Brides Today spoke to Abdulla Ajmal, Perfumist and Business Mentor, NHA Division, Ajmal & Sons, to learn more about this collab, the cardinal rules of layering scents, and why oud is one of the most versatile ingredients in perfumery right now.
Brides Today: How did the collaboration with Anita Dongre come about?
Abdulla Ajmal: “Anita Dongre visited our facility in Dubai and was quite impressed with our core competence in fragrances—which is research, innovation, and development, along with packaging and design. This gave her the much-required confidence that she was seeking from a partner of equal repute and repository of knowledge in the fragrance category. What further cemented our association was our passion for craftsmanship and the consumer-centric approach both organisations stand for. We, at Ajmal, were keen to leverage the consumer base of both the labels to expand ours. So the partnership took shape naturally, offering the best of both fashion and fragrances from legacy brands.”
BT: How did you match the ethos of Ajmal to Anita Dongre’s high-street labels?
AA: “Our aim was to bring something unique to the table—something which hasn’t been done in India before. The process started with intense brainstorming sessions to understand AND and Global Desi’s target audience. What emerged was not a single unified portrait because the modern Indian woman is not a monolith—she comes in many shades and moods. The result was eight archetypes crafted collaboratively by AND, Global Desi, and Ajmal teams—each one embodying a different aspect of the brand."
"Next, Ajmal’s perfumers stepped in with their decades of experience crafting signature fragrances to find the perfect mixes and proportions. Finally, the multiple fragrances were thoroughly evaluated by 600 AND and Global Desi customers, including blind tests to rate them on general appeal as well as by their ability to evoke the archetypes. Only the ones that were consistently rated the highest by both the customers and the expert perfumers made the final cut, and then were fine-tuned to perfection.”
BT: What about the packaging?
AA: “We were mindful about translating the codes of House of Anita Dongre into the design of the bottle and its box. In sync with the pastel moodboard of the brand, the AND fragrances crafted by Ajmal evoke a similar universe of elegance and femininity through corresponding olfactory families. Through the ombré effect and silver-floral detailing, the box speaks the language of the brand’s signature style—of fluid silhouettes, floral prints, and attention to detail."
"To match the moods of the free-spirited Global Desi woman, the fragrances are dressed in elegant cube-shaped glass bottles. We have incorporated Global Desi’s signature motifs and prints in the outer packaging. You can match the fragrance to your favourite Global Desi-print ensemble, or layer them as per your olfactory senses.”
BT: How do you come up with a new scent? Is it a visual process for you? Or do you like experimenting with different ingredients till you achieve a blend that hits home?
AA: “Typically, a perfumer has an epiphany or a spark of inspiration that can be then extracted through sourcing the right raw materials. Such inspiration can come from travel, the aroma of food, or even everyday scents. Some creations are inspiration-led. For instance, when I visited Georgia (in the pre-pandemic era), I visited many churches. Unlike the churches and cathedrals in Western Europe, where a strong scent of frankincense has settled in the walls of these establishments due to the damp weather, in Georgia, everything is made of stone. So, the temperature is cooler and the smell of frankincense is also cold… And that’s something which gets etched in the memory: to use a note which is traditionally considered warm as a cooling component.
However, the creative journey for me, starts with personification, understanding what the consumer is looking for. It is easy when we are crafting bespoke fragrances, as the process is direct. For instance, a Russian businessman once told me that his passions were guns, motorcycles, and wine. So the fragrance we created ignited those elements. When it comes to working on newer lines of fragrances, the marketing team gives me a brief keeping in mind the research and consumer profiling.
Then it is my job as a perfumist to personify the customer and find the common denominator. In such cases, you can cater to perfumery trends and create an evolutionary blend around the existing trends. But when I am working on the notes for such scents, I visualise the customer—the wearer becomes the muse. Fragrance is like an invisible piece of jewellery, one which plays an important role in making first impressions. Hence, understanding the scent profile of the consumer is the key.”
BT: Do you work on just one fragrance at a time or multiple?
AA: “I can work on multiple projects at the same time. Most perfumers create three to four perfumes at the same time unless it is a big project. But, to be honest, no one has the luxury of time to work on a single blend anymore.”
BT: Oud is one of the dominant ingredients in Ajmal fragrances, which can be overwhelming for some. Tell us about the perfumes from your existing range that balance this heady note with feminine ones, which a bride-to-be can include in her trousseau.
AA: “My suggestion will be to put a drop of pure oud oil on your pulse point, and spray your go-to fragrance over it. This will elevate your fragrance, while also staying in your comfort zone. Oud is a beautiful, sensual ingredient that is also known for its therapeutic benefits. It calms the nerves and also conjures up a feeling of sheer opulence. If I were to recommend one scent from our range, it would have to be Qasida. It is the perfect, modern oud-based fragrance...traditional style oriental but with airy lightness. It makes for a great bridal signature scent.”
BT: The line between masculine and feminine fragrances is slowly blurring. While you do have separate men's and women's scents, which ones would you recommend for the BT bride that a groom can share too?
AA: “We do have a very significant range of prestigious unisex fragrances. Our Wood/Amber and Musk series are crafted for fragrance connoisseurs, irrespective of their gender. Though women prefer the musk series and the men are more drawn to wood series, we haven’t labelled them as for men or women, as these are beautiful notes, and we want your nose to decide what best resonates with you. Qasida is another fragrance, which women and men seem to like equally. Though women are more attracted to the jewel-like bottle, it is a great one to share with the groom.”
BT: What should one keep in mind when layering different fragrances?
AA: “Layering is a bit of a trial-and-error process. There are no rules per se, as it depends on you on what you want to achieve through a pairing. For instance, if you have got two or even three fragrances on your dresser, you can create so much more out of them. But layering fragrances is more about expressing yourself creatively. Scent aficionados like to create a personalised fragrance through layering...it is your own unique formulation in some ways. When it comes to layering, an expert can only offer tips, but it is the fragrance that will speak to your nose and rest comfortably on your skin. You have to trust your intuition and know what feels right on your skin.
I would like to explain this using my favourite scents as examples: Eternal Radiance and Soulful Trance, both by Ajmal. If I were to pair these two, I would use two spritzes of Eternal Radiance and one spritz of Soulful Trance, because the latter has an intense characteristic. Eternal Radiance will soften Soulful Trance but will bring a fruitiness to it. On the other hand, if you don’t mind the potency but would also like to highlight the muskiness of Eternal Radiance, you could try it the other way round.”
BT: What’s the most common mistake people make when wearing a scent?
AA: “Perfumers recommend that you should only spritz a scent on your pulse points, but technically you can wear it anywhere on your skin. Applying it directly on the skin will also help the perfume last longer, versus spraying it on the clothes. Additionally, if you want your fragrance to linger on, then opt for an eau de parfum instead of an eau de toilette.”
BT: Which is your favourite note?
AA: “Fragrances tend to evoke emotion through the use of specific ingredients. And oriental ingredients like oud constantly remind me of how we started and what all we have achieved. I thoroughly enjoy using oud in my formulations as it lends a certain kind of energy to the fragrance, and personally, it provides a sense of belonging.”
BT: And which is your least favourite note?
AA: “The scent of canned cherries. It reminds me of a bug spray from my childhood days, which used to have a similar smell.”
BT: Tell us about a popular scent you wish you had created?
AA: “Terre d'Hermès for men...the presentation of vetiver in this fragrance is brilliant. It is a beautiful composition which can be copied, but cannot be improved upon.”
BT: Can you share a tip for new-age brides that only perfumers are privy to?
AA: “When it comes to festivities and celebrations where you are the focus, one gravitates towards fragrances that will announce their presence, and leave an impression. But when it comes to scents, less is always more. Don’t douse yourself in a strong scent, pick an addictive-but-mild juice that leaves a subtle trail.”
BT: If you had to pick the top three fragrances from Ajmal for a bride, which ones would you pick and why?
AA: “I would pick Amber Musk: it has a velvety sensuality to it, and it is very soft and comforting."
"The second fragrance that I would like to recommend is Aristocrat Female. It has tremendous character, and best suited for a strong-willed woman. And last but not the least, Wisal. It is a beautiful scent that works for both day and night, and perfect for a wedding function like sangeet.”
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