Chanel and Dior under threat from Brussels
Chanel No 5 and Dior’s Miss Dior contain mosses that could be banned
Marilyn Monroe famously wore it to bed – with nothing else – but now Chanel No 5 is under threat from Brussels.
The signature perfume is one of several that may need to be reformulated under new European Commission regulations aimed at protecting consumers from allergies.
Chanel No 5 and Dior’s Miss Dior, two of the most popular perfumes in the world, contain mosses which could be banned under new rules
The perfume houses are desperately trying to synthesise the aromas, which give the scents their woody base notes.
Chanel No 5, which has been on the market for 93 years, is the world’s best selling perfume, with a bottle sold every 30 seconds.
The scent combines jasmine, rose, sandalwood and vanilla with other background notes.
It is said that that when Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel sprayed the perfume around her table in an upmarket Paris restaurant in 1921, women passing by literally stopped in their tracks to ask her what the fragrance was and where it came from.
But under new rules the famous fragrance could be changed forever.
Chanel and Dior have been working on using altered versions, stripped of the molecules atranol and chloroatranol, regarded as potential allergens by the EU.
"Adapting is a challenge but it is precisely the talent of our 'nose' to be able to preserve the qualities and olfactive (scent) identity of our perfumes while also taking into account new regulatory constraints," a spokesman for Chanel said.
Floris, the Queen’s parfumiere, also said they were checking their scents to see if any needed to be reformulated.
"Floris is up to date with the current guidelines and awaits future amendments at which stage it will follow the required changes in a timely fashion to stay in line if and where this applies to any of our products,” a spokesman said.
New labelling requirements will also require products to be fully labelled and include allergy warnings in the same way as medications, which could push up the cost of perfume.
In 2012, an advisory report recommended severely limiting the use of 12 ingredients, regarded as the pillars of the luxury perfume industry – such as citral, found in lemon and tangerine oils; coumarin, found in tropical tonka beans; and eugenol, found in rose oil.
However just three, citral, atranol and chloroatranol, are now likely to be banned with an investigation taking place into the remaining nine to see if small amounts could be tolerated.
"We understand that drastic reductions in the authorised concentrations of these ingredients would have created major disruptions to the industry," said David Hudson, Spokesman for consumer policy at the European Commission.
However the perfume industry has complained that even small changes could radically affect scents and sales.
"If we ban citral from perfumes, of which certain elements are allergens, we should ban orange juice. It is absurd. We should not ban nature, only learn how to live with it," said Frederic Malle, who founded the French luxury perfume company Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle.
Mr Malle said he was forced to reformulate about a quarter of his scents due to the forthcoming EU regulations, leading to extra costs – but costs which he found difficult to quantify as they also represented time invested to rework the formulas.
"It can take more than six months to reformulate a perfume, and a minimum of some 30 tests ... and this is precious time that cannot be spent on creating new perfumes. So to protect a small portion of the population, we are making the rest suffer," he said.
The EU is also planning to ban HICC, a popular synthetic molecule which replicates the lily of the valley smell.
Hermes, Dior and Guerlain – both owned by LVMH – have also been preparing themselves for the new rules by progressively changing their formulas.
"The European Commission approach guarantees the security of consumers and preserves Europe's olfactive heritage," said a spokesman for LVMH.
A draft proposal could be given to EU member states by August and by the following month a final version sent for scrutiny by the European Council and Parliament, which have three months to oppose it.
The regulations will also require perfume makers to inform consumers about potential allergens contained in their products but it has not yet decided how this will work in practice and how many of them should be labelled.
It has raised the number of ingredients that must be labelled from 26 to more than 80 and is looking at ways to allow perfume makers to provide information about them on the Internet or through smartphone scans to avoid having to cram them on the package.