Book Review: The Scent of Empire (Chanel No 5 and Red Moscow) – Karl Schlögel

Karl Schlögel is Professor of Eastern European History at the European University, Viadrina in Frankfurt. His book Moscow 1937 was awarded the Leipzig Book prize for European Understanding.

His latest publication is a timely document, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the launch of the iconic perfume Chanel No 5. It tells us the story of two french perfumiers, Michel Beaux and Auguste Michel who developed perfumes honouring Catherine the Great. Beaux fled Russia following the Russian revolution and took the formula for his perfume to France. Schlögel gives us an interesting account of how he went on to take 10 samples to Coco Chanel and she chose No 5. As the perfume industry was revived in Russia, Auguste Michel created Red Moscow for the Tenth Anniversary of the Revolution.

Karl Schlögel presents a small but dense volume of research into the politics of a complex society. It is well researched all the way through showing an immersive understanding of his subject matter. It would be of particular use to students of the fashion and perfume industry but also to those who wish to gain a greater understanding of the politics of the time, especially those with an interest in Russian politics.

The Scent of Empires (translated by Jessica Spengler) is available now via Polity Books.

Review by Carolyn Batcheler

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