Hermès has always seemed to me the height of luxury: not just a status symbol to carry around, but a brand organically grown out of that most aristocratic accoutrement, horse riding and its paraphernalia. As saddlers, Hermès have distinguished themselves in the axiom of "beauty serving functionality", a sort of van der Rohe "less is more" philosophy where every touch is truly meaningful, truly essential. Their fragrances are a reflection of this effortless luxury, diverting from bourgeois spick-and-span, and speaks of old money, not new.
The fact that Réna Dumas (née Gregoriadès), architect and mother of Pierre Alexis Dumas, was of Greek extraction, alongside her pushing a Hellenic aesthetic to the brand through collaborations with artists and illustrators, has solidified this classical approach in my mind. She detested pomposity, she embraced serenity and douceur de vivre.
This fusion of functionality and douceur (softness) is what is also reflected in Jean Claude Ellena's work for Hermès, especially in the Hermessences, their boutique-only line of fragrances which are simple like haikus, harmonious like the Parthenon, but never simplistic, nor unnecessarily imposing. They retain a human closeness, a sort of philosophical proximity with the culture of light, a message read on the pure blue skies of a life bathed in inherent goodness.
The Hermessences line, essences by Hermès literally, is comprised of laconic names, often with a double entendre, focusing on unexpected facets of a given material, rather than trying to highlight its stereotypical olfactory profile. They do not rely on in-your-face exclusivity or luxury, like other designer lines, but rather a desire to explore new pathways to pleasure.
After all these years, I'm still taken with their subtlety, their grace, their effortless nod to luxury, a suspension of time.