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quinta-feira, 3 de março de 2016

The Tales of AQABA: Interview with Miriam Mirani

For most people, AQABA represents an ancient chapter in history, an old Jordanian town on the Red Sea. Some people recall the love story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba in these mysterious oriental sands. For me, the word AQABA means a perfume brand that was founded in New York, and recalls the romantic, oriental journeys of the Middle East - ancient desert caravans of gold and spices, and the passion between Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. So, I was happy to ask Miriam Mirani, the creator of AQABA, some questions.
Sergey Borisov: First, let me express my congratulations upon the future 20th anniversary of the AQABA brand. It is a tiny period of time compared to Biblical times and especially compared to the eternal love of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba – could you tell our readers about these 20 years? What were your best and happiest moments during this period?
Miriam Mirani: Of course, as with any business there are highs and lows.
One of the best times was remembering AQABA’s first break into the market, during the height of the Christmas Season, in New York City, in November 1998. Having never before sold anything to a retailer, I was very happy, when after 5 long years working to create AQABA, the buyer at New York’s 5th Avenue famed luxury retailer, Henri Bendel, agreed to sell AQABA. But I was disappointed when they only bought 3 bottles! AQABA was about to enter one of the toughest markets in the world with some of the most demanding customers in the world.
If I couldn’t move 3 pieces out the door in one day, AQABA’s days in Bendel's would be numbered. There were many stories of designer products rapidly exiting the store and I was determined that AQABA not be another statistic.

AQABA hit the shelf, but I worried as it was placed in the back, tucked behind other fragrances. AQABA’s only chance was its tester. I believed so much in AQABA, people said it was above the rest, intoxicating, mysterious, "Just wait till you get it into the stores!" Well, here it is, I’m in a store and now what, I have to fight more?

That day, I prepared to go in and sell AQABA myself. I was going to take the AQABA tester and spray the whole store with AQABA if I had to. But I didn’t need to. When I arrived to the store late morning, customers had already discovered AQABA and the 3 bottles had been sold. And, the counter manager had already put a call into the Buyer’s office for a large order.

The endless hours, days and years of hard work flashed before me the rest of the day, and as I walked home to my apartment that afternoon, I called everyone that had worked with me announcing the good news. Everyone that sat with me on cold warehouse floors, working the bamboo/cane, trying different techniques, working the papyrus, testing many glues, endless note taking of humidity levels, temperatures and drying times, all to ensure AQABA’s packaging would never fall apart. That day we all had tears of joy in our eyes and still today these beautiful days and feelings are remembered. AQABA’s second order sold out within a week and through Christmas 1998, two more orders were placed and sold out.

To sell something you have created with your hands, to bring a dream to reality, to bring a finished product to market and have the customer positively respond, remains to this day a feeling of unparalleled joy. AQABA continued to sell at Henri Bendel for the next 13 years.
Sergey Borisov: What a great and inspirational story of the AQABA start! But I bet you have also not-so-happy stories after all these years...
Miriam Mirani: As I reflect on AQABA, I continue to draw on both the inspiration from the best moments and the learning curve from the worst moments. Well, about the other part... Manufacturing AQABA is expensive, time consuming and challenging and here there was one very difficult time for AQABA. When working internationally, overcoming language and cultural barriers, trying to achieve economies of scale is especially challenging. One of the most difficult times was years ago, when multiple international trips were made in an effort to have AQABA’s packaging made more economically. A large order was placed and paid for with the hope that AQABA’s high manufacturing costs could be contained and manufacturing time reduced. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be and a full container of production arrived poorly made and not possible to use. I am proud to say that today AQABA is 100% made in the USA.
Sergey Borisov: In modern perfumery, even 10 years is quite a long life for a scent, especially when perfumes last 2 years on shelves and are then repeated in different flankers – your AQABA Classic is still reigning unchanged. What is the secret of AQABA’s long life?

Piero della Francesca, "The Meeting of Solomon and Sheba"
Miriam Mirani: My goal from the early stages of AQABA’s creation was to follow ancient history as closely as possible. For me a great love story was paramount with the objective to give the customer a piece of this love story, a piece of history. To bring the customer back in time and to create a link between the past and present and between the ancient and the modern. While AQABA’s concept is a true Biblical love story (there are archeological findings at the Temple of Maarib, Yemen), the materials and components of AQABA, all have deep meaning and symbolism. Every part of AQABA symbolizes a piece of ancient history. For example, AQABA’s logo represents the winding trade routes of Saba and the walls of Solomon’s Temple. The red ruby is for the rubies (and pearls) of Sheba’s throne and the hand made packaging of cane reed and imaged papyrus were materials used for ship building in ancient times. A solid brass cap used on AQABA Limited Editions, evokes the materials used in Solomon’s Temple and gold represents the wealth and luxury of ancient royalty.

In total, AQABA’s development required much time, testing and persistence. Through four design stages, prototypes and photography, I thought with each one AQABA was finished only to realize it was not to be. From beginning until launch, it took 5 years of research and development, design and materials testing to arrive at the final AQABA product you see today. I wanted AQABA’s customer to share in a legendary love story through the scents of ancient Arabia. Created thoroughly and correctly, through the eyes of the customer, it is then possible that AQABA can endure and last forever.
Sergey Borisov: Do you feel the sacred magnetic power of Oriental perfumes? Why do Shalimar and other oriental perfumes still conquer so many hearts? Is it due to classic orientalism or the power of marketing or the perfumer's art?
Miriam Mirani: Oriental perfumes do have a magical and mysterious veil to them. A true oriental perfume, made with high quality oils similar to those used in the ancient oriental settings of thousands of years ago, will transcend time and be forever desired. The creative work of a highly accomplished perfumer is certainly required. However, it is also the deep understanding of orientalism and its place in ancient history. Highly prized oriental perfumes have magnificent staying power, linger into the night for many hours and capture the adventure and curiosity of all who come into its company.
Sergey Borisov: The love of perfume aficionados is so unstable and flighty, that one could wonder how you managed to keep their attention. Is it the King Solomon wisdom or the Queen Sheba beauty that helped you to keep the love? Or was it just New York status?
Miriam Mirani: It is indeed very difficult to keep the customer’s attention. In this regard I have chosen to explore the concept of Love, and through the love story of Solomon and Sheba. More specifically, the first perfume, AQABA, is a tribute to the love of Solomon and Sheba. AQABA SPRING, the eternal SPRING, is a renewal of their love. AQABA MEN is a tribute to the power and passion of man. Our soul and spirit is Jewels of AQABA and the four components of love: Jewels of BluMidnight SunThe Sands of Aqabaand Vie d`Amour (and Vie d'Amour Men).
The first installment of Jewels represents the Creation. The sun, the sands and the sea. Midnight Sun, Sands of AQABA and Jewels of Blu. Vie d’Amour Woman and Men is the second installment of Jewels: SPIRIT, the soul and spirit of man. Vie d’Amour, A Life of Love, our soul cannot exist without love.
Sergey Borisov: I know that your first AQABA perfume was created byThierry Wasser, then Firmenich perfumer working in the New York office, and now Master perfumer at Guerlain. Who were the creators of AQABA’s other perfumes? Was the process difficult and long?
MiriamMirani: Perfumers Jean-Pierre Subrenat created AQABA MEN and AQABA SPRING and Vito Lenoci created Jewels of Blu, Midnight Sun and Sands of AQABA. The creation of all these fragrances required months of work, but not as long as the first one, AQABA. This is because the foundation is with the first and is used in varying degrees throughout AQABA.
Sergey Borisov: Are you planning to make some oud-based AQABA perfumes? What are your beliefs about the ingredient, as far as the note has been implemented into the feminine perfume AQABA Midnight Sun?
Miriam Mirani: Oud is very Arabian and I certainly plan to incorporate more oud into the AQABA collection. While there is oud in Midnight Sun, I plan to use it in deeper strengths in the future.
Sergey Borisov: Last time I tried AQABA perfumes, there were only four perfumes for women. Now you’ve got nine fragrances in your range, as you mentioned before...
Miriam Mirani: Yes, the very first AQABA perfume created by Thierry Wasser, was launched in 1998. Known today as AQABA Classic. a tribute to the Love of a King for his Queen: AQABA Classic. Sultry Taif and Bulgarian Roses, with Egyptian Jasmine, sacral Frankincense, spiced with Cinnamon, Cardamom and Clove – on the bed of Cedarwood and Oakmoss. The perfect oriental spicy chypre is also available in a precious Parfum form, contained in a golden leaf bottle.
The Eternal Spring perfume followed in 2005, AQABA Spring, with fruity apricot and blackcurrant leaves note became AQABA fragrant symbol of the Renewal of Love. Two men's fragrances were launched in 2006 (exhilarating, warm and sensuous AQABA MEN that combines fresh spicy citrus start with musky sandalwood base) and 2013 (invigorating, crisp and romantic oriental AQABA MEN II that combines a green herbal start with spices and and ambergris base) to embody the passion, power and perfection of the man.
The great collection named Jewels of AQABA is going to unfold for some years, as it consists of four thematic sub-collections, the 4 Components of Love. There are two of them now: the first collection named The Creation consists of 3 fragrances, and the second one named The Spirit is made of 2 fragrances.
The Creation collection was launched in 2007: Midnight Sun, Jewels of Blue and Sands of AQABA are devoted to The Sun, The Sea and The Sands. The Spirit collection (2012) consists of two perfumes, Vie d’Amour Woman and Vie d’Amour Men and was launched at The Plaza (NYC) – I could explain their concept of Love by my own short poem: “Days of Sunshine Nights of Poetry And a Lifetime Filled With Beautiful Music."
Sergey Borisov: So you wrote some poems for your perfumes? Could you tell us more?
Miriam Mirani: Yes. “Rubies and Pearls of Love In Sails of Scented Winds In Whispers of a Midnight Sun”, it’s a poem about my Midnight Sun perfume. Actually I have written a poem for every perfume in my range, the poems appear on the label of each AQABA perfume box.
“For the Eyes of Blu of You In Seas of Days Gone By With You in Love Am I!” was written for The Sea: Jewels of Blu perfume. And I can assure you that the future collections that will follow, also will be accompanied with short poems.
Sergey Borisov: AQABA caned perfume boxes look very beautiful but also remind me of Christian Dior – all those caned motifs of Lady Dior quilted bags, caned gold bracelets, shoes, and even Smart S1 Cannage, all of them that were born out of Napoleon III caned chairs... Does the decoration go down so far as to the Biblical love story?
Miriam Mirani: Yes. AQABA’s packaging is absolutely driven by historical use of these materials during ancient and Biblical times. The inspiration for AQABA’s packaging is the result of much research, not only into the ancient usage of papyrus and cane reed, but also into the applications of how to use these materials together to create a consumer-ready package which would allow the consumer to feel a piece of history.
My goal was to create, for the customer, a link bridging the past with the present and the ancient with the modern. Though AQABA’s packaging is hand-made and very delicate, there is no replacement which can uphold the integrity and character of AQABA and the history that it represents. Much time has been spent researching, testing and creating AQABA’s packaging.

The ancient love story of AQABA inspires a design and package created to evoke vibrant, long-lasting impressions of the romance, culture and tapestry of an ancient world. AQABA’s packaging celebrates fleets of ships built by King Solomon, in the Port of Aqaba, to sail Sheba’s treasures of precious perfume oils and spices to Far East kingdoms. Using imagery of authentic papyrus, AQABA’s cane is a derivative of Nile reed, used for ship building thousands of years ago. With its perfume bottle securely wrapped in a luxurious red velour designer pouch (black for MEN), AQABA links passions of past and present. A singular red cabochon (Silver for MEN) in a gold setting, celebrates Solomon’s temple inlaid with riches of silver and gold.
Sergey Borisov: King Solomon and Queen of Sheba were famous by their fabled richness (“they do not know the value of silver as they used only gold”) – but your perfumes are quite affordable compared to “the new niche standard” price near USD 200.
Miriam Mirani: Yes, this is true about the pricing. In fact, AQABA’s price has not been touched since its launch in 1998! The pricing issue will be reconciled in the near future as the pricing structure will be re-examined and reviewed. Certainly, manufacturing and materials costs have increased over the last years and pricing must be adjusted accordingly.
Sergey Borisov: What are your fragrant plans for the 20th anniversary celebration, and next the 20 years to follow?
Miriam Mirani: Plans over the next few years are to complete the Jewels of AQABA collection with third and fourth components. This will complete the AQABA story and my AQABA journey. Another ancient and legendary love story awaits in the wings and, hopefully, I will have the good fortune to share it and to follow in AQABA’s steps.

I wish to express that I am honored to have been given this great opportunity, this chance to share my love of ancient Arabia and my love of Biblical history, with fragrance lovers around the world, especially with those who continue to follow AQABA, so loyally and so passionately. And, lastly, but not least, thank you for this chance to have this interview with you.

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