How do you feel about Chanel Coco Mademoiselle? Chances are good your answer will say a lot about how you will like Chanel Gabrielle. From first sniff, Gabrielle brings to my mind images of Coco Mademoiselle stuffing her arms into one of Chanel No. 5 Eau Première’s ruffled chiffon dresses. After wearing Gabrielle off and on for a week, my feelings haven’t changed. To me, Gabrielle smells like a Coco Mademoiselle flanker.
Chanel house perfumer Olivier Polge developed Gabrielle. Chanel describes Gabrielle as “an imaginary flower — a radiant and sparkling, purely feminine Chanel blossom based on a bouquet of four white flowers: a rich, enveloping heart of exotic Jasmine shimmers with the fruity green notes of Ylang-Ylang, while fresh and sparkling Orange Blossom shines through, offering a glimpse of Grasse Tuberose captured at its finest.” (Additional notes include blackcurrant, grapefruit zest, mandarin peel, sandalwood and white musk.)
To which I add, stick that bouquet in a giant vase of Coco Mademoiselle, and you’ve got it.
But I’m starting off on the wrong foot. Some of you — many, for sure — adore Coco Mademoiselle. I’m not among you. To me, Coco Mademoiselle smells wonderful in passing, on other people, but its woody musk combined with the vanilla and patchouli lurking in its spices sends me for the Pepto Bismol after half an hour. Then again, Coco Mademoiselle was designed with younger women than I am in mind. So was Gabrielle.
Okay, I’m still on the wrong foot. Let’s rewind. Gabrielle’s packaging is gorgeous. The Eau de Parfum comes in a square bottle of delicate glass molded to look like it’s delicately quilted in five squares, with a gold label with raised black lettering settled into the center square. The box sticks to Chanel’s classic design, but instead of being white with black edges, it’s gold with white edges. The packaging, combined with the graceful name Gabrielle (Chanel’s real first name, by the way) begs for a feminine, sheer fragrance that forgoes trends.
Straight from the bottle, Gabrielle is gently floral, with a clean wash of orange blossom and a helping of jasmine and sweet rose that’s juicier than it is dry. But within three minutes, it starts going Coco Mademoiselle. Gabrielle thickens and sweetens in the particular vanilla-wood-musk combination that, to me, at least, is a recognizable signature. And that signature smells of ten to fifteen years ago, and the host of wannabes that followed Coco Mademoiselle’s launch. Gabrielle lasts most of the day on skin and has vigorous sillage for such tender looking packaging.
I wore Coco Mademoiselle on one arm and Gabrielle on the other to check my impression, and it stuck. Coco Mademoiselle is darker, spicier, and deeper than Gabrielle’s lighter, more floral, more girlish vibe, but they’re sisters for sure, especially on skin. On paper, Gabrielle stands out more distinctly as a clean floral. Whether on paper or on skin, you’re not likely to confuse the two fragrances, but you’d probably point to Gabrielle and say, “That reminds me of something. Wait, I've got it — Coco Mademoiselle.”
So, we’re back to the beginning. How do you feel about Coco Mademoiselle? If you love it and have been looking for its garden party sibling, get yourself to a tester of Gabrielle right away. If you, like me, admire Chanel and were hoping for something new, something with its own singular identity, you won’t find it here.
Chanel Gabrielle Eau de Parfum will be available at Chanel boutiques on August 19 — Coco Chanel’s birthday — and on September 1 in department stores. A 100 ml bottle will be $135, and a 50 ml bottle will also be available.