Hermès is a French luxury goods manufacturer founded in 1837 by Thierry Hermès. Its first incarnation was a workshop in the Grands Boulevards quarter of Paris, producing bespoke harnesses and bridles for carriages of European nobleman. In 1880, the firm moved to its now iconic address, 24 Rue Faubourg, where it expanded its offer to saddlery and began selling to the public.
During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Émile-Maurice Hermès (son of Thierry) once again expanded the brand’s offering to include accessories and clothing - including scarves and what came to be known as the Kelly bag, which remain two of their most iconic and coveted items to this date.
Eau d’Hermès, the house’s first perfume, debuted in 1951 with an initial production of only 1500 bottles. Its creator, Edmond Roudnitska, already had two iconic fragrances - Christian Dior’s Diorama and Rochas Femme - under his belt by the time he began working on it. The fragrance’s leather notes were inspired by the inside of an Hermès handbag and is still considered shocking by some today due to his inclusion of pungent animalic notes and sweaty cumin. Eau d’Hermès dropped off the radar after the 1950’s until Hermès began re-marketing it in 1993. Though still not as popular or well-known as the best-selling Eau des Merveilles or Terre d’Hermès, the fragrance enjoys something of a cult status among connoisseurs of the brand.
In 1961 Hermès chose Guy Robert to create its first feminine fragrance, Calèche. The launch firmly established the company as an icon in the designer fragrance industry; over the next forty years it worked closely with some of the biggest names in the business, including Maurice Roucel, Fabrice Pellegrin, Olivia Giacobetti, Ralf Schwieger and Françoise Caron to create timeless fragrances that still rank among perfume hall best-sellers of today.
Véronique Gautier, then director of Parfums Hermès, took the unusual step of hiring Jean-Claude Ellena as the firm’s in-house perfumer in 2004. At the time, only Chanel employed an in-house perfumer, Jacques Polge. Despite boasting an enviable collection of iconic scents, perfume sales lagged behind those of other designer houses. The aim of this bold decision was to not only create a best-seller, but to give the collection the same sense of coherence and craftsmanship for which the fashion and accessory side of the business was known. The wager paid off - four years after Ellena’s appointment, perfume sales at Hermès had supposedly tripled, and his 2006 creation Terre d’Hermès remained on the French best-sellers list for nearly five years.
In 2013, Ellena invited perfumer Christine Nagel to join him at the helm of Perfumes Hermès. Although he remains a driving creative force behind the brand, she is now widely regarded as the “chief nose”.