PARIS — In a bold move that harkens to fragrance days of yore, Hermès International has appointed Jean-Claude Ellena as its first in-house perfumer.
Starting June 7, Ellena will oversee the brand’s olfactive creations exclusively and work with its chief executive officer, Veronique Gautier.
“I believe [the move] is naturally in keeping with Hermès,” she explained, adding it allows the house to show its savoir-faire in the world of perfumery. “Second, it gives us fragrances with a signature. Jean-Claude has a style. He has an elegant signature and a very Hermès way of approaching materials.”
Ellena said he joined forces with Hermès because “it is a beautiful house” with an understanding of artisanal trade.
“It doesn’t take a marketing approach, but one of an artist that makes beautiful objects,” he added.
Ellena, who has been working with fragrance supplier Symrise, was trained at Givaudan in 1968. His scent projects since have included Van Cleef & Arpels’ First, Bulgari’s Eau Parfumée, Cartier’s Declaration and Frederic Malle’s Cologne Bigarade.
The first fragrance Ellena created for Hermès was Un Jardin en Mediterranée, an eau de toilette introduced in 2003. His next venture for the house will be a project — still under wraps — that is slated for launch this fall exclusively in Hermès’ 25 stores worldwide.
The company’s hiring of Ellena marks a twist on manufacturers’ typical strategy, which entails their outsourcing fragrance projects rather than hiring a full-time perfumer.
Guerlain was the most recent storied French house to stop working with an in-house nose when, in early 2002, Jean-Paul Guerlain — the great-grandson of the company’s founder — retired as master perfumer.
Today in France, only Chanel, with Jacques Polge, and Jean Patou, with Jean-Michel Duriez, boast their own fragrance creators.
— Jennifer Weil