Image - Wikipedia -Azzedine Alaia grey acetate dress from 1986-1987 by ellenm1
I’ll admit it. The first time I read about the launch of Alaïa Paris EdP earlier this year, I was, well, underwhelmed.
The first fragrance from designer Azzedine Alaïa’s house. Hmm. Sounds mainstream – meh. Inspired by childhood memories. Sounds clichéd - double meh. An abstract fragrance where individual notes wouldn’t be recognizable – enough. I filed it under ‘for future consideration’ and busied myself with exploring some of the other 3,487 fragrances that were launched so far this year.
Actually, I just made that number up cause it seems like that many to me. Don’t get me wrong, some great frags made their debuts this year and then there were some indie houses born this year that won’t make it out of their toddler years. Their fragrances are often raw, and frequently feel unfinished, substituting loudness for skill and deft. I mean, just because you make a perfume doesn’t make you a perfumer any more than making a birthday cake for a four-year old makes you a baker.
This was my mood when I revisited Alaïa Paris. When I got over myself and really read the bumpf, I discovered that the perfumer was Marie Salamagne – one of my favourite noses - and I knew that getting to know Alaïa Paris was going to be worth my time.
Born in 1977 in Paris, into a family of doctors, both of Salamagne’s parents are anesthetists. She was on the path to a career in medicine when she followed her heart and studied perfume instead. For someone so young she has a strong body of work creating fragrances for Guerlain, Jesus Del Pozo, Yves Rocher, Yves Saint Laurent, Jo Malone, and ones written about here: Let It Rock for Vievenne, Westwood and the 22 Settembre 2007 ore 8 Vaporetto per il Lido Venezia and perfume 6 Marzo 2008 ore 11 - Piazza Duomo Ortigia Siracusa – Sicilia for Memento Italian Olfactive Landscapes. And then there is Azzedine Alaïa himself.
Born in 1940 in Tunis, Tunisia, Alaïa (pronounced ‘Alaya’), into a family of farmers, he attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis, and began studying sculpture. After graduation he worked as a dressmaker’s assistant, started dressing private clients and in 1957 he moved to Paris, to work in fashion design. In 1980 he produced his first ready-to-wear collection. His form-fitting, clingy, seductive clothes showed a woman’s body to best advantage and were hugely successful.
Alaïa followed his own path, never succumbing to cheapening his brand with purses, jewelry or perfumes for easy money. Now at age 75, he’s launched his first fragrance, inspired by his boyhood in Tunis, where he remembers water being poured over hot brick walls in the summer to cool them down.
This was the brief that Salamagne was given along with instructions that not one individual note can be identified in the fragrance, so breaking down Alaïa Paris by note is just futile. But here’s what I smell. It opens with nose-tingling aldehydes and fresh lemon. There’s a mineral, almost medicinal note slithers alongside the freshness before it gets airy and floral. I smell rose, but it’s probably the pink pepper, along with the freshness of freesia and peony. I get that indolic effect, so I know there are white flowers hidden in here. But man, is this gorgeous! And then at the base, it gets woody, warm, animalic and musky.
The drydown is a veil of irresistible seduction. An aquatic airy, skin scent balanced with enough oomph that it entrances people and draws them closer and has the same ‘how-does-he-do-that’ quality his clingy clothes have.
Alaïa Paris is an original, gorgeous fragrance – no one does aquatics like Salamagne – that enhances the Alaïa brand and I predict Alaïa Paris is going to be around a long, long time.
But do yourself a favour and don’t waste any time trying it. At the rate of one fragrance every 75 years, it may be awhile before Alaïa’s next one comes out.
Alaïa Paris is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $4.00 for 1 ml.