History told us many love stories. Romeo and Juliette, Antony and Cleopatra or Paris and Helene of Troy. But do you know the biggest Love story of all? Well Guerlain celebrates this story for the past 88 years with its legendary fragrance Shalimar. And this month, they released a new film, as
Jacques Guerlain created Shalimar in order to celebrate this amazing love story between the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and her third wife Mumtaz Mahal. The film reflects both a sublime vision of this true story that poets and singers leverage to the level of a true legend in the 17th century. A let you discover this amazing and emotional video. Probably one of the most beautiful videos a perfumery brand made.
Mumtaz Mahal, the true story
Of her true name Arjumand Banu, this beautiful Mughal Empress lived in the 17th century and was the 3rd wife of Emperor Shah Jahan. She was born in Agra and had Persian nobility. During her lifetime, poets from all over the country would claim her astonishing beauty, grace and compassion for her people. Despite the fact that she was the 3rd wife of the emperor, she was by far the preferred one. She used to travel with her husband every where he would go. She did not have any political ambition, she was interested to help the poor and love without restrains her husband. They were soul mates and their love story was very intense.
She was very often pregnant and gave 14 children to the Emperor. Arjumand Banu dies while giving birth to her 14th child. The Emperor felt the world falling into pieces and he was completely devastated. Just after the death of his wife, Shah Jahan disapeared and went into secluded mourning for a year. After this period he came back and was the shadow of himself. His hair was white and his back bent and his face, the face of an old man. Nevertheless, his intention was to offer to her wife an appropriate final resting spot. He started by moving the body from Burhanpur to Agra, where she was born. He interred her in a small building on the banks of the Yamuna River while he would put in action his master plan for a special mausoleum.
The Taj Mahal, when the story became legend.
The idea of Emperor Shah Jahan, was to build the final resting spot for her wife. Something that would reflect how much he loved her. And that’s how the idea of the Tal Mahal was born. It took the emperor 22 years to build it. Taj Mahal means “Crown of Palaces”. It is today considered as the jewel of Muslim art in India and is one of the masterpieces of the world’s heritage.
The construction started in 1632, one year after the emperor’s wife death. The main mausoleum was finished in 1648 and the gardens surrounding it 5 years later. The Mausoleum is made of translucent white marble from Rajasthan. This material gives an unusual magical look to the construction. Some people say that when the sun shines on the Taj Mahal in certain hours of the day, you can see the depth in the translucent marble. So the palace glows as a ghost or as if it was made of standing water. Jade and crystal were brought from China, Turquoise was from Tibet and Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan. the Sapphires came from Sri Lanka and the Carnelian from Arabia. Overall, more than 28 different types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into the white marble. In the center of the main building you can find the tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Sha Jahan, laying together for ever.
So when in 1648, the Taj Mahal was finished, the Emperor moved her wife into the center of the Mausoleum. And since then, their love story became the most aspirational and beautiful story of all times.
Shalimar by Guerlain, when passion becomes timeless
When Jacques Guerlain discovered this marvelous story in 1921, it inspired him of a fragrance that would cross ages and become probably one of the most magnetic fragrance of all. Shalimar was launched and revealed to the public in 1925. Still today in the world there are 108 flacons sold every hour. Imagine that, 88 years after the launch.
Shalimar launch in 1925 – amazing times.
1925 was an exciting year. From April to October, Paris held the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative arts. People from all over the world came to admire what the world had to propose at its best. It was also boring times and people got interested to what would make them dream and travel. Far East stories and countries were aspirations to people. So Shalimar arrived in a perfect timing.
Shalimar, a magical name, a mystical garden.
Guerlain inspiration for the fragrance name came directly from the famous Shalimar gardens. Actually there is not one Shalimar garden but several of them. They are in India, Pakistan or even in the Kashmir. They are associated to Mughal gardens, meaning royal gardens. The garden surrounding the Taj Mahal was inspired by Shalimar gardens, probably made by the same architect. Guerlain dreams of orientalism brought him to call this fragrance as Shalimar, for the reference to these amazing gardens. The Taj Mahl surroundings are supposed to symbolize heaven on earth.
Shalimar, the first Oriental fragrance in history
Guerlain created with Shalimar, probably the first Oriental fragrance in history. He had created a special signature that you would find in almost all Guerlain fragrances afterwards, called the Guerlinade. A fragrance structure with head notes of Bergamot, a heart of Jasmine-Rose and Orris and a base accord of Tonka Beans, Resins, animal notes and Vanilla. Jacques Guerlain took another fragrance of his, called Jicky, and used it as a base for Shalimar. It is also probably the first time Guerlain used Vanillin, one of the great discoveries in perfumery. Naturally present in Vanilla, Vanillin is a concentrate of sexiness. Shalimar is a very opulent signature fragrance. Timeless, it reflects the warm sensuality within each woman. Generations of women wear Shalimar and it is considered as the flagship fragrance of the french perfumery house.
Shalimar, the flacon as the symbol of orientalism.
The flacon of Shalimar was designed by Raymond Guerlain and the first series was made in Baccarat crystal. The 20’s was the decade of Art Deco and the flacon of Shalimar is a perfect illustration. The shape represents the sacred vessels found in the Shalimar gardens. The deep blue cap represents a fan, symbol of a sublimed East.
Guerlain is the curator of Love and Passion
2008, the revival of Shalimar
In 2008, Guerlain made a revival for Shalimar by choosing world top model Natalia Vodianova as the new face for Shalimar and the brand. In a black and white sensual photography and film, new generations of women could finally rediscover the sensual feminine power of Shalimar. The film featured a soundtrack, extracted from a song by Serge Gainsbourg, called Initials BB. A passionate love declaration made by Gainsbourg to Brigitte Bardot. There is a paragraph in the song saying “Elle ne porte rien, d’autre qu’un peu, d’essence de Guerlain dans les cheveux” meaning that “she only wears nothing more than the essence of Guerlain on her hair“. So a strong statement for the french market but also abroad. We all know that Brigitte Bardot used to wear L’Heure Bleu and not Shalimar, but the story is nice.
2013, the legend of Shalimar takes the room
5 years after the revival of Shalimar under the sensual silhouette of Natalia Vodianova, Guerlain strikes even stronger with an astonishing film translating the magnificent love story between Emperor Shah Jahan and Mutmat Mahal.
The film, that you discovered the long version above, explains how the emperor used to go and visit her beloved wife. He used to live quite away from the palace, in order to not be disturbed. Each time he took his horse and traveled to meet her, he imagined how was she preparing herself to welcome him. Images of her body and her face were in his mind during the trip, so that his desire was growing and growing.
In the film story, an old man gives the emperor a magical object. When he met his wife he placed her on a flat boat on the river’s water. While she was floating on the waters, like in a dream, the emperor used the magical object and the Taj Mahal appeared from the water, rising in the sky. Beautiful, amazing, impressive and breath-taking.
The film director is Bruno Aveillan, french. He is considered as the most talented advertising film director of his generation. He worked previously for awarded films for Perrier, Orange and Louis Vuitton.
The film brought a team of 100 people to India. Jaïpur for the initial castle of Jaigarth and Mawta Lake, Udaïpur for the Badi lake, its mountains and the reserve of white marble dust, making the illusion of snow. They also carried more than 6’000 liters of water from the Himalayas on the back of elephants. Of course the Taj Mahal in Agra was also one of the main filming spots as you can see above.
Bruno Aveillan used for some shots a special camera called the Phantom. It can film at more than 1000 frames per second, so you get a true slow-motion at high level resolutions. The scene with the horse and the birds at the end are truly magnificent. The film director also films in 35mm, which is today unique as the cinema and the advertising world abandoned this format.
On the artistic direction, of course the in-house genius Olivier Echaudemaison, taking care of every single details. And we can see that there were many! Fashion designer Yiqing Yin created all the costumes for the movie and Hans Zimmer, german oscar rewarded music composer, created the soundtrack for the Shalimar movie.
You can visit the brand website to learn more about Shalimar and the brand:
When luxury brands decide to behave as true luxury brands, the dream takes the stage and the sublime operates. The Guerlain initiative reminds the one done by Cartier with its film l’Odyssée. Luxury brands need to state their creativity and aim to suprise and please their customers with something away from standardization and “already seen”. And here we can say that Guerlain has its “mission accomplished”. Well done.
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