletries for over 30 years, storing every detail down to the cellophane in her cosy Bournemouth cottage. To mark our collectors issue Vintage Heirloom took a trip to the coast to discover one lady’s love affair with the world’s favourite fragrance.
VH: JANICE, HOW WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO CHANEL N°5?
I was first bought Chanel N°5 as a Christmas present and I thought it was lovely! I’ve tried a lot of perfume in the past but nothing’s ever compared, so I’ve built a wonderful collection of bottles over the years. My favourites are the sprays. I like to be extravagant with them, for example when it comes to that tiny bit in the bottom my bedroom gets sprayed. Chanel N°5 is my equivalent to air fresher before people come round to my house. It’s my ultimate luxury!
VH: OUT OF YOUR COLLECTION DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE CHANEL PIECE
Always the Chanel N°5 perfume, it’s my ultimate favourite. I love the pleasure of buying it, getting it home and undoing the wrapping – I even keep the cellophane! For me it’s the whole experience, which is as wonderful now as it was when I first started using it, the girls in the shops are just charming. Although when someone else buys it for you and it comes gift-wrapped that’s lovely too!
VH: WHAT MADE YOU START COLLECTING CHANEL TOILETRIES?
It all started with the perfume. I have always been a box person and I love anything gift-wrapped, I’m very much into presentation. I couldn’t bear to throw the boxes and ribbons away so I just started putting them in a big trunk. Then one day I thought I could put this on display. When I got it all out I really started to realise how lovely some of the packaging was. My ambition is to get one of the big dummy bottles that you see in the department stores.
VH: OVER ALL YOUR YEARS OF COLLECTING HOW DO YOU THINK CHANEL HAS CHANGED?
I don’t think the smell of Chanel N°5 has changed at all. I have noticed it used to come with extravagantly wide Chanel ribbon and now it’s really tiny and you get far fewer stickers but overall the quality is still firmly there.
VH: HAVE YOU ONLY EVER WORN CHANEL N°5?
Since I was 20! Over the years it has become my personal scent. People comment that it doesn’t smell the same on their skin. Having lived with the fragrance for so long I feel it’s a part of me now, within my clothes, bedding, and house it’s the signature smell for all aspects of my life! If I was down to my last £100 Chanel N°5 would be top of my list. I wear it without fail, even when gardening. I always have a bottle by the door and I don’t leave my house without spraying it, you never know who you’re going to meet!
VH: HOW QUICKLY DO YOU GET THROUGH A BOTTLE?
I receive Chanel N°5 every Christmas and birthday without fail, plus I buy it for myself, so around six a year. All my friends will say ‘Jan is spraying her perfume, quick stand behind her!’ as I can be quite extravagant with it. I always carry one in my handbag. Always! Every bag! Chanel bags and perfumes are always in rotation.
VH: WALKING INTO YOUR COTTAGE YOU’RE IMMEDIATELY FILLED WITH THE SCENT OF CHANEL. DO PEOPLE SMELL YOU BEFORE THEY SEE YOU?
Even at the local shop I get comments like ‘Oh Jan’s around!’ You’re right, they can smell me coming before I arrive! If I didn’t have Chanel N°5I wouldn’t feel myself. It’s an everyday part of me. I have had people comment that I’m wasteful with it but I’ve never thought that. To me it’s a bargain. There is nothing else like it. Nothing that can ever compare.