Based in Abu Dhabi, inspired by precious spices and scented ingredients: Widian is a luxury fragrance house with a truly international vision…
First launched in 2014 (back then it was known as ‘AJ Arabia’), the journey for this niche house truly began when fragrance-obsessed founder, Ali Ajaberi, began collecting some of the traditional fragrant ingredients found in the arid surroundings of the Arabian Desert. Carrying ‘oudhs, amber, frankincense and a collection of rare and charming Arabian flowers’ – precious materials prized for their heady aromas and traded throughout the world for centuries – Ajaberi followed his nose (and his dream!) to Paris.
There he learned the art of haute parfumerie and the particular je ne sais quoi that defines the French perfumery style, so that when he finally returned to his homeland, he carried back the secrets of fine French fragrance, all the better to showcase the scented wonders of his collection.
In case you’re wondering, Widian means ‘valleys’ in Arabic – how perfect, then, this name is for a house that proudly marries a contemporary Arabian spirit with the heritage of traditional perfumery techniques. These are fragrant characteristics that could indeed have remained apart, but Widian walks the scented valleys between. We feel each fragrance has a certain delicacy amidst the often heady precious materials within the compositions, taking you on unexpected journeys of your own in which the Middle East and France most definitely dance together. Even the exquisite bottles take their inspiration from the Sheikh Zayed Mosque nestled in boxes, with exquisitely cut-out intricate designs also reflecting their Middle Eastern heritage in a thoroughly modern manner.
It was vital for Ajaberi to make sure his perfumes were unique, ‘Otherwise,’ he says, ‘what’s the point?’ Having made a new Widian fragrance, he likes to make sure that it stands alone as a unique scent, putting in the ground work himself. ‘I go to a large, luxury department store and take one of their perfume blotters and spray my perfume on it,’ explains Ali. ‘I give it to the head of that perfumery and ask him or her, “which one is this?” so the promoter thinks it is something from that store. If he or she can bring up the name of one of the perfumes they already have, or suggest something it is similar to, that means I have failed. I didn’t create something new. If they don’t recognise it or cannot liken it to anything else, that’s a very good sign…’
While the inspirations are full of romance, travel, contemporary characters and the heritage of fine perfumery, Ajaberi certainly has his feet firmly planted on the ground when it comes to the business of perfumery, and it was vital for him not to bombard fragrance lovers with too many new scents in the collection at any one time. ‘So many fragrance collections launch too many too close together, I think – it becomes overwhelming for the customer, how can they possibly choose?’ he says, pondering on the fact that if the customer is given twenty new fragrances from a single house to sniff, ‘they feel too confused to choose so they just walk away. ‘My thinking is, why not just release them more slowly, and don’t try to flood an already overcrowded market.’
Such business savvy and a true understanding of what perfume lovers want has served Widian well, their word-of-mouth cult status gathering a loyal band of fragrant fans, slowly unfurling their scented collections to even wider audiences as word continues to spread.
As part of their international outlook, Widian offer the Sapphire Collection to traverse the world in scent, each fragrance inspired by a particular city dear to Ali Ajaberi’s heart. One of these fragrances was chosen as part of the Art & Alchemy showcase, when Harvey Nichols invited Widian to be part of ‘Something in the Air’. first-of-its-kind immersive experience in a darkened room, anticipation mounted – and then bang! Two clouds of vapour were released from opposite ends of the room, cleverly meeting in the middle as two smoke rings.
The clouds were scented – with Widian‘s gorgeously evocative and so-appropriate London fragrance – and it was quite something to see (and smell!) Visitors then had the opportunity to explore in-depth ingredients and smell the full range of Widian fragrances at an interactive workshop area, and when we visited, we were truly spoiled for choice of where to begin. And just where will you choose to start your fragrant journey with this magic perfume house, we wonder…?