If you would like an objective review of Gabrielle, kindly re-direct your attention elsewhere because we’ve fallen hard for this fragrance at The Accords (Laura will hopefully forgive me for revealing that the unboxing bloody well brought a tear to her eye it was so damn beautiful). It’s really a masterpiece of positioning, packaging, and marketing, each element en pointe, including of course the juice.
Actually, if you do find an objective Gabrielle review please let me know because I think at this point it’s almost impossible. Chanel’s legacy is legendary, the brand identity phenomenal and it shouldn’t surprise or offend that their offering to the emerging millennial market smells like this. I think it does capture an impression of (a fictional) Gabrielle’s brazen entrepreneurial spirit and distinct take on femininity.
Gabrielle opens with a mouth-wateringly bitter grapefruit peel, sparkling, like the clink of a perfectly composed Aperol spritz. There is sweetness in the fruit but it’s a sliver, submerged in the pleasing shiver of that first sip. It’s a looong sip too, as the scent takes its time to warm up on the skin, slowly morphing to a sweeter mandarin and then finally a bright orange blossom appears. Orange blossom and I don’t always get along. There’s a lolly water thing that can happen. That thing absolutely does not happen in Gabrielle.
Instead, Chanel’s house perfumer Olivier Polge proudly presents an imaginary flower, constructed with each component tipped towards its most appealing facet. So orange blossom, the first floral my nose finds, is lifted towards the top with that mandarin, an acidic bite along with sunny luminosity that allows jasmine to coil into it. Ylang-ylang is radiant, luscious and bright, its signature ripe banana scent just evident as it mingles with a mature handling of tuberose, grown in Grasse and seemingly having learned some French finesse in the fields. This tuberose is gently pulled towards the base with a subtle, tart-not-sweet blackcurrant note, and while of course musk gives further elongation to the parfum, it’s sandalwood that softly drifts off my skin by the end, elegant and simple, a relief after so many sour faux-patchouli scrubbing situations lately.
This is not the generic “white flower” of a thousand forgettable fragrances. Instead the richness and intensity of the elements are collaged together with confidence and authority. Like the transcendence of Gabrielle’s cool simplicity, Polge tailors each element to perfection to create an accord that is fairly linear but nonetheless keeps me sniffing my wrist. The ylang-ylang in particular is a delight, the indoles of jasmine and tuberose are perfectly dosed to create impressive realism in this pretend flower. There is an incredible sense of space in the scent, brightness and optimism and vibrancy, yet restraint.
Gabrielle is not a scent sold with sex. There’s no Orlando Bloom-eque character at the edge of shot, bow tie loose around an open shirt. Gabrielle is not designed to entice boys, or impress girls – there’s no squad of Hadids hanging around either. Chanel’s femininity is created with a nod to the masculine (the inclusion of a tiny amount of cool fresh vetiver in the scent, identified by noses much cleverer than mine, explains this vibe).
She stands alone, individual.
Comparing this to vintage N°5 or even Coco Mademoiselle doesn’t really interest me (although there is definitely a Coco vibe when comparing both on the skin, Coco being more seductive with its gourmand patchouli/vanilla vibe). Instead, put Gabrielle in the ring with Elie Saab’s Girl of Now, or face K-Stew’s fierce profile off with Charlize Theron’s bosomy, sheath-wrapped J’Adore silhouette to really get the masterfully coolness of this scent. Gabrielle manages to be fresh and luminous without losing her substance: beauty and brains and a decent dose of not giving a fuck.
And yeah I want to buy into that. There’s space to grow when wearing her, space to move. She’s the real girl of now, just as she was then.