Christine Nagel is the fragrance world superstar, a living icon of courage, passion and not to mention an impressive education. With her skills she has taken over the role as Head Perfumer at Hermès. Meet her in an exclusive interview where we talk of freedom, inspiration and the work behind the success scents.

By: Liv Lövendahl
What inspires you?

Christine Nagel

It is difficult to summarize in a few words. But to try to keep it brief, it is the idea of ​​a beautiful feeling that our sense of smell moves us. It requires a lot of work to get through all the way, but it’s worth it. It always starts with something close to my heart. A place that touches me, a landscape that left it’s mark, a memory that makes itself felt, a painting that moves me…

Either of these things can serve as the starting point for a new fragrance. Today, it is without a doubt the whole world of Hermès and heritage that inspire me the most. There is so much to get here and plenty of inspiration to take off. I am happy and proud to take part in and be a part of Hermès assets.

I know you started your career as a chemist, what made you want to work as a perfumer?
I was born in Switzerland with an Italian mother and grew up far from Grasse and the perfume world. I first came in contact with perfumes when I studied plant chemistry and my first job in the industry was with Firmenich. That was how I discovered the perfume diversity at a molecular level. Once there, there was no turning back, I longed to be a perfumer, to learn everything, experiment and refine my art. There are primarily two perfumers who have had great impact on my career choice: to begin with, Alberto Morillas. I saw how he worked from my window one floor above his laboratory, and how he once asked two women smelling the perfume he worked with – I saw how they smiled and knew how they experienced it, felt their joy. It was at that precise moment I realized that this was what I wanted to work with, to be able to give so much emotion to people. Later, when I worked on putting together a chromatography Création Aromatique, I met Michel Almairac. He became my mentor and it was during his review that I created my first perfumes.

Christine Nagel’s first perfume for Hermès, Galop, an exclusive fragrance inspired by the feel of a galloping horse and a woman dancing.

How did you chose these components as inspiration for your new scent?
The horse is an athlete’s body and a ballerina’s feet as Pierre-Alexis (Hermès creative director, editor’s note.) say.
The horse is a living paradox and embodies the energy and strength that nourishes a conscious present to us. It’s the same feeling I can find in dance, when a woman moves to the music for its own sake, instinctively, original and powerful.

Can you tell me how a perfume gets made, from idea to finished product?

It always starts with a blank sheet. The feeling of emptiness that is as beautiful as terrifying. It is terribly exciting, and a really big responsibility for me as a perfumer. A greater responsibility than you may first realize, because perfumes are the most accessible Hermès has to offer. We simply have a duty to create and represent.
I start every morning with the smell the scents I worked the day before. Since the day continues with a pattern of creation, smelling, creation and smelling again. My strengths are definitely my courage, my honesty and my expertise when it comes to how to reach and create different fragrances.
When I created Galop devoted myself completely to the Hermès amazing universe. Right from day one was every door open and everyone was very open and generous when I needed something to develop my work and I discovered all crafts that fit within Hermès and the hugely skilled craftsmen.
For me Galop pays homage to this venerable house. It is important for me that there is a perfume, not an eau de parfum. It means a lot. But the most important thing is that the building’s intrinsic values ​​shown up and is expressed in this perfume.
Earlier you talked about your creative freedom at Hermès, is your sense of freedom represented by the horse and dancer?

Yes, absolutely, both freedom and time! The biggest difference in my work these days is that I have complete creative freedom and plenty of time in my creative process. All decisions are taken by me along with the chairman of Hermès Parfums Agnes de Villers. We create without market research and panels that will speak up, something I never had. It creates space for the creative process while it naturally puts a huge responsibility on the perfumer. It is a unique way of working in this industry, not to have to adapt to the demands of others but only rely on its own. It is wonderful to have such complete control over his creation.
On the way I work now, I have no time frame or deadline to adapt myself. I present my work as I think it is clear and has matured to perfection. That in itself is a huge luxury, a luxury that gives room for beauty in real life. When I work for Hermès, I work for what we call “The Hermés Time” which means “The time it takes to create.”


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