Coco Channel minimalism

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“Elegance is refusal”.

~ Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971) was a prolific and successful fashion creator. Chanel extended her influence beyond made-to-measure clothing, realizing her design aesthetic in jewellery, handbags, and fragrance. Her signature scent, Chanel No. 5, is an iconic product today. The number 5 to her – even from a young age – represented the pure embodiment of a thing, its spirit, its mystic meaning. She was OCD about 5 patterns.

Chanel #5 was her most profitable fragrance. Her annual earnings were around $25 million per year. That made her the richest woman in the world. She was a contrarian and innovative by selling the perfume to soldiers for their sweethearts. The brand flourished without print advertising. Amazing.

In April 1952, Marilyn Monroe appears for the first time on the cover of Life, and the article mentions her answer to the question, “What do you wear to bed?” and her reply, “Chanel No. 5.” An unpaid endorsement that sent sales soaring. You can’t buy advertising like that.

Television commercials were inventive mini-films with production values of surreal fantasy and seduction. Directed by Ridley Scott in the 1970s and 1980s, they “played on the same visual imagery, with the same silhouette of the bottle”. Scott later directed and produced the movie hits “Alien” and “Blade Runner.”

SERENDIPITY: Events by chance ending in a happy or beneficial way.

The key was Earnest Beaux’s (1881 – 1961) experimental use of aldehydes. Aldehydes are organic compounds. They are manipulated in the laboratory at crucial stages of chemical reaction to arrest and isolate the scent. When used creatively, aldehydes act as “seasonings,” as aroma boosters.

Beaux’s student, Constantin Weriguine, said the aldehyde Beaux used had the clean note of the arctic, “a melting winter note.” A laboratory assistant, mistaking a full strength mixture for a ten-percent dilution, jolted the compound with a quantity of aldehyde never before used.

Beaux prepared ten glass vials for Chanel’s assessment. Numbered 1–5 and 20–24, each group a variation of the compound. “Number five. Yes,” Chanel said, “that is what I was waiting for. A perfume like nothing else. A woman’s perfume, with the scent of a woman.”

Never revealing how her choice of “#5” was her spirit number.

PagePipe is obsessive-compulsive about speed. Speed is a fundamental principle of user experience. There is never enough bandwidth because lazy designers always use up ever last bit of resources by overdecorating sites. Designer apathy is the enemy of web speed.

How Chanel’s success story applies to your website:

Chanel had disdain for the overly decorated. Her saying was,

“Elegance is refusal”.

That applies to websites, too.

  • Refusal to over decorate your site.
  • Refuse to buy what we’re told are “must-have” items by The Herd.
  • Refuse to accept the conventional wisdom that you need redesigns (new clothes) constantly.
  • Refuse to fall prey to the “color of the year.” Like faddish gadgets: popups, slider, vanity metrics, and chat bots.
  • Refuse to be a human billboard of visible logos. Like Yoast, Google, even WordPress.


Steve Teare
performance engineer
June 2021


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