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Boy, the scented trace of a beloved man

July 31 2018

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The perfumer Olivier Polge entered the House of Chanel in 2013 and since then he has been trying to tell Gabrielle Chanel's life with scented notes. In 2016, he launched Boy, named after the great love of the seamstress. But how to get a love story into a bottle? - Isabelle Cerboneschi.

The scented topicality of Chanel this year, are the perfumes Paris-Deauville, Paris-Biarritz, Paris-Venice. Fragrances that are a kind of short biography of the life of Gabrielle Chanel.

Olivier Polge, the creator of Chanel perfumes, chose to capture the key moments, those that allowed this young woman to take the social lift and become the most famous name in fashion. He seized it at the beginning, three years after she set up her first milliner's workshop at 21 rue Cambon: he personifies her when she creates her first shop in Deauville then that of Biarritz with his workshops. He tells happy moments of her life, especially her trips to Venice with her friends Misia and José Maria Sert. Moments like so many levels that will lead to success.

But it's not that success story that I wanted to explore today. It is a more personal episode of her life, beautiful, painful and essential, her most beautiful and sadest love story, the one she lived with Arthur Capel nickname Boy and which gave rise to the perfume Boy, launched in 2016.

At the edge of the old national road 7, Puget-sur-Argens in France, a monument composed of a cross placed on three steps and lost in an industrial zone, sports this epitaph: "In memory of Captain Arthur Capel, Legion of Honour of the British Army, accidentally died in this place on 22nd December 1919".

Gabrielle Chanel and Boy Capel had met at Royallieuowned by Etienne Balsan, of which Coco was "the irregular," as the mistresses were called at that time. Balsan was an orphan and had the rich idea of ​​being born into a wealthy family of Châteauroux, owner of a textile factory: Balsan factories.

The man loved a joyous and light life. At his home the big world and the half-world lived side by side. Boy Capel shared with his friend the love of horses. And quickly, that of Gabrielle Chanel. Balsan faded in front of Capel. The latter gave the young woman the culture she had not received; the taste for art, reading, the world of symbols and esotericism. The taste of love too.

"He's the only man I loved. (...). I never forgot it. He was the great chance of my life; I had met a being who did not demoralise me. He had a very strong, singular personality, a fiery and concentrated nature; he trained me, he knew how to develop in me what was unique, at the expense of the rest. "*

Boy Capel was the man who believed in her. In 1910, he loaned her the money needed to set up her milliner's workshop on the floor, at 21 rue Cambon, then went on to open her first shop in Deauville three years later. All he paid she paid back in full, not wishing to be maintained by anyone. " I thought I had you given you a toy, i got you give it liberté "He will say to her.

In 1918, despite the feelings that bind them, Arthur Capel makes a marriage of reason and wife Diana Wyndham, born Lister, in 1918. He will give her a child. The second was on the way. According to rumours, Boy was close to divorce in December 1919, wishing to settle with the woman he loved.

On the 22nd of December, on a country road, a Rolls Royce rolls at a brisk pace. The tire bursts. The car rocks in the ditch. The driver is injured but Boy Capel loses his life in the accident. Gabrielle Chanel, prevented immediately, takes the road, but arrives too late: the coffin had already been closed. The funeral was celebrated the following day, at Fréjus with military honours due him being a commander of the Order of the British Empire. "I lost while losing Capel", she will say years later.

It is she who made build the cross which borders the RN-D7. She came to bloom for years. The stele, long neglected and tarnished by years and oblivion, has just been restored.

How to make fit all this love story that ends badly, the memory of this madly loved man, in a bottle? Olivier Polge was inspired by the images of the time, which revealed the elegance of Arthur Capel, his panache when he rides, his muscular body, the surprisingly contemporary manhood, tanning in the sun when he goes to the beach in Saint Jean de Luz with Coco Chanel.

The perfumer chose to create a fougère; this classic accord of perfumery, with timeless notes of lavender and geranium, coumarin and moss, which he warmed with oriental, woody (sandalwood) and musky notes. He was interested in the note of Geranium rosat, which has both feminine (the pink) and masculine aspects (its mint side).

The perfume Boy, despite his name, is neither man nor woman. It is perhaps thus, by creating a fragrance without kind, that one can best tell this story of fusional love. Boy could be the memory, the trace left by the caress of a man on the skin of a beloved woman ...

* Quote from Gabrielle Chanel extracted from L’Allure de Chanel de Paul Morand, Editions Hermann, 1996.