Editor's Picks, Grooming

Hermès’ Christine Nagel divulges on fragrances that weather

Hermès’ Christine Nagel divulges on fragrances that weather

Petrichor, the sweet damp smell of green and asphalt after the rain now has a new name christened by Christine Nagel of Hermès—H24 Herbes Vivres.

Hello Christine, what a pleasure it is to interview you again. To start with, how would you describe H24 Herbes Vives? 

To keep it brief and to the point, I would choose these three words: Powerful, fresh and lively. 

The word contemporary, used in the press release, is one I find used a lot in fashion or food but what does it mean through the lens of a fragrance? What makes a fragrance contemporary?
You might consider the term overused, but I think it perfectly expresses the modernity of perfumery. I’d say that in terms of imagination, a contemporary fragrance reflects today’s cultural, artistic and social influences and the spirit of the times. Its composition is also characterised by innovative compositions and unique ingredients. The fragrance industry is constantly evolving to meet changing consumer preferences and to explore new creative ideas.

For our interview about H24, you mentioned that it was “like when you see a man walking on an Hermès runway show — the materials are so soft that you’d want to touch and caress them” so what is the imagery now for the H24 Herbes Vives man?

He’s the same man, he hasn’t changed, but it’s so satisfying to work on a formula over and over again to extend it, to make it say something else. When the initial structure is beautiful and strong, I have everything I need. It’s a fascinating exercise that I never tire of. 

So what could be more stimulating for me than to give you the scent of H24 with a different vibration, from another angle, another facet? I am free to make my own choices and follow my own creative rhythm, and I wanted to work this modern, clean note into a softer green with more damp rawness.  As if it were zooming in on the green notes, H24 Herbes Vives offers a new balance in the resonance of the ingredients, offering immediate intensity, power and freshness.

What was this particular happy memory you had of nature after the rain when it came to creating the new H24? Was it from your childhood? Or perhaps, something new has happened to you?
For as long as I can remember, the transformations that take place after rain have always fascinated and amazed me. How can rain, which has no smell, generate such an intoxicating scent?   After a rain shower, I always find myself filling my lungs with the smell that suddenly emanates from the ground.

To be more precise, I have memories of wonderful walks through vegetable gardens that I love so much, and I wanted to highlight these little herbs that look like nothing at all but are bursting with scent. I call them ‘herbettes’, because they seem so humble and unassuming, these plants in the medieval herb gardens are called ‘jardin des simples’ with their aromatic and condiment qualities. Savoury, sorrel, parsley and hemp are all so richly scented after the rain. They exude a note of extreme freshness and give the surprising impression that they have already been cut. 

The interesting thing about the way H24 Herbes Vives is described in the press release (emerges when rain strikes, breaking a man’s stride.) reminds me that sometimes, we often don’t take notice of our surroundings — be it natural or manmade— when we’re forced to stop in our tracks. We see it as a hindrance instead of a sign to pause and appreciate things.
That’s quite right, so many things pass us by as a result of routine, preoccupation, tiredness, etc. And then all of a sudden, something we hadn’t seen, heard or smelled jumps out at us. So I love your suggestion that H24 Herbes Vives could offer an opportunity to pause to experience a sudden and unexpected emotion.

In nature, the earth exhales humus, notes of grasses and plants. Everything comes to the surface. It’s as if the rain releases the green notes of sap into the air. I’m just as fascinated by an organic reality—how a raindrop on a blade of grass enlarges every detail, like a magnifying glass, is still a marvel to me. In the city, tarmac and asphalt emit other aromatic notes that fascinate me just as much.  I’ve always associated it with a positive smell for the environment and, by extension, for people. 

Would you say that the asphalt-like note to the fragrance can put one in a good mood? Personally, the scent always does for me because it reminds me of summer childhood days at the playground. Even the vegetal notes remind me of digging around in the soil and playing pretend.
I’m delighted it brought out such emotions for you! The evocative power of fragrance is unique and highly personal. We are all made in the same way, but each of us feels a different emotion in the presence of the same scent. This mysterious chemistry depends largely on our olfactory memories. Fragrance remains the strongest link with emotion.  

How did you decide to use Physcool® then? Does it literally leave a sensation of freshness?
Physcool®, a rare and captivating material, is a minty molecule, that is derived from biotechnology by Mane. It delivers a burst of freshness and astonishing liveliness when it comes into contact with water. It has the very special property of increasing in freshness on contact with a molecule of water.  

For our interview about Terre d’Hermès Eau Givree, you mentioned that you “want to insist that Terre d’Hermès Eau Givree is a fully-fledged creation in its own right, even though it belongs to a family” so do you see your work as continuing the chapters in a story (for example, Tutti Twilly) with occasional new universes (Oud Alezan)?

Yes, I can confirm that when I work on a creation within an existing family it’s still always a creation in its own right. While respecting the spirit, structure and imagery behind the original, I put my own stamp on it. As with painting, there are 1,001 ways of representing the same portrait. Without disrupting the codes of the original – its balance, its beautiful materials, its classic structure – you can truly create a new version. I allow a creation to move into a new space, time and era.

Once you are done with this story, click here to catch up with our March 2024 issue.