How Hermès’ new in-house nose created ‘fiery dance of rose and leather’ scent | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Galop d’Hermès is housed in a clear glass bottle shaped like a stirrup. Each bottle is encased in zamak, a costly aluminum alloy, and its cap tied with an Hermès leather string. —PHOTOS BY CHECHE V.MORAL
Galop d’Hermès is housed in a clear glass bottle shaped like a stirrup. Each bottle is encased in zamak, a costly aluminum alloy, and its cap tied with an Hermès leather string. —PHOTOS BY CHECHE V.MORAL
Galop d’Hermès is housed in a clear glass bottle shaped like a stirrup. Each bottle is encased in zamak, a costly aluminum alloy, and its cap tied with an, Hermès leather string. —PHOTOS BY CHECHE V.MORAL

It’s mostly known for leather objects, so it’s not unusual that Hermès’ new in-house perfumer would first look into the company’s leather library to find inspiration for her debut fragrance.


Galop d’Hermès is not Christine Nagel’s first scent for the company, but it’s her first as its in-house nose, since she took over the post of Jean-Claude Ellena following his retirement this year.


Leather library

Christine Nagel

Galop d’Hermès’ story began in the leather library—the house’s silent, beating heart—says Nagel in an e-mail interview with Inquirer Lifestyle. “It’s a place where you can hear the leather breathe, and I chose the Doblis because its name is like a caress.”


Doblis is a kind of suede, and Nagel likens its softness to that of a woman’s skin. “In an instant, I understood that the leather was feminine… It has a tactile, gentle and elegant power.”


Galop d’Hermès is a “fiery dance” of rose and leather, symbolic of a woman’s freedom, and a tribute to Hermès’ in-house values, says its maker.


At Hermès, fragrance creation has no market research involved, nor are there set deadlines and parameters— an “incredible luxury” in a competitive and saturated market, Nagel says.


“I work sparingly with few raw materials because I’m convinced that what matters is, by definition, simple,” she adds. “At Hermès, the beauty of the raw materials is central, it’s at the heart of all their crafts.


It goes without saying it’s central to mine. Hermès gives us unique freedom to choose our raw materials. It’s an absolute luxury, which lets me go where no one else goes.”




Nagel is an oddity in an industry dominated by men. In the beginning, this Swiss-born trained chemist felt she was at a great disadvantage making her way into the world of perfumery. First, she was not a child of a perfumer; she grew up in Geneva, far from Grasse, the heart of perfumery; and she was a woman.


“I belong to a generation where there were very few women perfumers,” she says. “At that time, being a woman and a perfumer was incompatible. Fortunately, times have changed; I am a true enthusiast of women empowerment and am very thrilled about women becoming stronger and stronger, even in fields usually dominated by men.”


Nagel trained under the best perfumers, naming Alberto Morillas (Bulgari Omnia, Kenzo Flower) as the first to inspire her to pursue a career in perfumery, and Michel Almairac (Bond no. 9 West Side, Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum) as her eventual mentor.


Prior to joining Hermès in 2013, Nagel herself had a long and impressive list of creations for brands like Jo Malone, Cartier, Thierry Mugler, among others.


As for her predecessor, who worked at Hermès for over a decade, she says: “It’s important for you to understand that Jean-Claude Ellena was a legend, a ‘living god’ in perfumery. I should and could have been terrified. It’s odd, but I wasn’t that overawed because I’d known his perfumes so well and for such a long time that I felt I already knew him well, almost intimately. Of course, we both worked on different things, each in our own personal creative world, but when it comes down to it, we were very similar.”


Ellena taught her to take her time, “the time to smell and time to forget smells so that I can come back to them fresh, the time to rediscover them in a new way, from another angle.”


They call this calm, unhurried pace “the Hermès time,” in which an artisan like Nagel presents her projects only “when I judge them accomplished, mature.”


Physical perfumery


Nagel describes her style as having some element of tactility and a particular sensitivity to raw materials. “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 recognize myself in that quote. I accentuate features, and bring out raw materials. My perfumes are never linear.”


She adds: “When I discover an ingredient I want to know everything, to knead it, crush it, work it, experiment with it. I want to take it where I like, coax it. I want to push its boundaries. I want to force it, tame it… I hope I can bring my own olfactory vision to Hermès and that it will be nurtured by their exacting in-house standards.”


Hermès fragrances have had a tremendous growth in Southeast Asia, up by 14 percent by end of September, says Jean-Philippe Collin, regional director for Hermès Parfums in Asia Pacific.


The Philippines is especially remarkable, with a 35-percent growth compared to last year, he adds.


While perfumes account for only 5 percent of Hermès’ business, Collin says the category has strong growth leverage as the brand enters the beauty business in 2019. A growth driver is also the market’s changing taste in perfume: While the lighter Les Jardins line was created for Asians, the market is now proving its sophistication by buying typically stronger French perfumes.


Refillable bottle


Galop d’Hermès comes in 50-ml EDP, housed in a clear glass shaped after a stirrup. The bottle is refillable, to cater to customers who don’t want to throw the beautiful Hermès bottle. It’s also for the brand’s long-term eco-friendly efforts.


According to Nagel, the bottle was inspired by a historic shape created for the opening of the very first Hermès store overseas in New York in 1929. Each bottle is encased in zamak, a costly aluminum alloy, and its cap tied with a Hermès leather string.


“At Hermès, we don’t do products, we do Hermès objects. You don’t want to throw the bottle,” says Collin.


To better appreciate a scent, here’s Nagel’s advice: “It’s quite simple: When you walk into a perfumery with no clear idea, the blotter is perfect for a first approach and a preliminary selection. However, once the selection is made, trying on the skin is essential.”


Ideally, keep it on your skin for a day or two. You’ll know after if “the emotion is still there.”


Hermès Parfums’ regional director for Asia Pacific Jean-Philippe Collin and Hermès Philippines country manager Mario Katigbak.
Hermès Parfums’ regional director for Asia Pacific Jean Philippe Collin and Hermès Philippines country manager Mario Katigbak.


Galop d’Hermès is available at Hermès in Greenbelt 4, and at Hermès counters in Rustan’s Makati,

Shangri-La Plaza, Alabang and Cebu.

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