Estée Lauder will next month launch Calligraphy, created specifically for the Arab region and designed for women and men, to commemorate the founding of its iconic fragrance house Aramis almost 50 years ago. We previewed the scent and spoke with its co-creators: Trudi Loren, the vice-president of corporate fragrance development worldwide for Aramis, and the acclaimed graphic artist Tarek Atrissi.
Trudi, how was the Calligraphy project dreamt up?
It started about a year and a half ago. We wanted to use the rich heritage of the Aramis brand and create a product that was inspired by the Middle East and Arabic tastes in perfumery. So I came and visited the market to better understand Arabic tastes and the raw materials that are not only inherent in the culture, but are appreciated by men and women.
Classically, what are Arabic tastes?
They are what we call in the fragrance category, the "oriental fragrances". Based in a lot of woods and resins and the absolutes of the flower - they are very rich, high quality ingredients. The Middle East consumer is very knowledgeable about fragrance, because it's a cultural reference and they can smell quality.
What about oud, does that factor in anywhere?
Oh definitely, it plays a very big part and it's a very regional-specific aspect in perfumery. We were very lucky that some of the perfumeries in the souqs here explained the whole process of smoking the garments to us; it was truly amazing.
What floral absolutes are in Calligraphy?
Rose and jasmine absolute - we have a lot of natural notes; petrulli, cardamom and myrrh.
What was the inspiration for the bottle, Tarek?
It says "calligraphy" in Arabic. Calligraphy in Latin is one word but in Arabic it's two, and that became the whole concept to play with; mixing the two words and mixing the contrasts of the project. For example, because as it's a genderless scent the design had to appeal to men and women so the two words are very contrasting in style. One is more geometric script and the other is more organic, traditional, artistic script. Also mixed in there is the idea of tradition meeting the contemporary.
Trudi, can you define a "classic scent" for us?
I think there are very few fragrances that are still on the market after 50 years that are classics. The Aramis brand itself is still in the top 20 in many countries around the world and in fact is number one in several. A classic fragrance is one which has sophistication, a signature and is identifiable with quality raw materials.
How do you as a master perfumer come up with new scents?
Trudi: On the perfumer's palette we have on average 2,000 ingredients that we use - a combination of naturals and synthetics. In the synthetic area there are new molecules that are being developed on a yearly basis. From a natural perspective, we don't have any new or different plants per se but the advancement is there in the extracting processes. So, it's really a blend between art and science - the artist is the perfumer and science has helped us to reinvent fragrances.
Tarek: It's funny, because everything Trudi says applies to calligraphy as well. It has been there forever and it's always reinventing itself. It's that same combination of art and science by which calligraphy is adapting to its environment. The basic script and alphabet remain the same, but the techniques and the way you are expressing it changes again and again.
Calligraphy will be available at leading UAE retailers for Dh570 starting next month.