Le Lion de Chanel, Lampoon
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Chanel, Paris. The symbolic value of the lion, the strength of Coco Chanel

The revelation of an untold aspect of the founder’s existence. From Coco Chanel’s zodiac sign, to the Lion of Venice which struck a chord with the founder and sealed her fate till death

Lion: a symbol for Chanel

For Chanel, the lion is not a fleeting representation used for the purpose of the current Le Lion de Chanel’s campaign. The lion embodies a portion of the brand’s DNA. Gabrielle Bonheur ‘Coco’ Chanel was born on the 19th of August 1883, under the fifth sign of the zodiac: Leo. Bonded with her astrological assignment from birth, Leo has cast a leading role in her life’s direction and creative pursuits. Furthermore, strengthening these ties was the lion’s association with Venice, a city from which the French fashion designer drew strength and creativity in times of hardship. Mourning the loss of her love, Arthur Edward ‘Boy’ Capel – an English socialite and polo player – in 1920, Chanel found herself in Venice for the first time. 

Surrounded by piazzas, the Lion of Venice (an ancient bronze statue on the Basilica of St. Mark’s facade located in Piazza San Marco) struck a chord with her. The strength and power which radiated from the winged creature resonated with the designer. Chanel’s fate was sealed. Lions would forever be associated with the brand. For Chanel, the symbol of the lion remains more than just an association with the animal’s characteristics. «I was born under the sign of Leo. Because I am a lion and, like him, I stick out my claws to prevent anyone from hurting me. But, believe me, I suffer more from scratching than from being scratched», once stated Gabrielle Chanel. For the designer – who passed on the 10th of January 1971 – the lion was a way of life, an attitude.

Chanel – L’Esprit du Lion

The brand Chanel was born in 1910 in Paris. Yet, it was a year before when the designer’s first brick-and-mortar location, a millinery shop named the House of Chanel, opened at 160 Boulevard Malesherbes in ‘The City of Light’. The lion has been present since day one and has endured over a century. It has subtly tied its way into its product line and branding – for example, Chanel No. 5, offering subtle references to the founder’s astrological assignment. Posthumously, the brand’s alliance with the feline continued. In 2010, a giant gold lion dominated the Chanel Haute Couture Fall Winter 2010-11 runway show. It has been the driving force of collections, including the 2012 Sous le Signe du Lion high jewelry collection: fifty-eight pieces featuring diamonds and gemstones which drew artistry from Byzantine mosaics and Venetian design; the lion, its poster child. 

Again in 2018 would a collection of high jewelry incited by the lion emblem reach the market. This time, L’Esprit du Lion: fifty-three creations of diamonds, gold, sapphires, beryls, and topaz. The latter collection is known to have drawn specific creativity from the lion in Gabrielle Chanel’s apartment on 31 rue Cambon in Paris. A space adorned with lions carved from wood, bronze, silver, and alabaster. Now passed, the designer’s resting place remains true to her affiliation with the iconic emblem. Five lion heads adorn her gravestone which lies in Bois-de-Vaux Cemetery in Lausanne, Switzerland. 

Le Lion de Chanel, Lampoon
Detail, The Lion of St. Mark among the Saints John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, Mary Magdalene and Jerome, Giambattista Cima da Conegliano e bottega, around 1500

Le Lion de Chanel

The fragrance Le Lion de Chanel was launched in the Middle East on the 8th of May 2020. However, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, its worldwide release was pushed back to the 7th of January 2021. This Chanel fragrance for men and women sits within Les Exclusifs de Chanel – a collection consisting of twenty-eight scents. The collection is «composed from rare and finely worked materials. Each of the fragrances evokes a fragment of Mademoiselle’s story, revealing the reliefs of her creative soul and her life as a woman», as Chanel’s website states. An extension to the Les Exclusifs de Chanel is symbolic to the brand. It is the revelation of an untold aspect of the founder’s existence. Le Lion is the latest addition. 

The concept behind this fragrance is to embody the woman behind the brand. Falling into the olfactory family of floral-aldehyde, Le Lion de Chanel consists of top notes of lemon and bergamot, middle notes of labdanum and amber, and base notes of Madagascar vanilla, patchouli, sandalwood, and musk. The nose of Chanel, Oliver Polge, developed the fragrance. He explains that the scent pays homage to the brand’s symbolic relationship with the lion. Oliver Polge is the successor of two perfumers who came before him at Chanel: Ernest Beaux, responsible for the creation of Chanel no. 5, and his father Jacques Polge, who created fragrances including Coco, Allure, Chance, Coco Mademoiselle, and Bleu, amongst others. 

The lion: a short story

From an historical perspective, depictions of lions and their symbolic significance are widespread. The first known cave paintings of lions – dating back 32,000 years to the Aurignacian period – endure in the Chauvet Cave, Lascaux, in the Ardèche department of Southeastern France. These primary images depicted lions as skillful creatures and proficient hunters of strength, strategy, and pride. Also, of the same period is the Löwenmensch (lion-man) figurine found in the Hohlenstein-Stadel cave in Germany, discovered in 1939 and carbon-dated to 35-40,000 years. In centuries to follow, the Bronze Age and Ancient Mesopotamia would be ripe with depictions of lions. 

Egyptians would, too, depict the war goddess Sekhmet as a lioness and one of the most significant cultural icons. The lion is today synonymous with ancient Egyptian culture and immortalized through impressive statues, illustrations, and early tomb paintings which date to circa 3,500 BC. European, African, and Asian countries share this cultural bent. The lion’s omnipresence is undeniable. Throughout the centuries, these representations of the feline fed into the present psyche as a timeless symbol of endurance, power, and determination – elements that support the vision of high perfume and jewelry.

Le Lion de Chanel

The perfume is an Amber fragrance for women and men launched in 2020. The nose behind this fragrance is Olivier Polge. Top notes are Bergamot and Lemon. Middle notes are Labdanum and Amber. While, base notes are Madagascar Vanilla, Patchouli, Sandalwood and Musk.

Paris Donnatella Callan

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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