In a digital age, how many of us can really say we’re truly in touch with our senses? How often are we outside in nature, hearing anything but the ‘clack-clacking’ of fingers on a keyboard? How often do we see beyond the fuzzy glow emanated from our screens? Living out a life online has its benefits, but our senses are all too often neglected, and none more so than our sense of smell.
A life indoors, away from nature, gives us little choice.
But the smell of a freshly brewed cafetiere wafting through the office somehow brightens the room for a moment, and if someone walks in wearing a particularly striking perfume, it lingers for the whole day. In 2016 a great scent can still have a lasting impact.
In a world where we are often so detached from our noses and the physical and emotional associations of smell, CHANEL is asking important questions. How do you capture and communicate the emotion and expression of a fragrance? And, if you can’t smell or experience the scent, how do you understand the philosophy it captures, or how it is an expression of who you are?
We know that a signature perfume is a powerful tool in the construction of our identity, and as fragrance royalty CHANEL has been helping women craft their allure for decades.
Now they want to let power of scent take centre stage in the mile-a-minute physical landscape we occupy. In partnership with i-D, they’ve created The Fifth Sense – a new online platform designed to celebrate women’s creativity: through film, words, and live performance art and installations. And that last bit is where our sense of smell can really come to life.
The first project in the series saw a multi-room art installation take over the studio spaces in Peckham, South East London’s, Copeland Park. Set designer to the stars, Es Devlin OBE, landed in SE15 for five days in September with her installation ‘Mirror Maze’, complex imagined world played out over four rooms. She used mirrors to create the helpless sensation of falling through memory and time – which to Devlin, is a universal metaphor for “the lack of control often experienced through scent.”
A fragrance created especially for the duration of the piece by CHANEL’s in-house perfumer, Olivier Polge, snaked through the mirrored labyrinth, and since its closure, can exist only in the memories of those who were lucky enough to experience it.
But if you weren’t able to get to Peckham Rye at all over the duration of the Mirror Maze, don’t be too heartbroken. The true staying power of The Fifth Sense lies in its immortality on the internet. In tandem with the physical installations, i-D will publish videos exploring the bare bones of the projects and interviews with the artists on their dedicated channel; you can Enter The Mirror Maze in a one and half minute video tour online, and learn about the artistic process in Creating Spaces.
And the next project is about to hit the ground running over on The Fifth Sense platform. Harley Weir is one of fashion photography’s most exciting names right now and, inspired by the intense, femininity of CHANEL No 5 and all the women who identify with the fragrance, she’s created a portrait series of five inspiring young women at the forefront of change, who remain under the cultural radar.
Existing exclusively on the digital platform, Weir’s series will be accompanied by a short documentary film looking at the process of its creation, exploring what inspired her vision. And outside of the digital realm, she’s also created a free zine, 10,000 copies of which distributed from hand selected locations worldwide.
Just like Mirror Maze, the cross-platform power of the project is what makes the collaboration between Weir, i-D and CHANEL so impossible to forget. And that’s what this partnership is all about: The Fifth Sense carves a physical space for the empowerment and exploration of women’s achievements in art and culture, and cements those achievements in our memory with the lasting impact of scent.
Find out more about The Fifth Sense now.