Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


The Chanel Project: Chance


Upon my first wearing of Chance, I decided that I felt about perfumes the same way I feel about books: awwww, all of them should be loved by someone somewhere.

I’m dead serious about this. I worry about how inanimate objects feel, especially about whether or not they feel lonely and unloved. I used to tuck in all my dolls every night, and to this day when I find something old and unused at the bottom of a drawer my first thought is “Poor thing, you must have been lonely.”

Fortunately Chance has its lovers. You can find plenty of people on the internet singing of their love for this 2003 Chanel creation. If I had to guess, I would assume that most of them are people without too many bottles of perfume in their collection. I say this in all seriousness, because if they had any broader experience of perfume, they might think of Chance as I do: the blandest expression of perfumes of the last decade, an absolutely nondescript perfume that opens with unidentifiable fruits and closes with unidentifiable woods, the kind of perfume that gave rise to the term “fruitchouli”. Which is not an accolade.

Even when wearing it all day, I have trouble remembering what I’m wearing. There is nothing distinctive about Chance, nothing at all.

But the people who love it find it to be that elusive combination of fresh and sensual that American perfume buyers are always looking for, the kind that reminds them of nothing actually sexual or natural. (Thanks to perfume writer Barbara Herrman for tweeting that story.) It is what they wanted.

Chance doesn’t appear in the top selling perfumes of the year that one finds posted at perfume blog Bois de Jasmin. Coco Mademoiselle – which is only fruitier and cleaner – consistently outsells it.

So imagine the “rebel” who actually buys and wears Chance and what it must smell like to them compared to the other big American sellers. Chance is much warmer and more “sensual” (meaning with a base that includes some cleaned up reference to “wood” as well as “musk”) than its better-selling sister. It’s less of a sugarbomb than Flowerbomb, and far more elegant and evocative of classic perfumery than Light Blue. Of course they love their Chance!

I’m glad this perfume has people to love it. Perhaps those people wouldn’t like perfumes that are actually heavy with wood or warmer notes like amber or myrrh even if they smelled them. After all, every American consumer has had the chance to wear Angel and they’re choosing Chance over that. As someone who loves expanding horizons I’d love for them to try House of Matriarch’s Bohemian Black, Soivohle’s Amun-Re Tears of Ra, Jalaine’s Patchouli oil, even Amouage Fate. But they don’t need to. They found Chance and they’re happy with it.

Every perfume should have someone who loves it.

Image is “gambling woman” by (the world through highland cattle’s eyes), via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license; some rights reserved.

Bookmark or Share

6 comments to The Chanel Project: Chance

  • Ari

    This very sweet review has inspired me to share: Chance was my very first perfume. I bought it at age 13 with eight weeks of allowance at the Herald Square Macy’s after seeing an ad in Seventeen Magazine. Ten years later, it still holds a special place in my heart as My New York Perfume. And I much prefer it to Coco Mademoiselle, which is so goddamn loud.

    • Judith

      Aww! See, that’s awesome! Chance deserves someone to love it and who better than you?

      Really, I read women everywhere who looooove this perfume. It’s got it going on. We will not look down on it for not being one of the ritzier Chanels. We will celebrate it for snagging the hearts of so many scent lovers.

  • Das

    “blandest expression of perfumes of the last decade” – this is exactly how I feel about it! Thank you for speaking the truth. I’m so confused how it can be so popular, but I guess it’s like iceberg lettuce (which I personally don’t see the point of). 🙂
    I feel for inanimate objects sometimes too, but usually only plants. I can’t bring myself to prune them sometimes because of it. Gah! 😀

    • Judith

      Well, I tried to explain why *I* thought it was so popular – compared to what it most often gets compared with, it’s downright rebelicious! 🙂

      • Das

        Oh and I meant to add that I’m no stranger to ‘bland expressions’ myself. I own some doozies that get absolutely no love on the fumey blogosphere and I have to spray them secretly in a dark closet. For example: what’s the problem with Light Blue? Luca Turin’s review of it floored me, haha 😀 To me, it smells like lemons in a bowl of ice and who wouldn’t want to smell like that? Lol

        • Judith

          Ah, interesting questions. I know what MY problem with Light Blue is: it smelled to me like a nice variation on Cool Water (which I loooooooved, wore exclusively for years before I fell down the rabbithole), and then toward the end it turned weird – I suspect one of the commoner scent molecules anchoring the base and with a bit too much. As you may have read, the most popular perfumes tend to have an overdose of something – aldehydes in Chanel No. 5, vanillin in Shalimar, fake patchouli in Angel, and maybe something like Iso E Super in Light Blue. I think it is just that overdose that tends to polarize reactions to these big, popular perfumes. So I would suspect something like that at play.

          I was damning Light Blue with faint praise: I don’t think it’s TRYING to be elegant or evocative of classical perfumery, either. It is a different category altogether, of course.

          I wish it smelled like lemons in a bowl of ice to me; you’re right, that sounds awesome!

          Also I think perfumistas are generally snobs (I’m not excluding myself). I’ve never seen anyone on the perfume boards debate the merits of Philosophy perfumes, for instance, even when they used to be good, and few will admit to owning a $4 Al-Rehab oil (though those are good too). I’ve also discovered over the years that perfumistas as a group tend to love chypres, then orientals, then a very influential group who adores Big White Florals and some related things, and a separate subgroup that likes to squabble about gourmands. God help you if you admit to liking an aquatic or a floriental. They’re very fashionable in the public but not among perfumistas. So it is what it is. (Most perfumistas’ collections appear to include a lot of things that don’t get chatted up on the boards. I love it when they talk about their least lauded perfumes.)

Leave a Reply to Das Cancel reply