Liquid Fashion – Revisiting ALAIA PARIS


Thomas Signature

For a fashion house a flagship fragrance can be an accessible luxury item that serves as a gateway to the spirit of the brand.  All the big houses have them: Chanel has Nº5, Dior has J’Adore, Thierry Mugler has Angel and Yves Saint Laurent has Opium, and in each case the fragrance represents an olfactory dilution of the aesthetic of the brand, using perfumery’s rich palette of ingredients to take cues from the couture DNA of their houses.  These fragrances are liquid fashion  – spritzable garments that shroud the wearer in a cloud of their favourite couturier.

Perhaps the best modern-day example of perfect synergy between fashion and fragrance is Azzedine Alaïa’s eponymous fragrance ‘ALAIA Paris’.  It is a meticulously crafted and structured design that wholly embodies Monsieur Alaïa’s designs, capturing the spirit of his intimidating aesthetic.  This was a fragrance that was a long time coming. Having worked in the business of fashion since the late 1950s and having spent time at the houses of Dior, Laroche and Mugler, Azzedine Alaïa created his first ready to wear collection in 1980, and 35 years later, ALAÏA Paris the fragrance was born and it most certainly was worth the wait.



The Inspiration: Cold Water and Hot Chalk

To create his olfactory vision, Alaïa worked with perfumer Marie Salamagne of Firmenich – a nose that the brand describes as being part of the “new generation” [1].  Alaïa tasked Salamagne with creating the smell of cold water hitting hot chalk, as an ode to childhood memories (much in the same way that Angel was inspired by Thierry Mugler’s halcyon memories of funfairs) and as a contrasting effect of texture.  Salamagne approached this brief with fervour, quickly crafting a formula that was evocative of this bold brief, utilising cold mineral notes and animalic musks to create a feeling of “clair-obscur” [2].  She worked some real magic.


The Fragrance: Violets, Incense and Musk

The best scents, they say, are those that divide opinion.  A fragrance that pleases all cannot be bold, interesting or innovative enough to be considered great.  Many of the fragrances listed above, the Angels, Opiums and Nº5s of this world, represent the bold, brave and best of perfume, and this is why they are so legendary. ALAIA PARIS is most definitely one of these divisive fragrances so it’s worth nothing that it may not be for you, much in the same way that Monsieur Alaïa’s fashions may not be to your tastes.  We must remember though, that by being distinct and different, ALAIA PARIS can present an entirely new olfactory experience – one that is wholly and completely ‘Alaïa’.

ALAIA PARIS is both hot and cold & smooth and rough.  It’s a perfume of contrasts and opposing forces, and it’s tricky to work out at times.  I originally reviewed the fragrance last August and commented on how it was unique but didn’t “make a bold olfactory statement”.  Revisiting the fragrance now, I feel as if I should eat my words slightly because ALAIA PARIS is bold.  It’s a mineral take on violet and incense that is completely alien amongst its designer contemporaries, and where many decide to go big and shocking to be divisive, ALAIA PARIS does not do this.  Instead, Alaïa’s debut fragrance goes for a mood rather than shock value, offering up an olfactory experience that is dark and brooding, but not bleak.  I continue to be fascinated by it each and every time.



The Flacon: Circles, Half-Moons and Triangles

ALAIA PARIS can be seen as the essence of Azzedine Alaïa bottled therefore, it’s no surprise that the vessel which contains this precious perfume is entirely representative of his aesthetic.  It is Alaïa’s emblematic motif of circles, half-moons and triangles, first used during his Spring/Summer 2003 collection and since applied to a multitude of the house’s accessories, that adorns the ALAIA PARIS bottle.  This ‘perforated pattern’ (as it is called) is applied to a black totem-like bottle adorned with a long golden cap that has a spun metal effect.  The flacon serves as a perfect accompaniment to this unique fragrance, making it wholly and distinctly as an object that could have come from nobody but Azzedine Alaïa.


Join the Discussion!

I shall end this piece by asking two questions; have you tried ALAIA PARIS yet?  If not, what the heck are you waiting for?!


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