Inspired by a mythical Venetian garden, Un Jardin sur la Lagune is sumptuous a blend of jasmine, magnolia, Madonna lily, orange blossom, offset by woodier notes
When tasked with finding the inspiration for the house’s next fragrance, the sixth in the ‘Le Jardin’ franchise, Hermes’ esteemed nose, Christine Nagel, looked to the Garden of Eden. No, not the one you’re thinking of. This garden, located on the Venetian island of Giudecca, is named as such after its original owner Lord Frederic Eden. Permanently closed the public, the garden has acquired an almost mythical status. The more she read about it, the more Christine knew she had to see it for herself. After numerous requests from the house were denied, Christine eventually handwrote a letter to the president of the foundation that now owns it, pleading her case. Her wish was granted, and Christine first set foot on its green pastures on January 4th, a cold winter’s day. “When I was finally able to push open the secret door I was immediately struck. I was numb by the cold, fuelled with emotion, and struck by a particular charm. It evoked powerful memories of the sepia photos of the garden I had seen. But the plants I discovered were very real.”
A rich composite of smells - the salt of the surrounding lagoon, the woodiness of its trees, the competing wafts of flora that grow there - Christine spent the next 18 months translating these scents, along with the garden’s signature charm - its unkempt allure which shapeshifts under the dappled Venetian light and its whimsical features - an abandoned boat here, a sculptural arch there - into a single perfume. The result is a sophisticated blend of jasmine, magnolia, Madonna lily, orange blossom, offset by woodier notes. “To create this fragrance is to give this garden another life,” says Christine, “an olfactory reality, it is to enable everyone to imagine and to dream of this garden, to enable everyone to open the gate and discover this secret oasis.”
Here we spoke to Christine about her journey.
How would you describe the fragrances of the garden?
Christine Nagel: With each of my visits, I enjoyed different olfactory experiences. For example, in April I experienced the pittosporums. These small trees, whose branches plunge into the lagoon, are covered with thousands of tiny white and yellow flowers. They have a bewitching scent between the orange blossom and the jasmine. In June I was touched by the fresh and delicate smell of magnolia. These magnificent white flowers perched so high in the trees you have to lift your nose to smell them. It's as if the smell came from the sky.
Here you have the contrast or harmony of water and land, the lagoon and the garden, why was it important to capture this?
Christine Nagel: Because it's absolutely unique! Water is the founding link in the ‘Le Jardin’ collection. From garden to garden, we have navigated many waters. In Venice, we have lagoons. They are not a simple hydraulic ecosystem but a marvel that invites dreams.
How much of yourself did you want to put in it? Your personal interpretation and experience of the garden.
Christine Nagel: As I wish to provoke an emotion, I share my emotions in the perfumes that I create. My desire was to translate in a perfume all the lives and all the moods of this garden. That's what I want to share because through the perfume this secret garden is finally open to you.
Who is this fragrance for?
Christine Nagel: I can’t answer that because the relationship to perfume is personal. Perfume touches us, it communicates with us and between us because it resonates with our emotions, memories and hopes. It represents something personal and emotional. I want to create emotions and touch the sensibility of those that will wear it. So forget gender, colour, age, ethnicity, religion - and most importantly, appearance.
The notion of the garden has a very rich symbolic history, what does it mean to you? What images does conjure up for you?
Christine Nagel: It means so many things! Whatever the garden, they are always a representation, a metaphor for the way we perceive the world. A classic French garden is the spectacular representation of the order and reason dominant throughout the 17th century. A symbol of paradise on Earth, the Chinese garden seeks to recreate the image of an ideal nature. As is the case for an English garden. The garden also relates to our intimate space, a reflection of our inner world. In French we have an adage: “cultivate our interior garden”, it means that we have to cultivate what is most beautiful, most noble in us.
Do you think female noses bring something different to fragrances than a male nose? Should gender come into it at all?
Christine Nagel: It’s less a question of gender than one of sensitivity, of style. In the way I practice perfumery, there’s perhaps a tactile, textured element, a particular sensitivity to the material, the feel of it, the sensuality of touching it. When I discover a material, I want to take it to the limit. I work with relatively few raw materials because I’m convinced that what is essential must remain simple. Is that a feminine trait? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
What do you see as the future of fragrance?
Christine Nagel: I abhor the word ‘trend’. If something is trendy it’s already past. And to talk of trends in relation to Hermès is to misunderstand the very nature of the house. The responsibility of Maisons like Hermès is to show alternative ways. But I am very optimistic because I feel that customers desire true creation. They are smart. They will choose a perfume that gives more weight to emotions and seduction, and which offers beauty and style and not trend. To sum up; a sincere perfume, genuine, free and committed.
HERMÈS Un Jardin Sur La Lagune Eau de Toilette is available to buy.