India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
March 02, 2018

Painter of Scents

Text by Aparrna Gupta

Christine Nagel, the nose of Hermès, talks about her passion for perfumes

In her perfumes, there’s often something tactile and textured; a particular sensitivity to the raw material. “People often describe my work as physical perfumery. I’ll quote Rodin: ‘To give my figures more breadth, I give them more life, I exaggerate them and get more life.’ That’s absolutely true of my perfumes, I recognise myself in that quote,” states Christine Nagel, perfumer for the house of Hermès. Her latest fragrance, Twilly d’Hermès, meant for millennials, has become a talking point.

On Twilly d’Hermès
“My perfumes are never linear. In Twilly as well I chose ingredients and gave them a twist: ginger, also known as a ‘white spice’ in French; tuberose, an unsettling flower; and sandalwood, an elegant wood. I have deliberately turned each of this trio of materials on their head and woven each of them together so that none impairs the other, and each keeps its personality. Just like young women who share everything and have fun together, without ever renouncing their individuality.”

Smell Of Modernity
“For me, to speak of a modern fragrance is to speak about a trend — to speak about the past. If I could predict trends, I’d be ahead of the entire game. For me, audacity is the greatest trend of all. What I want is to be able to smell something that’s radically different. I like to go search for notes that are not ‘trendy’ anymore. To give them another texture, to use them in a completely different way. To sum up — sincere perfumery, genuine, free and committed.”

Travels That Stoked Creativity
“Although I could cite a number of them, I am thinking of Kerala and the backwaters in India. I experienced a moment of tranquility and grace when I saw a form of absolute harmony in the shimmer of colours, the richness of smells, the humanity of people. A balance that I tend to get in my perfumes!”

It Starts With An Idea
“A fragrance always starts with an idea that matters to me. A place that moves me, a landscape imprinted on my mind, a memory suddenly resurfacing, a painting that transports me, or simply the shimmering colours of a sari in Kochi (in Kerala). Any of these could be the starting point for an olfactory creation. Today, what clearly and deeply inspires me is the entire Hermès universe and heritage. I immerse myself completely in the utterly unique world of Hermès. I’ve always felt an affinity for the House of Hermès: I’m inspired by the perfectly poised taste, the authenticity, the constant pursuit of excellence.”

The Journey
“When I started, I was frowned upon. I had a scientific background. I did not come from Grasse — the cradle of perfumery. I was not the daughter of a perfumer and most of all I was a woman. Today, I am convinced that it is one of my strengths. My technical past allows me to be free. Nothing seems impossible to me.”

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