You may have given very little or very much thought to the perfumes you wear, depending on your level of passion for fragrance. They might just be scents you spritz on for morning or night because that’s how you choose to finish getting ready, or they might be deeply considered and emotionally evocative scents that touch on memory, nostalgia, travel, romance.
Yet, no matter how invested you are in what you wear, one thing is likely missing from your experience, and that’s how oceanic the universe of fragrance and the art of perfumery really is. There are major companies that churn out dozens of new scents every year, and other, smaller houses that lovingly and carefully create bespoke fragrances over many years of development. And still, there are many other types in between. Differences can be divided further into who makes the perfumes, how they are sourced, what laboratory standards they are developed by – each minute difference calculating to a whole that is often missed by even the passionate fragrance lover.
Henry Jacques, a small, French, family-owned haute perfume house, has earned the diehard loyalty of thousands because of its incredible craftsmanship. Precious materials go into the making of each heady scent, and they are housed in bottles so beautiful that they double as works of art. To maintain this difference, and their unique position in the world of fragrance, they have had to refuse compromise, and chosen to remain independent, just like the spirit infused in the house by its founding father, Henry Cremona. In a world of homogeneity, Henry Jacques is vividly different. They owe this difference to Cremona’s daughter, Anne-Lise who now helms the house.
With a beautiful boutique in Dubai Mall, and a newly opened flagship in Beverly Hills, Henry Jacques is poised for global discovery, offering with each transaction a chance to be a part of something special, something that bridges a gap between modernity and tradition. As one of the more elegant fragrance brands in the world, we fell in love with the couture-level of detail that goes into the making of each scent, and the scents themselves. In order to understand why Henry Jacques stands apart, we spoke to Anne-Lise Cremona to get a sense of how she has maintained the independence of her brand over the years.
As a family-owned business, you do things a little differently than everyone else. What is the story of Henry Jacques?
A lot of very interesting stories always start with an encounter. The encounter is very important because it’s a human start. My father was a great traveler, a very creative person, and was extremely free. He loved artisanal beauty for its handwork. Perfume is also a part of this, you know, as it is highly artisanal. My father met an older gentleman who was a famous ‘nose’, and was, as I sometimes say, an unhappy nose.
In the very early 80s and even before, the industry made a huge change. At that time, everybody moved to more industrial and larger diffused products. This made the ‘nose’ unhappy. Why? Because he learned perfumery from the five or six generations before him. He knew exactly what made great perfumery. He couldn’t really understand the changes, and he wasn’t happy. When he met my father, they had this surreal connection; something extremely beautiful without compromise. They decided to mix their talents, sharing a new passion and adventure together for five years before the ‘nose’ passed away.
I think that would it be accurate to say that at the heart of the house is this desire to preserve old traditions?
It has always been like this, and it’s also what I’m doing today. We innovate, we create, but we also maintain the traditions and know-how of the past. There are values – some true things – that you cannot change. If you change them, you lose something, because they took years, decades, and centuries to develop.
Can a ‘nose’ be trained or is it something you are born with – you either have it or you don’t?
It’s a talent for sure. We are born with a talent or not, but like as a chef, a talent without work, doesn’t bring success. I can tell you, for example, in my family, my younger son has this talent. He’s always completely amazed by the senses. My children all know the same environments, but he is more sensitive in that respect.
If I can go back to the nose, when we worked on how we are going to spread the soul of Henry Jacques, I wanted to avoid this very fashionable thing of bringing someone on who worked at a big corporation. Suddenly ,this person arrives, and is in the light; we treat them as a star. This is supposed to give a legacy to the brand. I don’t really personally believe in that.
I believe that, at the end, the star is the perfume itself.
You were speaking about your son and his fascination with scent. That made me think about you growing up in this environment, and what your early memories of fragrance were, and where your personal love of it really started to blossom.
I have many, many, many stories, of course, because it was a part of my everyday life. I think I have many more memories from my mother because she was very present. She had this high sense of detail and she was full of integrity in her tastes. One of the first memories is certainly that she offered us –because we were three daughters – a small number of precious roses coming from Bulgaria at that time. They were packed in handmade wooden boxes. It was like I received a jewel. So, when we were very young children, we started wearing this pure, beautiful rose scent.
We also use home perfume at different seasons, because my mom used to change the house completely from summer to winter, changing the carpets and furniture for each season, and the home perfume would also change. That has touched me very much in terms of an olfactory experience.
Your mother was very instrumental in the development of the Henry Jacques lab. What inspired her to start this.
My mother always worked in the shadows because she was more family oriented. We were her priority. The brand had the name of my father, but they were an amazing duo. Yes, she was absolutely instrumental in developing the lab. You remember when I told you that story started with the encounter of this ‘nose’, and the friendship started with him and my father. After two or three years, they started to build together a laboratory. My mother was really at the heart of that because my father was very divided because of the travel he had to do.
She really devoted herself to building, stone-by-stone, this laboratory. Today, we’re using 1200 components, which is absolutely huge. I’m assuming that doesn’t exist much today. But this is what I know from a lot of people, it’s very rare. Each of those components has been chosen, in a specific way. My mother has dedicated her life to us, but also to the laboratory, writing the processes, preserving the processes. Without the laboratory, we wouldn’t be here.
What were your reasons for opening a boutique in Dubai?
The Middle East is a wonderful playground. People really are lovers of perfume there. I didn’t want to give our brand to a perfume distributor, so we decided to open our boutique at Dubai Mall alone without any partners. t’s 100%, our boutique. It’s been a huge challenge because we’ve been offered, of course, different options, but that was the only way to preserve the brand. Our clients in the region they really believed in us for years, and we didn’t want to compromise. This is a way to thank our clients for their loyalty.
My experience at the Henry Jacques boutique at Dubai Mall was truly extraordinary. I fell in love very quickly with the ‘Les Brumes’ which were lighter and more effervescent, and ‘Les Toupies’, which were complex and deeper. Is this kind of like the concept of your mother changing out the house for winter and spring? Or is it more of a day and night kind of thing? What was the intent behind those developments?
It took us several years to really think about this concept of ‘Les Brumes’. ‘Les Brumes’ is extremely light because it is a kind of mist. At the same time, they’re highly beautiful and concentrated perfumes. The essences are more skin perfumes, so they’re more sensual, they live on your skin. And they evolve because they are also natural, the natural base, and natural components are alive. They will move on your skin and what is fantastic with the essences that in the end, you have your own essence.
‘Les Toupies’ was a very important collection for the house. To my point of view they are a way to share more about the brand history. They are really not only couture, but a whole piece of art. Even the bottles took years to imagine and are hand blown works of art. Then the perfume inside the exquisite bottles, they are made from a less explored side haute parfumerie, and therefore very special, very different. Because they use precious materials, they are extremely limited edition. ‘Les Toupies’ shows the best of what we have to offer.