image: Chanel

image: Chanel

Chanel is kicking up a fuss over plans to develop a French high-speed rail line in the South of France, which it claims would threaten – if not completely destroy – the flowers it uses to make its iconic Chanel No. 5 fragrance. The Paris-based luxury house has threatened to move its operations out of Grasse, a town on the French Riviera long known as the luxury perfume capital of the world, if a Train à Grande Vitesse (“TGV”) line is developed and run through the fields where it grows the flowers for its most famous fragrance.

According to strongly worded letter from Chanel to the planners in charge of charting the potential new path for the TGV line, the house grows all of the flowers it needs for its No. 5 fragrance – the 1,000 jasmine flowers and one dozen May roses it takes for every 30-millilitre bottle – close to its perfumery in Grasse.

The Karl Lagerfeld-helmed house noted that “the construction of a viaduct and the regular passage of high-speed trains over these fields of flowers would be a disaster” and would “force Chanel to cease supporting its artisanal activities in the region.” It further declared that the quality of the flowers harvested around Grasse was “unique and exceptional … and indispensable for the creation of Chanel perfumes.”

Desperate need for investment

According to the AFP, France’s state-owned SNCF railway company argues that the new 6.7-billion euro ($7 billion) line would cut an hour from the trip along the French Riviera from Marseille to Nice.  It said the line is the most congested in France outside of Paris and desperately needs investment. Despite its high tourist numbers, the Cote d’Azur is one of the worst served by the country’s high-speed rail network. The journey time from Paris to Nice now stands at around six hours.

Chanel has already fought off plans for a dump not far from the fields where the Mul family grow the flowers. The legendary scent was created by Coco Chanel in 1921, and quickly came to define a new type of independent, modern woman.