Blog post by Gwen

Alaïa – aquatic and floral and woody

I’ll admit it. The first time I read about the launch of Alaïa eau de parfum earlier this year, I was underwhelmed.

The first fragrance from designer Azzedine Alaïa’s house. Hmm. Sounds mainstream – meh. Inspired by childhood memories. Sounds clichéd - double meh. An abstract scent where individual notes wouldn’t be recognizable – enough. And then I read that it was signed by perfumer Marie Salamagne – one of my favourite noses - and I knew that getting to know Alaïa would be worth my time.

Born in 1977 in Paris, both of Salamagne’s parents are anesthetists. She was on the path to a medical career when she followed her heart and studied perfume instead. For someone so young, she has a strong body of work that includes some of my favourite fragrances: Let it Rock for Vivienne Westwood, 22 Settembre 2007 ore 8 Vaporetto per il Lido Venezia for Memento Italian Olfactive Landscapes and By the Fireplace for Maison Martin Margiela.

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 and 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 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 and instructions that not one individual note can be identified in the fragrance, so breaking down Alaïa Paris by note is futile. But here’s what I smell. It opens with nose-tingling aldehydes and fresh lemon. 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 and the freshness of freesia and peony. I get that indolic effect, so I know white flowers are hidden 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 is an original, gorgeous fragrance – no one does aquatics like Salamagne – that enhances the Alaïa brand and I predict Alaïa is going to be around a long, long time.

Check out Alaïa in our Shop.