Five Questions: Alia Raza from Regime des Fleurs

Alia Raza photographed by Michael Avedon for 65CPW; image from Regime des Fleurs website

Régime des Fleurs was started in 2014, and has offered (and continues to offer) some of the most interesting and beautiful scents I’ve smelled in quite some time.  From their website:  Régime des Fleurs is known for its unique take on luxury fragrance. High-concept perfume collections in vivid packaging draw inspiration from nature, history, and art. Founder Alia Raza began pursuing her passion for perfume after an acclaimed career as a filmmaker and artist whose work explored beauty and fragrance. Collections include the classic Eau de Parfum, the multiple-use Personal/Space, the Artefacts candles, and the limited edition, artisanal Fait Main.  Here are five questions for Alia, and her answers.

Q: One of the things that caught my attention about Régime des Fleurs is how … precise your fragrances are, for lack of a better word. Like each scent is telling a very specific story. Can you tell me how you find your starting point on a fragrance, your end point, and what your process is? Please pick a particular scent to talk about if that would make it easier.

A: I think for so long, especially growing up, I thought of perfume as actually not telling any story, but really just trying to appeal to as many people as possible. The ads I saw in magazines and on tv when I was growing up used models who were sexy and beautiful. That seemed to be about the only theme in terms of the stories perfumes were telling. Some were a little darker, some a little more innocent, and a lot of the imagery was amazing, but everything felt somewhat generic to me. I think the truth is that all these old perfumes were really specific in terms of their themes, the development and research that went into them, the creation, but then it all got a bit watered down in the advertising so that millions of people could easily understand it. We weren’t as aware of or exposed to the stories being told behind the scenes.

When I started making perfume it was in an art context, to show in a gallery, and I had a really specific idea for the scent I was creating. It was derived from years of work as an artist making videos and films about scent. So when I started the brand it seemed natural to tell specific stories with each fragrance. I loved the idea of packing in as many visual and literary and historical and art references into each of the stories, or perhaps they were more like poems, and laying them bare in the copy and imagery explaining each perfume. As the company has evolved, I’ve gone from making these very specific handmade perfumes in small batches with detailed backstories to consciously trying to make perfumes that are still outwardly more specific than the old designer perfumes from my youth but also a bit more accessible, a bit more relatable than the hand made. The brand is always about nature, history, and art, and the perfumes are about one or more specific references within these themes.

For our latest release, last year’s Little Flower, the ideas that inspired the perfume, packaging, and campaign imagery were the glamour of old Hollywood actresses, the photographs of the French photographer Irina Ionesco, the Catholic patron saint of flowers Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux, and fresh young roses in a small garden in the East Village of Manhattan, with the city surrounding. So I guess it actually was quite specific!

most recent bottle style; image courtesy of Regime des Fleurs website

Q. You mentioned in your comment on the Posse that you’re under pressure to make the bottle branding more consistent visually. That seems really different from your philosophy in some articles I’ve read about the brand, where the bottle design and detail is part of the artistic process and unique to the fragrance you’re working on. (For the record, I disagree about the branding needing to all be the same visually, although maybe singular bottle designs are the luxury of brands like Dior with higher profiles and deeper pockets, and I assume using one bottle style for everything must be cheaper.) What are your thoughts?

A. I just keep hearing from everyone I work with and talk to, whether it’s stores, distributors, sales agents, marketing people, even customers – that although a lot of people are now familiar with the name Régime des Fleurs, the visual identity is a bit scattered. Beautiful, but scattered. The candles look like one brand about the ancient world, the various perfume collections all look different from one another. It’s been fun for me, both fun and very challenging – all this playing with our packaging and the look of the products over the years, rather than focusing on one streamlined look like most brands do. But now it’s a new challenge to pivot a bit.

I know I’m repeating myself, but in the beginning this was really much closer to an art practice than a company or brand. If I want the company to actually survive and grow, there are certain strategies I need to try in order to compete with all the other brands flooding the marketplace. I will always keep using the best ingredients and offering the most exquisite perfumes I can, but I do want to try and streamline the look of the brand and see what happens. I’m curious and excited about it. I’ve had to learn how to do all of this from scratch, the last six years have been like my business school, and I’m interested now in that side of things as well as the artistic and creative side, and it’s actually nice to get to talk about it with you.

Nymphaea Caerulea, image from LuckyScent

Q. Can you talk about some of the scents in your back catalog a bit? There are a number of fragrances you’ve done that aren’t available now on your site, including three at LuckyScent. I’m going to pause here and say that as a perfume lover, part of the fun of perfume community is hearing about a scent that released in, say, 2013 and you can still go to their website and buy it. Is only offering scents for a limited time a business decision?  An artistic one?

A. I want to bring every single one of them back. I honestly hate discontinuing anything. It frustrates me as much as it does some of our customers who fall in love with a scent and then can’t find it anymore. My goal is to have the resources, to raise the money, to do whatever it takes, to re-release everything and keep it all in stock for people. I’m attached to each perfume. I am not happy about having to retire things in order to create new things. Again, it’s the reality of having a business. There is a great deal of pressure to release new things to keep people and stores interested. That’s just the way it is, and I’m not a big company that can afford to make 35 perfumes at once and keep all of them available all the time. I’m one person doing all this. There are so many advantages to being small but this is one of the big disadvantages.

Q. It sounds like you’ve had a lot of recent changes in your business, including a split with your business partner and a relocation. Can you share your plans with us, and what we might have to look forward to in terms of new scents and other products (I noticed candles) on the way?

A. Yes, my former partner, who is amazing, decided to go in another direction from fragrance. And while I’ve always split my time between New York and LA, I’m now living in Paris, where I’d spent a lot of time in the last three years. It just felt like it was time to get out of America for me right now. I’ve always been sort of French at heart, that’s why I named the company a French name. It wasn’t because I was trying to fool people into thinking we were a French brand, contrary to what some cynical journalists have thought!

Here in Paris I’m working on five new eaux de parfum, five new candles, and a subtle redesign with a new bottle. I’m working with new creative partners, new perfumers, and most exciting of all new ingredients that I hadn’t explored before. I have to tell new stories now. It’s been hard this year, with Covid, there have been nonstop delays and false starts, really frustrating. But just wait, you’re going to love the new stuff.

Q. Are there fragrances (mainstream or niche) outside of your own line that you wear? What are they and how did you choose them?

A. Yes! Who wants to only wear their own brand’s fragrances? Musicians don’t only listen to their own music, right? I wear so many perfumes – a lot are the ones I grew up with, and a lot are tuberose-centric. I love the simple and beguiling L’Artisan Tubéreuse which was long ago discontinued, Creed Tubéreuse Indiana which smells like grape and ambergris, Fracas – the 1998 reformulation done by Pierre Negrin, who I now have the honor of working with. I love Tubéreuse Criminelle. The best perfume of the past few years for me has been Naomi Goodsir Nuit de Bakelite. I think it’s completely original and amazing. I told Naomi I thought it was a revolution in the world of tuberose. I wear some dark things, like Youth Dew, Aromatics Elixir, Bal à Versailles, Diptyque Eau Lente. And some fresh things like Profumi di Frienze Magnolia Purpurea. I have way too many perfumes, but they’re all in New York right now. Here in Paris I just wear what I’ve been working on. Lots and lots of drafts of next year’s collection.

March: what a fabulous, interesting list.  I’m really looking forward to what’s coming up from Régime des Fleurs, and thanks to Alia for answering my questions.  Alia has graciously offered to host a very generous giveaway of TEN of her sample “flights” of fragrance to lucky commenters, so if you want one, say so!  She may also stop by to answer any questions left in comments — her schedule is hectic right now, but she’s going to try.

  • Pam F. says:

    My favorite tuberose is Tubereuse by Mona di Orio! Thank you for the lovely interview. I’m definitely tossing my name in the hat.

  • Ariel says:

    I love the photography on Régime des Fleurs’ website:

    So excited to try everything!

  • Calrayo says:

    What a lovely interview! I’d love a sample set, if I’m so lucky. Now I’m thinking about what tuberose perfumes I have on hand and how they might go with the cool and blustery day I’m having out here in California.

  • Sarah says:

    Thanks for the great chat, I love hearing the thought process behind the creations.

    Would of course love to experience a flight sample!

  • NancyC says:

    Thanks to March and Alia for the fascinating interview, and for the generous giveaway! I’d love to get to know the RdF line better.
    A question for Alia: are there fragrance notes you don’t personally care for, and if so, how do you go about working with them in a composition?

    • Alia says:

      Hi Nancy, I like this question! There are definitely notes I don’t love but still want to explore. What’s great is there are so many renditions of the same note to choose from. I might not love a certain patchouli extraction, but maybe another one works for me. Or I can create a patchouli note from individual molecules – whether natural, synthetic or both – and play up the facets I like and play down or even remove the rest. I also find that just wearing something, even if I thought I hated it, will make it more familiar and get me used to it and more interested in it. Acquired tastes can be the most rewarding sometimes.

      • Ariel says:

        “Acquired tastes can be the most rewarding sometimes.” This, a thousand percent.
        Bon chance avec tout!
        And, obvio, throw my name in that gorgeous hat for sample.

  • Patty says:

    I have this sample set, and I”m hoping I get some time soon to sit down and give each of them attention. So far, I am thoroughly enchanted, and thanks to you both for the interview, it was so interesting!

  • Maya says:

    I love Little Flower! It is on my buy list. The first Régime des Fleurs I sampled was Bel Epiq. It intrigued me and was very lovely. I always regretted not trying Floralia. I think RdF is a wonderful line. The only thing I don’t like is the grey color of the current bottles, but that’s trivia. I also do not agree that all bottles need to be basically the same. Look at the original Guerlain perfumes and all the different and wonderful bottles the perfumes came in.

    • Alia says:

      I hear you. The smoked grey glass and pale grey labels felt chic to me a few years ago because I really hadn’t seen it before and wanted to do something unexpected. Now I feel it’s too subtle and I want a little more contrast. Working on the new…

  • VerbenaLuvvr says:

    I enjoyed the article here last month and was inspired to track down the discontinued line in the lovely frosted glass bottles, and was still able to pick up Vines–I love it! I hope that sometime the line can be revisited as there others of the group that look interesting. I certainly also would like to sample Alia’s new offerings as well, so my fingers are crossed! Hoping for much success for you, Alia, we will be following you! 🙂

  • Dina C. says:

    Thank you March and Alia Raza for an excellent interview. I loved reading about the creative process she uses and the business side of perfume, too. I would enjoy a chance to sniff her line, so please enter me in the drawing. Thanks. A further question to ponder: which of the beaux arts (music, theatre, dance, studio art) influences your perfume creations the most? Or which one aligns most closely to scent and its creation? Again, thanks. 🙂

    • Alia says:

      Visual art is the most important and inspiring part of the creative process for me. Photography, painting, film, color, texture, shadow, light…I can spend a day just looking through books and searching online (and in my phone camera) for the right images that express what I want to say with a fragrance.

  • Musette says:

    As a former brand marketer and a small business owner I really enjoyed reading about her journey (and while the Perfumista in me agrees with the delight of a non-linear look in packaging, the businessperson in me totally understands why it’s necessary to do so – unless you’re an EL or Dior)… she seems to possess that rare commodity of artistic vision combined with grounded business practices. DNEM because it would look Very Strange if I won – but I am looking forward to trying these in the future! xoxoxo and thanks to Alia (and you, March) for such a wonderful interview! xoxoxo

  • Tiara says:

    Loved hearing some scents could come back. I recognize that as a small business having a large collection is difficult to maintain but as a consumer, it’s heartbreaking when a scent I love is discontinued. Perfume is art and her approach to her creations inspires me. I’d be honored to win a set!

  • HeidiC says:

    I would love to try the samples — thanks for the draw! Question for Alia: film is so visual, while fragrance is so…not (unless you’re synaesthetic?). Your story inspiration for Little Flower seems very based in visual images. How do you translate a visual to an olfactory medium? Or is it just inspiration, but doesn’t necessarily translate?

    • Alia says:

      I love working with Noses who are as visually oriented as I am. I will source a hundred images and narrow them down to maybe ten and give them to the lab with some suggested ingredients and key words, and that is sometimes the whole process. Then the lab gives me a formula and we tweak it together until I really love it. Sometimes that means it has to match the original visual references, other times it becomes something else, like a happy accident.

  • Erika says:

    I would love to receive samples! It is good to hear from the business side of perfume why things are discontinued. Thank you for the great article.

  • Alatariel says:

    These sound wonderful! I’d love to try them. Fascinating interview, and thanks for the draw!

  • Angela says:

    Hi Alia, What a fun interview!
    I have a special place in my heart for ‘Little Flower’. I’d love to wear whatever you can spare. Thanks & good luck.

  • Anna Egeria says:

    I would so love to try any of Alia Raza’s fragrances. thank you for the drawing!

  • SpringPansy says:

    Oh, yes, yes, yes please! I’ve had several Regime des Fleurs fragrances on my “must sample” list for a while. I’d love to try anything.

  • Tara says:

    I really want to try Cacti and Falling Trees, thanks for the draw!

  • taxi says:

    These sound glorious! Please put my name in the hat.