COUP DE GRASSE

A high-speed train line in France could spell the end of Chanel No. 5

Chanel No. 5, a staple of vanities around the world for nearly a century, is in danger.

Chanel, the fabled fashion house, is warning that state-owned railway company SNCF’s plans for a high-speed train line through a stretch of flower fields in Provence (link in French) would lay waste to the precious petals used to make what was Marilyn Monroe’s preferred scent.

In an open letter, the French fashion house threatened to close its factory in Grasse—the world’s perfume capital—if the company goes through with the expanded line. A dozen May roses and 1,000 jasmine flowers from the Siagne valley go into every 30ml bottle of Chanel No. 5.

The €6.7-billion ($7.1-billion) line expansion would build a viaduct between Le Muy and Cannes and reduce travel times from Marseille to Nice by an hour.

But Chanel, which launched the fragrance in 1921, is unfazed and has fought of threats to its fragrant raw material before. In 2009, a trash dump was cancelled after Chanel protested. And Chanel has supported efforts to turn Grasse into a UNESCO world heritage site.

It isn’t clear whether Chanel will have its way this time. Better transportation can spur much-needed tourism to the French Riviera.

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