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PERFUMERS

Quite recently Hermès announced that nose Christine Nagel would be joining Jean-Claude Ellena as new nose to create new fragrances together for this legendary luxury brand. It was interesting news for many reasons. One is that Jean-Claude Ellena has been alone in his role for a long time (a decade) and it is hard to distinguish what is Hermès and what is master Ellena in an Hermès fragrance. Each fragrance is permeated by his artistry and endless choices down to the most detailed detail. Some were surprised by the choice. I am not familiar enough with Christine Nagels character as a nose to say anything about it other than that it is obvious that taking in a new nose to work with Ellena at Hermès must be a very particular process since everything about this brand is an homage to detail and perfection. So I am curious to discover what this new phase will bring and what Christine Nagel will bring to it. She is the nose behind many Jo Malone fragrances and Narcisco Rodriguez For Her so not at all a typical French haute parfumerie artist but more contemporary in her style.

Photo of Ellena and Nagel in The Cut.

Photo of Ellena and Nagel in The Cut.

The Cut recently did an interview with the new nose team that includes some really interesting statements. Direct and art-focused, just like the fragrances that monsieur Ellena makes.

I do recommend you to read the interview but let me share some highlights. The description of their collaboration is something many creative professionals can relate to and be inspired by. It’s great to hear a master such as Ellena describe their differences as an asset and then their generous way of working as a strength of their team work. They describe progressing together and surprising each other.

The discussion on luxury is also very interesting, this is really a core question in today’s market and zeitgeist I believe. We are becoming more globalized and more ethical consumers which leads to a decreasing interest in show-off luxury items in informed markets. Consumers want something else than a shortcut that mainly signals affluence, the “specialness” in luxury has changed. Jean-Claude Ellena says: “There is no scent that is luxurious. It’s what we do with it that makes it luxurious. Otherwise, how will we know when something is luxurious? The supreme luxury is to take time, and we have time at Hermès” and adds, “the thing that is important at Hermès is that it is the perfumer who decides whether the perfume will go on the market”. He concludes, “this is really the luxury, the freedom”. There is another perfume house characterized by this rule, Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle. A much anticipated launch can be delayed because the perfume is not ready. If this is considered luxurious working conditions for the perfumer, than how luxurious is it not for the person who wears the perfume to know that this is the level of dedication and ambition behind it? Does this mean that these perfumes are better? If I look to myself, definitely these two perfume houses take up more space in my perfume collection than other ones and I made many of those selections before knowing these facts behind them. Not surprising of course that Malle’s fragrance range includes two creations by Jean-Claude Ellena.

Jean-Claude Ellena's photo from his lab. Photo used in The Cut.

Jean-Claude Ellena’s photo from his lab. Photo used in The Cut.

For Hermès fans it should be interesting to read the description of Hermès as a day and afternoon brand. To be honest I had actually never thought of this aspect. When I think about it though I realize that in fact I never wear Ellena perfumes in the evening or night, it never felt right. Voyage, Bigarade give me fresh air and energy as I embark on a new day. Ambre Narguilé comfort for an afternoon that closes circles. There is one exception though, Poivre Samarcande, this one I love for a dinner with conversations about life and travel!

I will not reveal more, read the interview. It’s great. And then you will also find out what smelled of vanilla and mold.

For more Ellena I suggest this interview at Perfume Shrine and this one or even better, reading monsieur Ellena’s own books.

I want to share with you the story of my last evening in Grasse. (How I miss this place and how I felt being in that experience…)

There is a narrow winding long cobbled street in Grasse, Rue de L’Oratoire. Somehow wherever I would go I would find myself in Rue de L’Oratoire. In this labyrinth of Grassesque marvels there is a place I knew I would visit sooner or later. 

Before going to Grasse Institute of Perfumery I had read about Clayton’s adventures there and about his visit to perfumer Didier Gaglewski (in Rue de L’Oratoire 12). It seems many visitors to Grasse feel the need to buy perfume as a souvenir and the local shops cater to that idea in different ways. For me the real treat of being in Grasse was the access to the backstage area of the perfume industry. The fields, the insider information, the lab, the raw materials – but above all – the conversations with people who work with perfume in various ways. If I had an experience like that – and could buy something that would preserve the moment for me – then great, but perfume per se was not the main thing. But then of course a place like Grasse provides gems like Beauty Success where you can find Coriandre and Caron’s Pour un Homme! But back to Gaglewski. This encounter was really a quintessential part of this adventure.

First time I met Didier Gaglewski was when going to dinner with my Spanish friend (and I am sure future perfumer) Inma, Daniela from Fragonard and the lady that they were staying with in Grasse. The lady knew Didier so we introduced ourselves briefly when passing by his shop and said we would come back. After a few days, you see, Inma and I had embarked on an inspiring inner journey analyzing various ways to pursue olfactory paths in our future careers. And monsieur Gaglewski seemed like a very good person to turn to for some advise since he himself started to work with perfumes after pursuing a different career for some time. So a few days later we returned. 

The shop. Photo from Gaglewski.com
Didier generously shared his story with us and we spent a long time discovering his creations, from the ultra-masculine conceptual Cambouis, a humoristic flirt with the idea of a man working on his car and the smells of this, to the soft romantic Aria, a seductive classic über-feminine dream of tuberose and vanilla. I had a different instant crush though… first for the name and then for the smell, the woody Journaliste. No surprise that it includes some of my favorite notes – petit grain, mandarin, ginger, cardamom and tonka bean. The Journaliste is now here in Stockholm with me. It reminds me of the alliance between brain and heart, plans and dreams and of this very special place in Grasse. 
So, on my last day I went back to Rue de L’Oratoire, 12 to say goodbye to Didier and to show him my three own creations from school for some professional feedback. A very rewarding visit since I also had the luck to talk to the customers that came to the shop. I was struck by the great conversations that happened. So far from some of the empty quick exchanges of clichés in department stores. People ask Didier a lot about his background and profession and creations and he answers every person’s questions very genuinely and generously. A young man entered out of curiosity, not really ready for a purchase, but full of questions. It was such a nice conversation to listen to and a moment that captured some of that special thing about Grasse so well – it is a place that loves perfumes and that loves to take the time to talk about perfume with anyone who has a desire to know more. There is so much knowledge in those hills… and so little of the excluding elitism that you find between perfume shelves around the world. 
Scent strips made of ribbons at Gaglewski.

Thank you Didier for sharing your story, time and thoughts. D
ziękuję.

“Vous êtes brune, de peau mate.Vous êtes gaie et un peu capricieuse. 
Vous croquez la vie.
Votre rire cristallin ne connaît pas de frontière. 
Vous êtes si près de l’enfance que l’on se demande parfois si vous n’en sortez 
que pour paraître sérieuse, mais l’on sait bien que cela ne durera 
que le temps d’un clin d’oeil.”

(From description of Aria on Gaglewski.com)