Text: Margarita Virova
Chemist and perfumer Christine Nagel, one of the most sought-after "noses" in the world, this year took the place of the in-house perfumer at Hermès, replacing the great Jean-Claude Ellen in this position. Her long-awaited debut fragrance Galop continues to be actively discussed after its release - and for a reason. For Hermès, the beginning of Nagel is actually a new era.
Jean-Claude Ellena has run the perfumery business at home since 2004, and during this time his recognizable style sounded in all the released fragrances - minimalistic and memorable. Ellen's perfumes, however, continued to exist somewhere in the field of art rather than everyday life. Christine Nagel can hardly be called the complete opposite of a perfumer, but among colleagues and admirers she is known as a hitmaker. Among the fruits of her hands and imagination, for example, Miss Dior Chérie, Narciso Rodriguez For Her, Giorgio Armani Si, all the recognizable Jo Malone perfumes and dozens of other scents that can be heard wherever people are.
Jean-Claude Ellena and Christine Nagel have worked together since 2014, when the future head perfumer of Hermès joined the company after leaving the position of vice president at Mane. Nagel also worked for Ellen's independent line, The Different Company, so the trust of a senior colleague was secured. According to him, it was important that the next main perfumer of Hermès was a woman, and that was Christine Nagel, who will now continue the business at home.
The first piece that the perfumer presented in a new location was Rhubarbe Écarlate, in keeping with the spirit of Ellen's Hermès: a bright fragrance with a minimal number of notes, positioned as unisex. Christine came to represent her second home fragrance, Galop, in Russia, and we talked with her about conservatism and courage, the profession of a perfumer and how it feels to feel the scents you invented on other people.
chief perfumer of Hermès
I was already an accomplished and self-confident specialist when I was invited to Hermès. In addition, the Hermès house is famous not only for its traditions, but also for its courage - they are not afraid to move forward. The very fact that they chose me already speaks about it. I am a completely different perfumer from Jean-Claude Ellena, but I was not at all afraid of comparisons. I knew that I would have the opportunity to embody my own style. But if I was asked to work "in the spirit of Ellen" - then I would be scared.
When I reached a certain level of my career, I realized that I wanted to work for some kind of house - there are now only six of them. I chose Hermès because it gives the perfumer incredible freedom: there are no tests or focus groups, and the decision to release a fragrance is made directly by the perfumer. As for the conservatism of Hermès, I will say this: a house is often described as a tree that feeds on the strength of its roots, that is, traditions, but which new leaves grow every year. The branches on which these leaves grow are the perfumers, and I am the new branch of the Hermès tree house. Of course, fresh foliage is blooming on my branch, and this, I would say, is the main courage of the house. Hermès expresses it in everything - in the choice of perfumers, designers and other professionals. While working on Galop, I wanted to create a fragrance that would embody this boldness.
I have a dream: to create a fragrance that would be free, bright, would have its own face, but would be liked by many
I don't think about the target audience of the fragrance. The important thing is how much my work is able to affect emotions, and it does not matter if it is one person, a hundred or a thousand. I do not work for certain sectors of society - I work for people. But I have a dream to create a fragrance that would be free, bright, would have its own face, but would be liked by many. This way I would give myself even more freedom. In courage is freedom.
I am fascinated by the very creative process of creating a perfume, but even stronger emotions are delivered to me by meeting a living person on whom I hear my fragrance. First, the doubt arises: “Is it really me? My job?" - and then I try to overtake this person and look him in the face. This person, perhaps, will never be my friend, I will not share my emotions with her or with him, but I understand that this person bears a part of me, and this is terribly touching.
I have never attended a perfume school. I had a mentor, Michel Almarak, who taught me everything - despite the fact that I often wanted to escape from him. I would advise young perfumers to go to school - in France, for example, there are three of them - or find a master mentor, as I did, but this is much more difficult. In addition, you need to be very curious, artistic and work hard, since the learning process is quite long. But this is the most interesting profession in the world and worth it.
It's not about a single molecule - it's about how to combine them. For example, perfumers often use notes of baby creams - people associate their smell with comfort, safety and joy. But it is impossible to please everyone. If I could, I would be the empress of perfumery.
Miss dior chérie
The most striking performance of Christine Nagel could not be mentioned, but still worth it. In 2005, an updated version of the canonical scent - with a note of popcorn - burst into the world of haute perfumery and showed that there is a place for infantile and hooligan ideas in serious compositions. The new Miss Dior turned out to be very modern and became one of the main bestsellers of the 2000s.
Armani Privé Ambre Soie
An oriental-spicy unisex, considered one of the most balanced amber fragrances of our time. At the same time, it belongs rather to the category “understandable for everyone” than to art for connoisseurs.
Jimmy choo flash
The second Jimmy Choo fragrance and the winner of the FIFI Russian Fragrance Awards - 2013 in the category "Best female fragrance". The noticeable sweetness is quite in the spirit of Christine Nagel, on the verge of strong mainstream and good taste.
Lolita lempicka si lolita
In an elaborate bottle - complex contents. A bright and sweet fragrance, one of those thanks to which the Lolita Lempicka brand, which has somewhat lost ground, has returned to the perfume arena.
Atkinsons 24 Old Bond Street
Not the most famous fragrance by Christine Nagel, but another story of a remarkable collaboration. In 2008, the British brand Atkinsons entrusted the composition of the novelty to Christine Nagel. The unisex fragrance turned out to be too modern for a company with a true British image. It is better to take it apart from the Atkinsons concept - in this case, it is a wonderful warming perfume, suitable regardless of gender and age.
Images: Biodiversity Heritage Library - Flickr (1, 2)