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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.

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During the last couple of months I have noticed this blog has a lot of new visitors. Welcome! I don’t expect any of you readers to go on a historical safari through old posts (although I notice some do posts do get a second, third, seventeenth life which feels great) so I thought I would take a moment to introduce myself a little bit to new acquaintances and maybe connect some dots for some returning readers. So this will be a slightly more personal post that might answer some questions about where topics and details on Sense of Scent come from.

My interest in perfume is in fact rather an interest in olfactory perception, or the sense of smell, in general. This, is part of an interest in how our senses work, which of course is a big part of how we work as humans. Why do we do what we do?  What do we notice, what does it mean to us and why. The eternal metaphysical or psychological quest, trying to figure others and oneself out. (And yes, I have numerous times wondered why I did not major in Psychology because this field always attracted me.) I think I am interested in perfumes for some of the same reasons why I am interested in communication (which has been my career path my entire adult life) – I am fascinated by how we define ourselves to ourselves and to others. Like many others interested in scents I was brought up in a family where senses where always present. I was taught to trust my senses when choosing meat or vegetables, to experience places with eyes and nose, to feel materials for house construction with my fingertips – stone, wood… To smell the air in order to predict rain and to never wear clothes that didn’t feel good against my skin. I was encouraged to use my senses and to trust them. This has had a major impact on my personality and life and is something I believe in when it comes to guiding children through life.

When it comes to the sense of smell, it is an unquestionable fact that we are affected by smells and that this influences our relations and perception and evaluation in daily life. It has been like this for as long as humans have existed, our sense of smell has been essential for our survival capacity. We are affected by olfactory impressions. They influence our moods, energy levels, associations, feelings and more. So the situations in which we choose smells, for example when applying perfume and when buying/choosing perfume are really interesting. There are more or less conscious choices, there are more or less informed choices. But no choices are arbitrary and every time we apply a smell on our skin, that will affect us and people we meet for hours, it is a choice. Why does one person choose something transparent and another one something forceful? Why does one person want to smell like a walk in the forest and another like a spicy old church (no judgement, I like both!)? Not to mention how mass-market perfume sales reflect zeitgeist in terms of gender issues and other aspects. I find this fascinating.

Now from a communications and marketing point of view I am intrigued by the big black hole between the fragrance industry and the consumer. Perfumes are a product created with much skill, it requires time and an aesthetic endeavor. Perfume is a fairly expensive product to purchase. And yet the industry is quite bad in most cases at educating the consumer and sharing its knowledge and intentions. So we have a market full of consumers that don’t really know what they are buying or how they should go about choosing which product is right for them. And retail personnel do not always have sufficient tools to provide adequate support. I am talking mainly about the mass-market now. Which is what the majority of consumers see. Now we also have a parallel fragrance world created by numerous independent niche companies. Generally this is the market that I am more interested in because I see that these perfume companies are leading the way when it comes to customer relationships, intelligent brand work and communication. Helping people discover this perfume world is a privilege.

A couple of years ago I started writing this blog mainly to inspire (and put pressure on) myself to learn more and because I felt a desire to do something concrete and professional with this personal interest. I wasn’t really sure what my designated perfume path would be so I thought this would be a way to discover that step by step. In the last two years the blog has lead to some seminars, some freelance writing and a number of private consultations. I have gotten to know amazing people thanks to this and have had many inspiring experiences and thought exchanges. My profile has also formed itself a bit more and I do feel that I feel most likely will work in some way with scents for the rest of my life.

Some day I would definitely like to create fragrances, but it is not the most ardent dream or priority right now. I would however love to work with marketing and communication for a perfume brand that I believe in and who believe in a less excluding way of doing things. I get a genuine kick out of helping people with curiosity but limited knowledge to discover the world of scents. Many perfume bloggers are enormously knowledgeable and if you follow some blogs I am sure that you like me are impressed with their encyclopedic minds. I have at times felt a pressure to deliver in a way suitable to those eyes in this blog, which has occasionally paralyzed me a bit. Because what I initially and in many ways still want to do is to write for those who have no idea how to find a perfume, where to even start. Those who have never experienced finding a fragrance that feels really personal or found their scented style. I never get tired of talking about top notes, base notes and why a cologne always smells in a certain way or why a perfume does not feel right when you come home with it after having tried it for 15 minutes before buying. I love love love helping someone find their personality in the language of scent, translate their descriptions of themselves into olfactory notes. This means that if at this point I was offered to choose between making a perfume or writing a book I would choose the book. And among my long-term plans is to learn more about the neurological and psychological aspects of the sense of smell in order to someday work with scents as a therapeutic tool for example with people suffering from traumatic experiences, grief or Alzheimer, autism…I don’t know yet exactly. I suppose my perspective puts me in a crossroad between art and science.  I like that crossroad. They are lovers, science and art.

It is not likely that you will find me writing reviews here, although I do choose to highlight perfumes, perfumers, perfume brands that I find inspiring. I rarely write about perfumes or perfumers that I don’t like if not for some specific reason. There is so much to spend time thinking about and I prefer to look for the stories that inspire me and that I think deserve some spotlight.

I am very honored that you are here, that you spent the time it took to read the reflections above and I hope that if you follow my scented journey through life I will have the occasion to inspire and enlighten you at least once. If you have a question or want to share a thought on scents I will always be happy to read it, my email is s.z@lefumoir.com You can also connect through twitter or facebook.

I wish you a new week full of scentful sensations.