H24: Nature and Technology Combined
With a focus on the unconventional and the evocative, Hermès perfumer Christine Nagel combines nature and technology in a new fragrance for men.
The men’s perfume universe offers infinite variations. Within this array of possibilities, Hermès perfumer Christine Nagel has had to “open up other, less predictable paths, to move away from the conventional woodiness of men’s scents.” From this exploration, H24 has emerged; a unique combination of nature and technology, a precise form of magic.
Innovative and inventive, it was through Nagel’s observation of Véronique Nichanian, artistic director of the Hermès men’s universe, that this fragrance for men took shape. “When I attend one of Véronique’s runway shows, I am always struck by how I am able to feel the texture, the very weave of the fabric, with my eyes.” Both creators share a love of fluidity, proportions, and materials, and this inspiration bore a fragrance with textured, raw materials to create a disruptive, almost tactile impression.
The base of H24 begins with an aromatic, botanical note. To make it her own, without re-visiting well-trodden ground, Nagel chose clary sage (Salvia sclarea), with its inflections of hay and cut grass, alongside this highly distinctive, slightly animal amber base. Not to be confused with garden sage (Salvia officinalis) with its “medicinal, camphor-infused accents”, the clary sage variety “is far more enveloping and more sensual”. With combined essence and absolute, this clary sage refuses to blend into the background. It forms a botanical backbone that draws the fragrance out into a slender silhouette, stretching towards the sky: “I was thinking of urban nature, the accelerated image of this fragile little shoot pushing through concrete to claim its space. I find the expression of this movement, this life force, enormously moving.”
With this dreamlike form, Nagel then invoked intrigue and assonance through the conveyance of narcissus absolute; a flower that is, in fact, not quite a flower. This botanical defies its own fragility with an untameable scents that need to be handled with care. In addition to its renowned green, crisp, and edgy aspects, it exhales a certain memory of nocturnal tobacco. “I have softened it without stripping it of its lively, electric character, by having it co-distilled with another material.” Invention is Christine Nagel’s playground, and she willingly cultivates her taste for the audacious hybridisation of nature and innovation. This impulse has sparked her interest in biotechnologies that enable the production of new molecules based on natural and environmentally-friendly enzyme reactions. “I like to go towards natural, very classic raw materials, and work them using technologies that give them other renderings, other textures.” This stylised and rather disconcerting narcissus, with its wonderful implicit bitterness, lends the fragrance not only elegance but also the patina of a classic.
The third piece in this flawlessly rendered puzzle is rosewood essence. A rose in name only, the essence is extracted from a wild, rare South American tree. “I chose it for its simple and natural botanical freshness. We were lucky enough to be able to source it from producers in Peru whose eco-responsible initiative, supported by the house, involves harvesting it and replanting the species in a way that respects the environment.”
The final note is delivered by a molecule of the future: sclarene. Initially green and earthy, this aromatic body very quickly develops its sensual tang reminiscent of a hot iron. It offers the composition its metallic intonation; a rich and intense pleasure. Through this, it forms a link with the Hermès men’s ready-to-wear universe, evoking the aroma of hot irons on fabric in the workshops.
To house this fragrance, the bottle showcases fundamental forms, as if created by the grip of an invisible hand. Designed by Philippe Mouquet, it is an exercise in glassmaking prowess, with aerodynamic lines creating a fluid and elegant container. The bottle is designed to be refillable, and the box is crafted from 100% recycled and recyclable paper, the colours of which make reference to the fragrance’s composition. A mineral grey base is enhanced with a fine line of lime green that simultaneously delimits and opens up the space beyond the lines.
Meticulously interwoven and with no visible seams, each ingredient of H24 has been precisely worked – some in an entirely bespoke way – and exists in its own right. This formal simplicity offers enough space within the composition to allow light to penetrate, creating this unique and paradoxical impression of sensual clarity. The intentionally short and incisive formula offers an alternative aromatic note, a wood without the scent of one, and an impressionist molecule; this fragrance cultivates its unique facets one by one. Enriched by all of its sharp edges, H24 is a vibrant, evocative, and luminous fragrance. A reinvented signature with just the right note of casual ease, to ignite style without ever confining it.
Hermès Parfum et Beauté
12-16, rue Auger, 93500 Pantin, France
All images © Quentin Bertoux