Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Other No. 5!

Did you know that there was another perfume named No 5 apart from the now famous and somewhat cheapened Chanel No 5? There was a common trend for the couturiers of the day to affix a numeral to their perfumes in lieu of an actual name which still continues to this day. Funny thing is both Chanel’s No 5 and Molyneux’s No 5 (or Numero Cinq as it was known as in France) were in eerily similar bottles, so there could be some credence in the story related below.

There are two mutually exclusive stories about Numéro Cinq. Apparently Molyneux had befriended Chanel, and together they hatched the idea of each bringing out a perfume called No 5 the same day in 1921, to see whose perfume would be more popular. The outcome of that contest is no longer in doubt, but this version of the story says that Molyneux’ Cinq was far ahead of Chanel’s for several years. The other (recorded in Nigel Groom’s excellent Perfume Handbook) is that Molyneux brought out several perfumes at once in 1925 named after different addresses of the firm: 3, 14 and Numéro Cinq. Molyneux’s Numero Cinq was also referred to as “Le Parfum Connu” (The Known Perfume) to avoid troubles with Chanel. Either way, fashion designers clearly had more of a sense of humor then than now.

Unfortunately for Le Numero Cinq the perfume languished until the early 70’s until it just faded away. Molyneux had retired so the name was not as well known, unlike Chanel who had regained her market share from the mid 50’s after her comeback. As to what the perfume smelt like I have absolutely no idea, which is a shame.

The Molyneux trademark is owned by French company, Parfums Berdoues, and though the fashion component of the firm remains dormant, the firm still produces scents, such as Captain (1975), Quartz (1978), Le Chic, Vivre, I Love You and Quartz Pure Red (2008).


  1. Ohhh...a super fun history lesson! This is why I adore stopping by your blog, dear David! I always leave a bit smarter and def. more cultured.

    I wonder desperately what this no. 5 may have smelled like?!?!

    xx Cat

    ps. You are such a well spooken chap...I love it! I wish that we had an elevensese tea trolley come around the office still :)

  2. How weird! I usually love everything Chanel but No.5 is something I really cant stand. Don't know why when so many people love it.


  3. I had never heard this interesting story of the contest between Molyneux and Chanel. Chanel is so obsessively protective of image, trademarks, logo and signatures, that they would likely loathe for this to be revived. Since when does anybody have rights to a particular numeral or letter of the alphabet?

    I particularly like the Molyneux Vivre bottle and have it in a few different sizes. All the spray bottles now are clumsy, gimmicky, and lacking elegance. Great story. Thank you.

  4. Mr SWF, Are the Molyneux Vivre bottles the very geometric ones, with jagged bottoms and tops? If so this would have to be one of my most favourite bottles of all time!

  5. Hello
    Molyneux nr 5 was the favourite perfume of our Queen Astrid of Belgium.
    I putted a link of your blog on my page by Facebook.
    Astrid van België - Zweden
    Kind regards

  6. Daisy, many thanks for your visit. I did not know this. How interesting! What is your facebook?

  7. Hi David, Edward Molyneux was my great Uncle, I have the archive, Le Numero Cinq bottles et al.. feel free to get in touch



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