Shalimar Eau de Parfum Serie Limitée 2020: An Object of Design for a Legendary Legacy
Let me tell you a little tale. A tale of eternal love, exotic dreams, lush gardens, and a mysterious woman. A love story immortalized with a monument that was built to cherish the eternal memory of Mumtaz Mahal by her life companion, Shah Jahan.
In happier days, we can imagine a fairytale royal couple taking moonlight strolls in a luxurious garden, filled with Night Queen Jasmine trees and their blooming aroma, earthy and warm after the rai, and abundant immortal Plumeria flowers… The crystal waterfall provided a backdrop to their romance, ended by a tragic death, always too soon.
What an inspiration, right? Can you imagine the scent of the moment?
Jacques Guerlain did! And created a timeless icon that is still worn by women worldwide today.
I have personally always found this fragrance extremely addictive. It is the citrus opening that keeps me coming back. That big unapologetic bergamot paves the way for warm, sweet accords, sensual ambers, powdery (almost baby talcum like!) vanilla, soft tonka bean. Surprisingly, it succeeds in being both strong, and subtle, depending on the wearer.
One presumes historically that it would have had more grit, due to its animalic undertones. But as fragrances are reformulated, Shalimar has been relatively successful in retaining the essence of the character. But the true mastery lies in the use of vanilla derivatives, venturing into erotic, without bordering on tacky. In the words of perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain, “vanilla […] turns Shalimar into an outrageously low-cut dress”. Timeless.
Did you know that Shalimar’s bottle won the first prize at the Art Deco Exhibition in Paris, in 1925? For my vintage loving friends, Art Deco holds a dear place in 20th century aesthetic. From jewelry, to fashion, to design and the arts, the visual and cultural movement influenced the look and feel of elements from that era. That blue stopper even looks like a gem cut out of crystal.
The 2020 limited series chose to dress the bottle with citrus elements of the fragrance. It’s an interesting choice, considering the perfume is usually referenced for its sweet, ambery warmth.
So, who wears Shalimar EDP 2020? With its bold character, Shalimar has always represented confident femininity, unapologetic strength. In the Western world, ‘The Shalimar Woman’ tends to be mature, with an affirmative character. However, in the Middle Eastern mindset, a new narrative to this scent can be derived as an introduction to decadent layering; a base to various musks and Ouds which can fit a more youthful feminine profile, thanks to its soft, powdery cocooning notes.
Shalimar EDP 2020 has been launched during a time which carries a unique set of challenges. It could have been postponed. But the selection to include fresh citrus throughout the design is a pointed reference to the top sparkling notes, which sends a bright, uplifting message. The limited-edition flacon succeeds in creating a visual object of desire which transcends the need to sample. All great elements which justify a timely addition to novelty.
We can imagine a bedtime version of the scent through the form of a candle, or as a soft mist to spray pillows and blankets with as the last comforting smell you remember while drifting to sleep, leaning on its cocooning warmth in dry down...
Will Shalimar continue to stand the test of time? As all iconics from the previous century, it will need to keep building on its historical foundation yet find ways to remain relevant through communication and design, speaking the language that reaches the evolving consumer.
And as importantly, in a time of inclusivity and openness, it’s language and description has to evolve to represent an inspiration, rather and a mythical European vision of the Mid-twentieth century that is no longer relevant today.