Hermes' perfumer gives M an insight into a few of his favourite things.
Style File: Jean-Claude Ellena
Jean-Claude Ellena is standing in his workshop - a modern architect-designed house in the hills overlooking France's southeastern perfume capital of Grasse. The Hermès perfumer picks up a bottle of his latest scent, closes his eyes and breathes in deeply. "Perfume is like poetry; an artform," he says as he recollects ingredients, inspirations and the "story" behind the fragrance.
Born to a perfumer father, Ellena has made well over 60 different scents since starting his career in companies such as L'Oréal and Givaudan. He joined Hermès as their in-house perfumer in 2004 and has total creative control. He claims to be the "nose" who uses the fewest ingredients in the world - composing with fewer than 200 substances compared to between 1,000 to 1,500 for a typical perfume.
Describing himself as "a scavenger of odours" Ellena's aim is to capture the best of nature's scents and transform them. For Hermès perfumes, nature's scents have seen him travel the globe, inspired by fresh flowers from Paris, spices from India and bark from rare Indonesian trees.
Choosing to wear no fragrance himself so as to be as "neutral as possible" when working, he has created a whole family of scents to share for the Hermès brand. His latest - the 10th in the Hermessence collection, Santal Massoia, made its worldwide debut last month. He talks to Jemma Nicholls about his life and passions.
I GET MY INSPIRATION FROM… everyday life, books, odours, words, people. The difficulty comes from choice. To choose is to create! MY FAVOURITE WAY TO RELAX IS… to read and vacuum. AN INDULGENCE I WOULD NEVER FORGO IS… time with my children and grandchildren. MY LIFE MOTTO IS… when there are no more (ideas and creations) there are still some. THE LAST THING I BOUGHT AND LOVED WAS… a painting from a Provençal master. THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE I HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN IS… do not ever close the door. Whether that be to people, experience or to words. FIVE WORDS TO DESCRIBE ME ARE… I don't know myself yet.