What does one of the world’s leading fashion houses seek when creating a new scent? One of the world’s leading perfumers, of course. Indeed, when Hermès made Christine Nagel its new in-house perfumer, something unique and exciting in the realm of fragrances was imminent. The nose behind some of the biggest and best-selling scents, Nagel has worked on creations for the likes of Jo Malone, Jimmy Choo, Christian Dior, and Dolce & Gabbana, and she’s now the one to credit for the brand-new ‘Galop d’Hermès’ perfume.
As a nod to the brand’s equestrian heritage and a celebration of the free-spirited Hermès woman, Nagel sought to create an accord of assumed opposites. By centering the fragrance on rose and leather, she has managed to blend the animalistic with the floral, the masculine with the feminine. The result is a truly spectacular scent like no other. It is elegant and feminine but with a dark and edgy side – think softly sensual yet adventurous and avant-garde.
Savoir Flair sat down with Nagel and picked her brain about all things perfume, from what inspired her when creating the new ‘Galop d’Hermès’ fragrance to her top tips on how to choose and wear perfume.
What’s the right way to apply fragrance? Where should we be spraying it?
They say the pulse points and the places where veins are close to the skin are the most interesting to perfume. However, you can also perfume your clothes, your scarf, and your sweater. The skin or the clothes, they’re two different gestures – one is more intimate and selfish, the other is more generous.
I think of perfume as an art and, like all the other arts, it has no gender.
What are your top tips on choosing a new fragrance?
My advice is quite simple: When you walk into a store with no clear idea, the blotter is perfect for a first approach and preliminary selection. However, once the selection has been made, trying the fragrance on the skin is essential – and ideally living with it for one or two days – to ensure the emotion is still there.
What’s the best way to store perfumes in order to help them last longer?
Fragrance is alive. It evolves, changes, and moves… and the worst thing for it is light and heat. My advice is to put your perfume far from light and heat.
Debunk the biggest myth you’ve heard about fragrance.
I think of perfume as an art and, like all the other arts, it has no gender. Gender came into it for financial reasons – it’s better to sell two perfumes than one! As for the gender of the perfume, that depends on the wearer’s gender. Forget diktats and advertising. If you’re a man, be daring and try so-called women’s perfumes because there are no genders with perfume. Equally, I’d say women should try men’s fragrances. A perfume becomes masculine on a man’s skin and feminine on a woman’s skin.
You’ve created some iconic scents. Which is the most memorable and why?
I’m proud of all my perfumes, regardless of their commercial success. Each one is a stand-alone creation. Each one has meant something to me. They’re the clearly defined stages in a creative process that have made me who I am. They each correspond to an era, a place, a person – but the most exciting one is always the next one.
What clearly and deeply inspires me is the entire Hermès world and heritage. It is not only very vast and rich but also a great source of inspiration. I feel proud and honored to inherit the Hermès assets.
Talk us through the journey of creating a fragrance.
Every morning, I get to my workshop and smell the trials I created the day before. My day then follows the rhythm of creation, olfaction, creation, olfaction. My strengths would be my audacity, sincerity, and expertise concerning the different techniques of creating a fragrance. Today, what clearly and deeply inspires me is the entire Hermès world and heritage. It is not only very vast and rich but also a great source of inspiration. I feel proud and honored to inherit the Hermès assets.
Where do you find inspiration when creating a fragrance like ‘Galop d’Hermès’?
It all starts with a blank page and a feeling of emptiness, which is attractive but also frightening. It’s horribly exciting, a big responsibility. We have a duty to create. For ‘Galop’, I immersed myself completely in the utterly unique world of Hermès. From the start, every door was opened to me, everyone was very generous and frank. I discovered all the in-house crafts… there are 14 of them!
I see the fragrance as a manifesto and a tribute to the house. It’s a perfume and not an eau de parfum. That means a lot. But the most important thing is for the in-house values to be showcased and fittingly expressed in this perfume. The notes of rose and leather – both traditional to perfumery – bring with them an audacity and express a degree of nerve and great concern for detail. I wanted this leather to be as supple as skin and to make the rose as strong as the leather.
I think I found a balance, but one that is always in motion. Neither note dominates the other. They take turns to emerge – the leather, then the rose, then the leather again. The motion is like waves on a shore, a waltz in which neither the leather nor the rose leads. Technically, that’s quite rare because, as a general rule, perfumes are more linear with the notes appearing in sequence.
What makes ‘Galop’ so unique?
My loves fluctuate, and I have no preconceptions about any ingredients. When I discover an ingredient, I want to know everything – how to knead it, crush it, work it, and experiment with it. I want to take it where I like, to coax it and push its boundaries. At Hermès, the beauty of the raw materials is central; it’s at the heart of all its crafts. It goes without saying that it’s central to mine. Hermès gives us unique freedom to choose our raw materials. It’s an absolute luxury that lets me go where no one else goes. It’s a unique luxury.