Christine Nagel, the nose of Hermès: "I am the happiest perfumer on Earth"

“I am the happiest perfumer on Earth,” says Christine Nagel, nose at Hermès.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
16 August 2023 Wednesday 10:31
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Christine Nagel, the nose of Hermès: "I am the happiest perfumer on Earth"

“I am the happiest perfumer on Earth,” says Christine Nagel, nose at Hermès. She has an expressive, vital and passionate personality that contagious joie de vivre. She will soon be ten years old at the helm of the perfumes of the French house and she still remembers the message from her CEO, Axel Dumas, on the first day: "Christine, continue to be audacious, because without her there is no creation," she recalls. she. And Dumas added: “She has the right to be wrong. I prefer that she be wrong because of her audacity than because of doing what everyone else does ”. "I had never heard something like this in my life," says the perfumer, who struggles in the competitive world of fragrances. "I don't want to be wrong, but that reception was wonderful."

The interior garden of the Hermès store in Barcelona became for a day the memory of a field of golden ears measured by the wind. The air smelled of grasses, olive wood, fresh pistachios (which are pink and not green) with a soft hint of honey... These are the notes of Un Jardin à Cythère, the seventh perfume in the collection, with which Nagel reinterprets his first trip to the Peloponnese, to the island of Cithera. The perfumer insisted that two olive trees be planted in the Barcelona patio. There they will grow. The Mediterranean is an expert in building bridges.

At Hermès there is no pressure on when to launch a perfume, no marketing briefings… Do you feel the responsibility of all that freedom?

I adore her, because I do the job of a real perfumer! It could be somewhat dizzying, but it gives me strength and happiness. Freedom is a responsibility, but how lucky to have it! I have time, an incredible gift to create and choose raw materials. If I want to create an extract of mimosa, which blooms in February, in August I can use what we have or wait for it to bloom again.

That is a luxury...

Yes. I am already allowed to experiment, go a little further... Price is not an argument. I can also choose the theme, at Hermès there is no marketing, which would almost sound like a swear word. They tell me: “It's time to think about a perfume or a garden”, and that's it.

Who validates your perfume?

When I present it there are Pierre-Alexis Dumas, artistic director of the house; Agnès de Villers, President of Hermès Parfum

What can't be missing in a Hermès perfume?

The values ​​of the house, elegance, love for detail, leather, purity, discreet sensuality... A perfume is the gateway to the brand.

Do colors matter in a perfume?

For me yes, but it is not something that all perfumers agree on. Some are very close to music and I, on the other hand, do not see the relationship. For me synesthesia is in the texture and color. I like my perfumes to have color, that the bottles are coherent. Sometimes I see my creations as paintings.

What is your first olfactory memory?

The smell of my mother's closet. When she wasn't around she would put me in her clothes and her shoes. I also remember her perfume, because she put it on me (she immediately noticed it). And the smell of typical Italian talc, with a note of heliotrope that she put on my little brothers. The smells of childhood mark us a lot.

Would you live with someone who wore a perfume that you did not like?

No. But I still go further. When you fall in love with someone, their body odor becomes part of us. Then you have to trust your nose, your instinct. We would realize that when we perceive that the smell of the other is different from ours, when it even bothers us, we are losing love.

Choose the couple by the smell...

Perhaps that should not come, but you have to be vigilant. My daughter once had an ideal and cute boyfriend but she told me: "I can't fall in love because I don't like how it smells."

How to be elegant with a perfume?

Trust our instinct. Wear a perfume that corresponds to us, not look for it for external things. More than recognizing ourselves, we have to feel good with him.

What does your house smell like?

To the people I love.