Perfumes are more than just a scent; they have the power to draw emotions, to create memories and even to encourage romance. It also have the power to change perceptions, a fact evident in the olfactory industry is a constantly changing world that moves to meet the new demands and AJ Arabia, now known as Widian, is proof of the industry's dynamism. Buro 24/7 Middle East speaks exclusively to the Arabian fragrance's founder Al Aljaberi about names, notes and new beginnings...
AJ Arabia is a rising name in the olfactory world. Why did you decide to change it?
Here's the thing, we realised people were mispronouncing it and that's a big issue for us in terms of marketing. So we decided that since we're still new in the market, it's the right time to avoid further misunderstandings and give people an easy name to pronounce and remember. Yet, one that still strongly identified with the local culture and has presence in the market. So that's how Widian came about. Nothing else is going to change within the brand though and all our visuals and perfumes will remain the same.
Why did you decide on Widian?
It was a really long process and we have been working on this name change for about 14 months. A brand name is not as easy as picking a child's name; you have to make sure that the name doesn't mean something bad in other languages and that people can pronounce it. Then we looked at domains and social media as well as copyright issues.
The brand is known for mixing French perfumery with traditional Arabic scents. Will there come a time when other influences will be introduced?
The brand is essentially an oriental brand that's reintroducing Arabic perfumes to the world. In the mindset of Europeans, Arabic perfumes are heavy and they're often torn between loving it or hating it without any middle ground. We include oriental ingredients like sandalwood, amber, musk and oud so it's balanced and palatable to all markets.
How would you describe a Widian wearer?
A perfume lover! We don't target a specific demographic, just anyone who appreciates quality, scents and ingredients. It doesn't matter your background, gender or even age. So our target is the whole world.
You mention that you're finding a balance between the Arabic scents with those from the Western market. Yet at the same time, you see brands like Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana marketing more and more oriental scents, especially oud. Do you think this is a trend?
Tom Ford started the trend back in 2006-2007 and he did a wonderful job introducing Arabic scents to the world. For the big brands that you mentioned and many others, it's part of their marketing plan. They saw the potential in this market and that's the direction they took. However, none of these brands are oriental. That's why we decided to occupy that niche and be the local Arabic company that reintroduces our scents, keeping all the identity and authenticity, because it's just not in their DNA.
Let's talk a little bit about you. How did you get into the perfume industry?
We have to understand that perfumery is part of the culture here and I started producing perfume for my own personal use. After a while I thought why not create a brand. That took me four years of research and development, to find the right people and manufacturers before we launched. The scents in the collections are all about coincidences and personal experiences. The whole Widian collection is about my own personal experience and each one has a story.
Everyone has their own story. What's your advice to select the right perfume to tell that story?
The customers in the Middle East are very wise and very knowledgeable when it comes to perfumes. They cannot be fooled. They can easily identify and differentiate what's good and what's not. Bear in mind that perfume is very personal and you should choose a scent that makes you happy. It could be a scent that reminds you of your childhood, of someone you love. On the flipside, you might also smell something that reminds you of someone who broke your heart and you don't want to smell it again.
Then there are ingredients that should be preferred, during different seasons. In the winter season when it's cold, you could go for something heavier while lightness and freshness is the way to go during summer, so opt for something citrusy. Even the time of day can call for different scents. When you go into the perfume store, you have to put it on your skin and test it on your clothes. See how it makes you feel and how it reacts to your body. It should also elevate your mood. Do not purchase perfumes based on recommendation. Always test it out yourself.
Discover the scent trail of Widian at the DSF Perfume Week, January 26 – February 1, 2016 at Mirdif City Centre. For more information, visit Widian.