When we think of Hermès, does one think of their timeless vintage Birkin bags? Or is it the Kelly that comes to mind? When I think of Hermès, I think of my bag that has a smooth exterior, a hint of gloss and a delightful leather aroma. The leather aroma which could only come from an Hermès bag. Of course, my bag has my Jaguar Quetzal silk scarf wrapped around the handle, and my classic Eau d’Hermes perfume tucked in the front pocket. Dangling delicately from the side is my Paddock Selle charm, depicting a leather saddle, of which I have several more in different colours. All these items in my bag echo the beginnings of a timeless brand, one with an irreplaceable charm that cannot be found in any other household name.
The Birkin Bag
Undeniably, this luxury goods house is iconic. Their products have an air of complete sophistication. However, it wasn’t with leather bags and silk scarfs that Thierry Hermès, the brand’s founder, originally established his success. Looking down at my little charm of a leather saddle, I remember that this is where it all started.
Paddock Fer A Cheval Charm, Paddock Selle Charm, Camail Key Ring
Thierry Hermès started the company as a harness workshop in Paris in 1837. His intent: to provide bridles saddles and other leather riding gear for European noblemen. This brand earned its stripes in equestrian accessories, and just by looking at the signature logo which still stands today, we can understand how deep-rooted this well-loved and well-respected brand’s origins are.
Over time, the brand has grown, as Hermès has developed their saddle-making expertise into different merchandise. Customers have endlessly revelled in the beauty of their leather bags and accessories, stylish jewellery and watches, tasteful furnishings, and of course, their vast range of exclusive perfume. Hermès find their success in their ability to reflect the distinct essence of their brand in many of their items today. Naturally, leather, as their signature material, has inspired the majority of their goods, and even has its place in many of their scents. The magic of Hermès can be found in even their smallest products. For example: their Camail, Paddock Selle and Paddock Fer A Cheval charms, all of which echo the horse, saddle and riding gear theme.
Various designers have contributed to the brand. We have seen the likes of the extremely well-renowned fashion designers, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Christophe Lemaire (who have both taken the title as creative director of the brand), as well as Veronique Nichanian, the artistic director of menswear for the brand, and the current artistic director of womenswear, Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski. Now an international brand, the success of Hermès seems to a timeless story. Their authenticity has been successfully maintained for decades.
Creating luscious, evocative fragrance has been fundamental to the Hermès brand since 1951, when they launched their House of Perfume. With over 106 fragrances, the house boasts an impressive array of various different collections of perfumes. Every male, female and unisex collection and every individual perfume tells a story through scent and encompasses Hermès’ daring, harmonious, timeless and elegant style. Over time, Hermès’ scents have evolved as more and more fragrances have been released; however, each one always manages to echo the brand’s individuality, aesthetic and story. Each release is a new chapter in the storybook of Hermès. A story that, as it progresses, becomes more and more intriguing and compels the reader to warm to the character and personality of the brand.
Perfume beginnings, Eau d’ Hermès
The brands signature perfume began with Eau d’Hermès, composed by Edmond Roudnitska, an internationally renowned nose in the perfume industry. As Hermès’ first perfume of some significance, it was this release that would determine what the ‘Hermès smell’ is. This is something of significance to the brand and to those who know it best, as current head in-house perfumer Christine Nagel explains:
“It’s the smell of Hermès. It’s enough to be the smell of Hermès. It’s the style, quality, spirit and the smell. When you put on your skin an Hermès perfume, you know it’s Hermès. I don’t know why. But it’s the spirit.”
It is this powerful essence that a buyer of an Hermès perfume can expect when they purchase one of the brand’s fragrances. The promise, that the perfume they wear will be authentically, classically and undeniably an Hermès scent. Eau d’Hermès is the first to capture the Hermès aroma with a scent inspired by the inside of an Hermès leather bag. An iconic smell that will go on to inspire every other scent in the house. Eau d’Hermès is a sensual, unisex perfume which gives off an odour of leather enfolded with spice, citrus and florals. Following its initial scent in 1951, it became a string of perfumes for men and women, the most recent being released in 2016. These perfumes include Eau d’Orange Douce, Eau d’Orange Verte, Eau D’Orange Verte 1979, Eau de Citron Noir, Eau de Cologne Hermès, Eau de Gentiane Blanche and Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate.
Eau d’Hermès would go on to become part of the renowned Hermès collection: The Classics Collection of Eight.
Of the different collections Hermès have released over time, perhaps the most famous and influential group of perfumes from the brand is the Classics Collection of Eight. They are as follows: Eau d’Hermès, rich in spice and citrus fruit. Calèche, a light, feminine floral scent; Equipage, an aromatic scent for the ‘modern, self-confident man’; Amazone, a symbol of femininity which evokes a woody, earthy scent; Bel Ami, a celebration of leather with spicy essence; Rocabar, with its strongest facets in wood, spice and cypress; Hiris, a delicate scent focused on the flowers iris and rose; and finally, Rouge Hermès, a scent full of passion, with vanilla, rose and ylang-ylang.
These are eight perfumes that have retained their style and appeal, and continue to be appreciated as timeless status fragrances. The collection sets the bar high for Hermès perfumery, and inspires those who create new scents to understand and appreciate the authenticity and individuality that must be maintained within each and every scent that joins the collection. To create perfume that allows one to feel as if it is the first time wearing it, until the bottle is finished.
Calèche was introduced to Hermès in 1961 by Guy Robert. It was the first Hermès fragrance for women, and introduced the wearer to the woody essence of the Hermès scent. This echos the horse-drawn carriage in the brand’s logo. Calèche encompasses other raw materials, such as aldehyde notes, ylang-ylang, rose, jasmine and iris. The original perfume inspired a collection of its own, its most recent release, Kelly Calèche Eau de Parfum, being released in 2009. Perfumes in the collection include: Calèche Eau Delicate, Calèche Fleurs de Mediterranee, Calèche Parfum and Kelly Calèche Extrait.
Composed by Maurice Roucel in 1995, 24 Faubourg was named after the brand’s Paris address. The original 24 Faubourg perfume is described as ‘an invitation to travel, with the sun as a destination’. Incorporating white flowers in the top notes, and iris, patchouli, wood, vanilla and ambergris. The collection consists of eight perfumes, which have been released from 1995 up until 2011. The majority of perfumes in this collection are for women, with the exception of Eperon d’Or Limited Edition, released in 2011, which is unisex. Perfumes in the collection include 24 Faubourg, 24 Faubourg Eau Delicate, 24 Faubourg Extrait de Parfum, 24 Faubourg Jeu De Lignes et de Lumiere and 24 Faubourg Jeu Des Omnibus Et Dames Blanches.
Eau des Merveilles
The Merveilles collection is wide-ranging, with 17 perfumes, mostly for women, with two unisex editions. The original perfume, created by Ralph Schwieger and Nathalie Feisthauer, evokes top notes of veltiver, oak and cedar, and base notes of lemon, orange, elemi, and pink pepper, with ambergris at its heart. These perfumers succeeded in creating a deeply feminine scent without involving a noticeable floral scent. Perfumes in the Merveilles collection include Eau Claire des Merveilles, Eau des Merveilles 10th Anniversary Edition, Eau des Merveilles Au Bal des Etoiles and Eau des Merveilles Bleue.
Like other Hermès collections, the Hermessence collection is plentiful, with a total of 18 unisex perfumes, the original Hermessence perfume released in 2004, and the most recent released in 2018. Hermès first appointed in-house perfumer, and world-renowned nose, Jean-Claude Ellena, created this collection, conceiving the scents as olfactory poems. Comparing them to a Japanese haiku, Ellena claims they are inspired by the idea of ‘an inspired composer in search of the new’. Ellena, an active embracer of nature, has enriched each new perfume in the collection with new zests each time he discovers new ingredients or new culture in some form. His rich experience of the world is bottled into this collection.
This unisex collection was first established in 2003 with the perfume, Un Jardin En Mediterranee. Jean-Claude Ellena was the creator behind this original perfume, who bases its scent on the theme of a fig tree at dawn and Mediterranean citrus. The perfume is said to bring to mind elements such as water, light and shade. Its top notes consist of citrus, its middle, of orange blossom and white nerium oleander, and its base of more leafy substance like fig leaf and cypress. This is a fairly small collection as it stands, with five scents, the most recent of which being released in 2015: Le Jardin de Monsieur Li.
The Jour d’Hermès collection is a fairly new collection, the first scent being released in 2013. With four perfumes for women, the original Jour d’Hermès perfume is characterized by its sensual, floral and luminous scent, another creation by Jean-Claude Ellena. His inspiration for the collection comes from wanting to recreate the essence of femininity with florals. The other perfumes in the collection are: Jour d’Hermès Absolu, Jour d’Hermès Parfum and Jour d’Hermès Gardenia.
This collection for men was first established in 2006. Terre is one of the larger, most iconic Hermès collections, with its first fragrance being the most popular in the house. The first 2006 edition, Terre d’Hermès, was another creation by Jean-Claude Ellena. Terre d’Hermès is a metaphor for materials, its scent based on the alchemy of wood, earth and roots. At first, the scent brings orange and grapefruit in the top notes, then fresh spices in the middle with pepper and fresh spices. At the base is veltiver, perfectly mixed with cedar, benzoin and patchouli.
Hermès has recently a new addition to their Terre collection: Terres d’Hermès Flacon H 2018.
Terre d’Hermès Flacon H 2018 is a masculine fragrance that is drawing the attention of perfume lovers everywhere. A scent that encompasses a freshness through its citrus fruit and shiso elements. This refillable spray is described as the ‘a symbolic narrative revolving around a raw material and its metamorphosis.’ Filled with ingredients such as orange, geranium, pepper, cedarwood, patchouli, veltiver, benzoin and grapefruit, and a woody, vegetal essence at its core.
As previously mentioned, Jean-Claude Ellena, the creator of this perfume and several others before in the Hermès House of Perfume, is a huge advocator of embracing nature “In the beginning there is the earth, and the sky. Then there is a man. In these wide open spaces, he stands tall to take on the world and the sky is his new horizon.”
Nature is at the heart of this fragrance. Ellena clearly aimed to infuse his glorious passion for it into this spicy, woody scent. His aim, to make the wearer feel the relief, elevation and peace he undoubtedly feels. He sums up the sensations the perfume gives him in the perfect way:
“Feeling the earth, lying on the ground, gazing at the sky.”
This description is everything that a perfume should make you feel. Ellena has combined perfumery with poetry and expression to create a signature fragrance that makes you feel free, at one with nature, exhilarated with a new lease for life and a desire to embrace the elements around you.
This deep scent, which is erotic to the senses, has character. It is all about the base notes. This perfume is not for those who desire a light, floral, barely there fragrance. At first, the scent starts off on a note of light orange and pepper, then draws the nose into its woody, cedar compounds. After a few minutes, the perfume unleashes its fresh and earthy elements. As the long-lasting orange then begins to fade, the velviter takes over, becoming centre stage a few hours later. The devotion and passion Ellena uses to create perfumes is not unlike that needed to create a painting. For example, Van Gogh said that it is necessary to:
“Arrange the colours in a painting in order to make them vibrate and to enhance their value by their contrasts.”
This perfumer has drawn on more than just the elements to create this new edition, he uses his own emotions and experiences to create perfumery that is an asset to the Hermès brand. Because, after all, the perfume one chooses to wear is an extremely personal choice and should reflect our identity, our journey, what we wish to portray. It can even be a reflection of our souls.