The Stories Behind the Most Famous Fragrances of All Time

Fascinating facts about Chanel N°5, Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue, and more.

Take a spritz down memory lane. These are the backstories behind some of the most timeless bottles that have decorated our vanities over the years. 

Chanel N°5

During a 1921 trip to Monte Carlo with the Great Duke Dmitri of Russia, a cousin to the tsar, Coco Chanel met up with two of her artist friends. Over conversation, the idea of Chanel launching a perfume arose. At the time, fashion designers’ and perfumers’ crafts rarely overlapped, so it was a novel idea. Soon after, Chanel asked established perfumer, Ernest Beaux, to create a fragrance that reflected her modern approach to high fashion, leading to the birth of the iconic N°5.

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue

With sparkling notes of lemon, apple, and woods, Light Blue captures the essence of Sicily. Master perfumer, Olivier Cresp, had "summer in the Mediterranean" in mind when he created this fresh yet feminine spritz. Named to evoke visions of the sea, the fresh citrus blend has become synonymous with effortless luxury.

Guerlain Shalimar

After reading the love story of Shah Jehan and his wife, Princess Mumtaz Mahal, in the book A Thousand and One Nights, Jacques Guerlain was inspired to bring their romance to life in the form of a perfume. Shalimar, named for the historic gardens in the tale, made its debut in 1925 and was the first oriental fragrance juice. Between its exotic aroma of citrus, vanilla, iris and tonka, and its unique bottle (designed to channel the curves of Indian fountains), the scent became the go-to spritz for women across the world.

Chloé Eau de Parfum

When the French fashion house decided to launch a debut fragrance, one thing was certain—it would be as chic as their designs. Not only is the aroma a modern take on the traditional rose, but its bottle was fashioned after a feminine blouse through its pleated glass, a silver-dipped collar, and a dainty hand-tied bow.


Dior Diorissimo

Christian Dior’s favorite flower was the lily of the valley. He considered it so lucky, he even made it the emblem of his brand. Naturally, he also used it as inspiration for this delicate yet daring scent in 1956.

Acqua di Parma Colonia

One look at an Acqua di Parma bottle instantly transports you to the Italian countryside. This association is no accident: The luxury fragrance brand was started by Carlo Magnani, an heir to a noble family in the city of Parma. He created this intoxicating mix of Sicilian fruits, rose, vetiver and sandalwood in a small essential oil workshop in 1916. A hundred and one years later, the formulation remains unchanged thanks to its classic, refined aroma.

Calvin Klein CK One

For anyone experiencing nineties nostalgia, one whiff of CK One will instantly bring back visions of Klein’s provocative denim ad campaigns. The fragrance was formulated to be like your favorite pair of jeans—simple and refreshing—touting notes of pineapple, jasmine, and amber. It was also intended to be used lavishly all over your body. Launched in 1994, it was the first fragrance to ever be sold at a music chain (CK One was available at Tower Records store across the country) and its mass appeal made it one of the top-selling launches of all time.

Yves Saint Laurent Opium

In the wake of presenting his Chinese Couture collection, Yves Saint Laurent began to dream up a fragrance for the Empress of China. Always being attracted to the seductive and exotic side of things, this spicy floral came to fruition forty years ago. The eau de toilette was designed to mirror the inro (an ornate lacquered container that hung from belts in traditional oriental garb) and instantly ignited controversy due to its taboo name, Opium.


Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds

As the saying goes, diamonds are a girl’s best friend. For Elizabeth Taylor, this was especially the case. The Hollywood legend, known for her love of the finer things in life, never left the house without two things: Fragrance and her diamonds. Deciding that all women should have something that makes them feel absolutely fabulous, the idea for White Diamonds was born. Taylor based the perfume’s profile off her expansive jewelry collection and her Bel-Air gardens—to the extent that sixty-seven fresh flowers are used to make each bottle.

Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb

This provocative floral scent was intended to reflect the avant-garde nature of the designer’s runway presentations. Flowerbomb plays off the energy of their clothes with an eclectic combination of tea, bergamot, patchouli and an explosion of flowers like orchid, rose, and freesia. To give the blend an equally dreamy appearance, Viktor and Rolf chose to package it in a multi-faceted diamond shaped bottle— a design which has gone on to become one of the most recognizable vanity staples.

This story originally appeared on
* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Maddy Zollo Rusbosin
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