Faces of Chanel, past and present

Faces of Chanel, past and present

Chanel No.5, the legendary Parisian fragrance created by Gabrielle Coco Chanel and her perfumer Ernest Beaux more than 90 years ago, continues to reign when it comes to global sales. Its secret? A ground-breaking fragrance, yes, but also an ability to change with the times. With the superstar Brad Pitt debuting as the new face of the iconic scent, we are reminded of the stellar lineup of talents who have epitomized the brand over the past more than 50 years and who have helped move the brand forward, making it perpetually modern and desirable. We track that evolving style through Chanel’s most famous faces since 1955.

Brad Pitt, 2012: Okay, maybe Pitt captures the zeitgeist—he is, most definitely, one of the men of this generation—and we do love the idea of a man talking about the fantasy of a woman in perfume. But the commercial leaves us a bit underwhelmed. Instead of talking, we kinda wish the shaggy-haired actor was just watching. Or maybe he could be silently dabbing No.5 on an Angelina-like beauty in the twilight. No words. Just watching. Now that would be sexy.

Check out the commercial for yourself.

Before Brad:

Marilyn Monroe, 1955: The blond bombshell needs no introduction, but her turn as an ambassadress for the No. 5 brand helped made the perfume famous. A year before she became an official Chanel face, the tragic heroine famously quipped, “What do I wear in bed? Why, Chanel No. 5, of course.”

Suzy Parker, 1957: Known for her ravishing red hair and great bones, Parker was the precursor of the supermodel. She was, according to a report by CBS news, the highest paid model of the ’50s, earning $200 an hour. Her filmography also includes her debut in Funny Face (1957) and her TV credits list The Twilight Zone and Tarzan.

Ali McGraw, 1966: The iconic beauty of the 1970s was named by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world in 1991. She hit the bigtime with her turn in the 1968 flick Goodbye Columbus and then famously fled her marriage with director Robert Evans for the sexy renegade Steve McQueen in 1972, after falling madly in love with him during the making of The Getaway.

Lauren Hutton, 1968: The all-American actress starred in American Gigolo (1980) but is perhaps more famous for her innumerable appearances on the cover of Vogue magazine and her signature gap-toothed smile.

Cheryl Tiegs, 1969: In addition to her Chanel gig, the American model was shooting with Vogue and Elle when she landed one of her most famous fashion opportunities—a spot in the 1978 edition of Sports Illustrated in a now famous white bikini. That led also to a lucrative Cover Girl cosmetics contract.

Jean Shrimpton, 1971: This English model and actress, an icon of Swinging Sixties London, helped make the miniskirt a movement—not to mention long straight hair, bangs and doe eyes.

Catherine Deneuve in 1972: This grand dame of French cinema with a CV spanning more than four decades which includes such classics as Belle de Jour (1967) and The Hunger (1983), was also muse and friend to Yves Saint Laurent. She continues to epitomize the chic of Chanel 40 years after she posed for the brand.

Carole Bouquet in 1993: Whether because of her relationships with Gerard Depardieu or James Bond (she was a Bond Girl in For Your Eyes Only, 1981), Bouquet remains a beauty to be watched. Not the least because her countenance was immortalized by the house that Gabrielle built.

Estella Warren in 2002: From a life as a synchronized swimmer in Peterborough, ON, Canada, to the runways of the world, Warren truly reached her pop-culture peak when she was named the pout of the famous Chanel spritz. She delivered coquettish sex appeal in her Little Red Riding Hood for No.5 commercial.

Nicole Kidman in 2005: From Chanel to Cruise—plus an Academy Award (Best Actress for The Hours, 2002) and a marriage with country music star Keith Urban—Kidman’s life and work and couture-wearing habits is manna from heaven for tabloid editors. 

Audrey Tautou in 2009: It’s no coincidence that this French actress was signed as a face for the legendary fragrance brand: She played Coco Before Chanel, a 2009 French film directed by Anne Fontaine about France’s most famous couturier. Tautou is also well known for her silver screen roles in Amélie (2001) and The Da Vinci Code (2006).


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This article was written by

Deborah Fulsang has spent the last two decades as a journalist covering news and trends in the worlds of style—in fashion and beauty, design and décor, food and entertaining. Her long-held love of fragrance led her to launch The Whale & The Rose, a destination for all things perfume-related. Now, when she indulges in a crazy-expensive bottle of fragrance, she can do so guilt-free. Well almost. It’s all in the name of research after all.