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Carolina A. Herrera Shares How Royal Oud Sparked Her Fragrance Journey

A royal oud introduction was the catalyst for Carolina A. Herrera’s enduring romance with the inherent luxury of Arab perfumery.

It was a single flacon of oud oil that first sparked Carolina A. Herrera’s fragrance journey. Traveling with her mother, fashion designer Carolina Herrera, the two were honored by the company of Princess Haifa bint Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz, during their 2010 trip to Saudi Arabia. “I remember the landscapes, the cities and, above all, the generosity of Princess Haifa, whom we met during a visit to Jeddah. She is an extremely elegant, intelligent woman,” recalls the beauty creative director for Carolina Herrera. “She gifted us a small bottle of oud, and I became entirely fascinated by it as soon as I opened it. I’d never experienced it in such a high concentration, and the truth is that it forever changed my view of perfumery.” The second youngest of the Venezuelan-American fashion designer’s four daughters, Carolina A. Herrera’s relationship with the Middle East has only grown from that one impactful moment. “For me, the Middle East is not just any other region, but the place that changed and expanded my vision of perfumery,” she recounts. “Arabian perfumery totally transformed my perception of intensity. I came from a much more classical and Western tradition, based on freshness and floral notes, and here I stepped into a universe of ambery perfumes and warm notes that, to me, are the absolute embodiment of luxury. For instance, spices and resins, exotic woods, and certain ingredients, such as musk, oud, myrrh, and incense, lend a very special depth to a fragrance. In the Middle East there is a deep love of perfumes, and raw materials are used in such a refined way.”

Photo: Courtesy of Carolina Herrera

She’s most recently returned to the region to create the bestsellers campaign for Herrera Confidential fragrances in the Emirates’ most wild locations. “The UAE is home to so many fascinating landscapes, sophisticated interiors, and charming little rustic corners. These are the contrasts that I like to evoke with my fragrances, because they bring a tension that makes a scent interesting,” she explains. “I was deeply impressed by the Liwa oasis, at the heart of the Empty Quarter (Rub al-Khali) – it’s an absolutely perfect and pure desert, and the dunes have this incredible sculptural quality. As a child my mother used to read me stories from One Thousand and One Nights, and I would fantasize about places like this: It’s what inspired us to create Gold Incense, from the Carolina Herrera Confidential collection, one of the perfumes that we’ve dedicated to the region.”

Photo: Courtesy of Carolina Herrera

Herrera also took to the Al Ghail mountains – “a dramatic, theatrical, and mountainous landscape that’s filled with a cosmic energy” – seeing the expanse of rocky summits from the back of an Arabian horse, and from the sky in a hot air balloon. While the beauty of the Emirates’ natural world has captured her imagination, it’s the people she’s met and their customs that have captivated her. “The deepest imprint I’ve felt from the UAE comes from the homes, particularly traditional houses, where perfume is a symbol of a passion for beauty and hospitality,” she shares. “The notes of cedar, clove, and agarwood remind me of these spaces, and are the core notes of Oud Couture.” Her understanding of oud in Arab culture encouraged her to introduce the potent note to the world of Carolina Herrera. “Oud is a philosophy of perfume. When you inhale it in isolation, it’s a fierce, powerful ingredient that must be diluted and combined with others to strike a balance,” she explains. “At Carolina Herrera, oud is always filtered through the vision of the brand, with notes that contrast and reveal new facets and nuances. In Oud Couture, we have aimed to interpret it from a New York perspective, as if it evoked the memory of a fabulous trip. For True Oud, the burning ceremony inspired us to create a perfume that is intense yet filled with contrasts.”

Photo: Courtesy of Carolina Herrera

Traditional layering techniques used so widely here were also harnessed by the perfume house. “For Herrera Confidential, we were passionate about layering as a creative tool, a possibility for crafting your own perfume with total freedom. This is why all the fragrances are compatible and enrich one another – oils bring intensity, eau de toilette bring freshness, and creativity flourishes when blending eau de parfum,” Herrera explains. For her part, she hopes to thank the region with her interpretation of its most intriguing ingredients, dedicating the Eastern Treasures collection to ouds, spices, and leathers. Each inkwell-shaped bottle is packaged in a design that features a mashrabiya latticework. “It’s a tribute to a culture that continues to fascinate us and make us dream.”

Originally published in the March 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia

Producer: Faux Consultancy
Creative director and set design: Koren Dasoar 
DOP: Othman Mohammed 
Gaffer: Moawiyah Mohammed
Focus: Ali Halawi
Best boy : Naeem Kurdiyah
Key grip: Sameer
Assistant camera: Omar Kurdiyah
Assistant light: Ezz Mohammed
Editing and Coloring:  Useffilms (Usef Ateyah)
Photography: Hajar Ali 
Photographer Assistant: Mohammed Alsaqabi 
Draping/Set assistant: Nouf Mallawi 
Props Master: Yousef Abu Nada
Styling Assistant: @qwanparis
Make-up: Daad Alduhami 
Hair: @that_jadeela
Production Manager: Mustafa Alamasi 
Fixer/Production Assistant: Osama Alhazza
Runner: Hassan
Horse Handler: Eklil 

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