As commented upon earlier today, Hermès is on a path to subtly engineering a mainstream shift in the attitudes towards perfume from men with the upcoming introduction of an extrait version of Terre d'Hermès, a masculine national bestseller in France. It is now several hours later and we received further information that stresses further how the gesture is deliberate yet understated in style.
I remembered in-between posts that Guerlain has not long ago issued an extrait version of a masculine classic, Habit Rouge, also beloved by women. Terre d'Hermès in extrait will have more far-reaching consequences potentially also because it will be much more widely accessible as I learned. If Guerlain has been playing in great part the elitist card to the umptieth degree for many of its recent fragrance launches under the tutelage of LVMH, Hermès is still thinking in terms of affordable luxury and we can hope, affordable beauty ...
If I initially thought that the parfum might be selectively distributed and be sent out in the world as some kind of test of the waters, I was wrong. Terre d'Hermès Parfum will be available for as many men (and women) to wear as can be as it will be distributed from August 2009 in not only the Hermès boutiques, but department stores and perfumeries. Furthermore the parfum, which in general is associated with an idea of superlative costliness, is priced to make the discreet revolution in attitudes be more natural: the 75 ml bottle is priced at 80 €.
Another adaptation that the Hermès creative team, and designer Philippe Mouquet in particular, came up with is regarding the masculine gesture of perfuming oneself with extrait. The mythical dabbing of drops of fragrance onto the pulse points is replaced by a spray; the bottle is bigger too. This is seen as a movement of liberation from the feminine conventions of the extrait culture and was undertaken in order to correspond better to the masculine usage. The whole movement is seen as deriving naturally from a perfumery that thinks, draws strength from its tradition and is not simply a money-making machine,
"Perfume is synonymous with what is essential. It is a quintessence without any precious effects. Reserved for a long time to the feminine universe, the appelation draws its strength from the core of a perfumery that is a craft"
Athough extraits or pure perfume concentrations for men are de facto what would be used in cultures like the Middle Eastern one which makes use of highly concentrated oils, it can be argued that those oils are not "masculine" per se since women would use the same. In modern European perfume culture where certain standards of concentrations exist that can be interpreted rather freely and become part of the creative thought process the extrait has been constructed as a symbolic feminine object of desire. To be made to think of it in terms of masculinity is an upheaval of mentalities of sorts.
Jean-Claude Ellena describes his work on this extrait as "a work on contrasts" and explained that "I did not care for the idea of a Terre d'Hermès Intense because the eau de toilette had already made an impact in terms of its presence and aura. By imagining an extrait I was looking for something different in the realm of olfactory expression in order to get away from the discourse on performance."
The Parfum has been vivified in the top notes where the grapefruit and orange are now associated with a shiso note with nuances of citrus and mint. In the heart, the flint accord is ever more present but without heaviness. The woody notes in the base are heightened, just like you talk of a heightening of color temperature; they are warm without being dry and are meant to bring comfort and charisma to the fragrance.