A stroll along the Hermessences

On Monday night, Hermès took the press on a stroll along its Hermessences, in the gorgeous setting of Jardins Albert Kahn. Just outside of Paris, the gardens designed by architect Fumiaki Takano were picture-perfect for the occasion: the ten fragrances constituting the collection were presented one after the other, like stopovers along the way through the Japanese garden, paved with purple pebbles and punctuated with artistic installations. At each of these stops, the juice was presented next to a haiku then sprayed, for every visitor, on a ribbon, then tied on the hand-held fan given at the start.

These ten haikus were born from a meeting in Japan between in-house perfumer and creator of the juices, Jean-Claude Ellena, and ten Haiku masters.

« Being appreciative of poetry, I once said, without really thinking where I was heading with the idea, that the Hermessence perfumes were Haikus. According to the rules, these Japanese poems should be no longer than a single breath, and reading them should produce ‘sudden delight at the unexpected’. I wanted the Hermessences to resonate with this form of poetry, to elicit a sense of wonder, to be disconcerting, and – although not solemn – to express a knowing simplicity, to be as close as possible to nature and yet also to mirror the mind », a sign written by the perfumer read at the entrance.

This ludic path was conceived as a way of presenting the Hermessences – which, so far, remain rather confidential – under a different angle. This is what the perfumer confirmed to me, all smiles as always, in front of the glasshouse where the whole collection was exhibited.

A striking thing is, Hermès can have us smell 10 fragrances in less than an hour and not bore our nostrils. Better even, we want more! The Hermessences manage to surprise us, although their names unveil part of their composition right away : with its very personal vision of the ingredient he works with and his talent for highlighting a different aspect of it, Ellena created a collection of figurative fragrances, though certainly not obvious. Faithful to the minimalistic refinement that defines its art, he suggests more than he demonstrates.

Jean-Claude Ellena, known for working with a narrowed palette of ingredients and the shortness of its creations’ formulae, is to perfumery what haikus are to poetry: a statement of simplicity.

Along the way

1. Paprika Brasil

A towering tree
Sets its blossom aquiver −
Sweet cool of the night.

Kai Hasegawa

2. Osmanthe Yunnan

Apricot blossom
masking a hairpin in jade
And the evening star

Dhugal Lindsay

3. Poivre Samarcande

Blessed cool of evening!
We live on this sparkling planet:
Land of oases.

Shugyô Takaha

4. Brin de Réglisse

One summer’s evening
A swift gust brings out the glow
Of the evening star.

Madoka Hayuzumi

5. Vanille Galante

Multicoloured shells
Washed up onto the beach…
Long spring afternoon.

Minoru Ozawa

6. Iris Ukiyoe

Every time she meets
A man, she then gives to him
Her iris perfume!

Teiko Inahata

7. Ambre Narguilé

Carthage, one evening,
Where a cat narrows his eyes,
And breathes in the moon.

Seegan Mabesoone

8. Santal Massoia

Let them come to me,
Poetry and your love and…
That doe on the hill!

Saki Kôno

9. Vétiver Tonka

And away it flows,
Robbing the sun’s bright light,
Such is the source!

Michiko Kaï

10. Rose Ikebana

I nibble your ear
Which is so like a soft rose −
Ah, I smell roses!

Yûmu Yamaguchi

Photo : Roméo Ballancourt

Jardins Albert Kahn, 10 rue du Port, 92100 Boulogne-Billancourt

All photographs by Sarah Bouasse


4 Commentaires

  1. Great article and photos and great PR from Hermes, very creative and different.

  2. My preferred English translation for my Osmanthe Yunnan haiku is

    in the depths of the apricots
    a hairpiece of jade…
    the evening star

    1. Dear Dhugal,

      Did you write this beautiful haiku?

  3. Dhugal Lindsay · · Réponse

    Dear Sarah,

    Yes I did.

    Thank you for referring to it as « beautiful »!


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