Chanel and Es Devlin team up to install ‘Five Echoes’ in Miami – WWD
Following a series of celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Chanel No.5, a new installation looks back at the brand’s heritage – and the future of nature.
Starting Tuesday, the brand’s Es Devlin-designed installation, “Five Echoes” – which combines themes of sustainability with motifs from Gabrielle Chanel’s own life – will be open to the public until December 21. Admission is free, with online ticketing available. now.
The overlap between Art Basel Miami Beach and Miami Art Week presents a busy week for Chanel. The brand is opening a new 7,600 square foot store in Miami’s Design District and will also host a light show via drone technology on Miami’s Faena Beach on December 1.
The festivities around No.5, however, spanned 2021 and took different forms on different continents. Chanel commemorated the perfume’s centenary with a new fine jewelry collection, a limited-edition product line and a party at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.
Olivier Polge, the creator of Chanel’s in-house perfumer, said that while it is the undisputed most famous perfume of the house, it also forms the basis for all of the brand’s subsequent fragrances.
“No.5 is the center of our identity in terms of fragrances, and today we create fragrances at Chanel because of No.5,” Polge told WWD. “In Gabrielle Chanel’s time, you had fashion on one side and scent on the other, and they weren’t related. Chanel was the first fashion designer to have such an intuition: that these two different areas are strongly linked, and in a way, that perfume is an expression of style. Most of our identity can be explained by # 5.
Polge first joined Devlin in 2016, when Chanel asked the set designer to create “Mirror Maze” for a five-day installation in London. “Being brought back to a commitment to life through your senses is the main thing I learned from Olivier [Polge]”Devlin said.” He is someone who deals with the present and the experiences of the present through the senses and the emotions.
“She has a very real view of # 5, I come with more of a perfumer’s perspective on # 5 and the very important connection to nature and the construction of scents,” Polge said of Devlin. “She really imagined this installation, but it’s true that in my world, we work a lot on the interaction between our senses. I make a lot of parallels between perfumes and music. Both are not visual, so I think more than a lot of other senses, they are the most intuitive.
Taking perfume to the dimensions of an installation required Devlin to do extensive research, both into the life of the founder of Chanel and the broader cultural attitudes at play, then and today.
“I am fascinated by this honesty of reflecting modernity, the post-war conditions of what the human condition was really like in 1921 that led her to create No.5, as opposed to the others who had nothing like this amount of aldehydes in them. Said Devlin. “Where the real lines that I have followed for twenty years overlap with this house in particular is the way Gabrielle Chanel has interfaced with nature. “
Devlin’s installation began with a temporary forest of 2,000 trees at Jungle Plaza, an outdoor event space in Miami’s Design District. In the center of the foliage is a labyrinth made up of five concentric paths. It includes a soundscape inspired by two different means of perfumery: human smell and gas chromatography.
The landscape plan was also influenced by Chanel’s education at Aubazine Abbey in south-eastern France.
“[Chanel] lived in this convent which, like this labyrinth, had a series of truly ruled paths defined by concentric circles, ”said Devlin. “When you look out the windows that she would have looked at every day, there has been a lot of speculation that maybe, subliminally, the house’s monogram came from that.”
“It’s also a very wooded area,” Devlin added. “This convent was actually built as a place of meditation for the monks. It was a place where humans and nature came together, for humans to sit, meditate and connect with nature. This is why it was originally built.
References for the installation ranged from the work of Charles Baudelaire to post-war modernism, but Devlin drew on a different kind of tradition for the labyrinth itself.
“I went back to the sources, and the labyrinth of this work is not really mine,” she said. “The way I presented it is an interpretation, but it came very clearly from the original Cretan labyrinth,” referring to the creation in Greek mythology. Additionally, Devlin noted the origins of the word, which was actually the name of a dance meant to further connect participants with nature.
Visually speaking, “it’s this counterpoint between very organic forms in the forest and the human conception of architecture,” she explained.
Devlin postulated that the creation of No.5 began with society’s changing relationship with the land following World War I, and his hypothesis became the starting point when conceptualizing the “five echoes”.
“This relates to my research: what made a Coco Chanel woman in 1921? What prompted her to create or to be drawn to creation? ” she asked. “The interpretation as a perfume was so distinct, back in the days when the scents available to women were pure jasmine or pure gardenia, pure rose or pure geranium. I think she recognized that it was not really appropriate in a post-war, rectilinear, Le Corbusier context. Smelling the rose wasn’t honest in the same way.
Devlin was also able to approach the themes of nature in a more contemporary way. Sustainability is integral to the constructions of her past works – she unveiled the Trees Conference, a 197-tree installation at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland, last month – and downplay the impact on the land has become one of his biggest considerations when thinking of new projects.
“I have spoken a lot about how my pieces remain in the memory of those who have seen them. But what good is it if they also damage the earth by staying in landfills, ”Devlin thought. “Our awareness grows daily with how we make a fleeting piece without contributing to a dump.”
To that end, the facility’s thousands of plants will be reforested in partnership with Million Trees Miami, a campaign that aims to plant 1 million trees in the county. The labyrinth, made of wood and fabric, will be recycled. “The real goal now in this work is to leave no traces, or at least only positive traces,” Devlin added. The donation is also in line with Chanel’s broader sustainability commitments.
Central to the work’s contemporary messages, however, is putting foliage at the center of the exhibition, and not just keeping it as a backdrop. “The important thing that we have to recognize is that we are not the only protagonists, we are not the only main actors on stage. The co-authors of this work and the protagonists of this work are the Thousands of Plants, ”said Devlin. “With the human architecture around them, it really catches our eye to recognize and pay attention to trees. Each of these trees is labeled, so that people can walk away, having felt the benefit of standing among the trees and learning their names, that would be wonderful.
Likewise, if people came to think of something as iconic and a part of people’s lives as # 5, as an expression of the changing relationship between humans and nature, I think that’s why # 5 is so memorable, ”Devlin continued. “That’s why we’re drawn to it, because it was honest, and we’re really drawn to artwork that is honest.”
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