Postcard from Deauville: Champagne at the races to fete Les Eaux de Chanel
Smells like a summer holiday
Summer in Europe, specifically Deauville, a 'Parisian Riviera', the stylish seaside resort town on the Normandy coast complete with chic boutiques, casinos, racecourses, and that seafront boardwalk with bathing cabins dating back to the 1920s—what a romantic idea. Deauville is also where Gabrielle Chanel, with the help of Boy Capel, set up her first fashion boutique on rue Gontaut-Biron, right across the street from the casino in Deauville. Even more romantic, a lunchtime train ride on the legendary Orient Express from Paris to Deauville but alas, French rail strikes meant that we had to opt for something lesser—a car ride to Deauville will have to do.
We're here for the launch of Chanel's latest fragrance collection, Les Eaux de Chanel (literally translated into 'The Waters of Chanel'), which comprises three eaux de toilette fragrances, Paris - Deauville, Paris - Biarritz, and Paris - Venise.
First up, the beach. Walking along the beachfront boardwalk, or Les Planches, past the old wooden bathing cabins, each named after actors who've attended the American Film Festival held in Deauville every year, we soon arrived at the Chanel beach. Entirely done up in black and white, there were faux cabins on either side of the beach, rows of deck chairs, a beach bar, and a large double C logo marking the centre of the Chanel beach. A signboard with signs pointing to Paris, Deauville, Biarritz and Venise paid subtle homage to the new fragrances. We were each given a placard with our names on it to personalise our cabins with. Sitting at my cabin and enjoying the gentle breeze (after having taken a hundred photos for the 'Gram), I appreciated how the overcast grey-blue sky highlighted the beigeness of the sand—the exact shade that became Gabrielle Chanel's favourite colour, which can now be found on a variety of things, like the two-tone shoes or on the classic flap bag. It was also in Deauville where Gabrielle Chanel found constant inspiration—then seen in the fisherman-inspired striped jersey sweater, sailor pants, and beach pyjamas, all of which she sold at her Deauville boutique, which was considered bold and revolutionary in the early 20th century.
And it's perhaps in this setting that I'm biased towards the Paris - Deauville scent; orange rind, petit grain, and basil leaf, with a heart of rose and jasmine that further opens up to notes of patchouli. "I developed all three scents together," perfumer Olivier Polge tells us later at the Chanel villa, set high up in the hills with views of the sea in the distance. "I felt it was important; I couldn't finish one before the other. They are counterparts and they all have clear territories. Aside from characterising Les Eaux de Chanel as fresh, sparkling and fluid, I would describe Paris - Deauville as being aromatic woody, Paris - Biarritz as floral musky, and Paris - Venise as oriental."
The bottle itself took Chanel a couple of years to perfect. An airy, minimalist design, the rounded edges of the bottle fit in the palm of the hand perfectly, while its unique pump allows for a longer diffusion of the fragrance, creating an enveloping mist that generously perfumes the wearer. "I would not dare to say how people should wear fragrance," says Polge. "You could call them summer fragrances, but if they make you think of the sun, perhaps in the middle of winter you would want to wear it. I think that Paris - Biarritz is perhaps more casual and has an easy freshness to it, Deauville probably has a depth that makes it slightly more dressed up."
And dressed up was the crowd at the Deauville-Clairefontaine racecourse that evening, where guests were invited to place their bets on the horses at the Grand Prix Les Eaux de Chanel. A total of five horses were racing: No.5 Gabrielle Chanel, No. 18 Comète Étoilée, No. 19 Lion Astral, No. 22 Floral Aldéhydé, and No. 31 Boy Capel. Called harness racing, the horses race at a trot while pulling a two-wheeled cart occupied by the jockey. While, the horses I chose, Gabrielle Chanel and Boy Capel, didn't win, the races were a lot of fun and set the mood for the dinner and party to follow.
Food stalls were set up in the courtyard of the racecourse and we dined under the stars, feasting on freshly shucked oysters, charcuterie platters, mini burgers and pasta cooked to order. As the dessert tables laid indoors were announced open, that was also the cue for partygoers to hit the dancefloor, dancing the night away to the catchy, melodic tunes of French 'dreampop' singer, Owlle.
Fresh, sparkling, fluid, summer in Deauville certainly does smell of that, and it's a scent (or scents, rather) that I will not soon forget.
Watch all the highlights in the video below:
Les Eaux de Chanel is now available at all Chanel Fragrance & Beauty boutiques.