Eternal by Ajmal's boutique is a harmonious blend of art and perfume
Art and perfume is not a combination often featured in retail, but the newly-opened Eternal by Ajmal boutique presents an exquisite and harmonious marriage of the two.
Located at Dubai’s Wafi City mall, the new boutique marks the brand’s coming of age. “Eternal by Ajmal is an evolution of what used to be Ajmal Eternal,” explained deputy general manager of Ajmal Perfumes, Abdulla Ajmal.
The new boutique replaces the Ajmal Eternal outlet at Emirates Towers, and complements a similar boutique in Abu Dhabi. As signified by the subtle name change, the aim is to establish Eternal as an independent entity in its own right.
“We’ve taken the next step and wanted Eternal to be at the forefront. We wanted Eternal to create its own identity,” Ajmal explained.
To help mould this new identity, Ajmal Perfumes recruited London-based creative agency Caulder Moore, a firm with significant experience with niche perfumery brands. “That was one of the things that interested us. The other is that Caulder Moore has a good eye for luxury designs. Its selections are beautiful,” said Ajmal.
Caulder Moore was given a brief that centred on “creating an experience that reflected Eternal by Ajmal’s positioning as the most exclusive perfume house in the world”, explained Maria Correia, the creative agency’s design director.
Eternal by Ajmal is defined by its multi-faceted product offering. In addition to Murano glass sculptures, the shop specialises in branded perfumes, oils and the traditional oudh, or resinoid, one of the primary elements of the oriental perfumery. Caulder Moore had to create a space that accommodated all of these elements.
Designing the boutique was “quite complex”, Correia admitted. “In the UK it’s about one singular element and delivering it consistently. This brand, though, was quite diverse, which is normal once we understood the culture of the Middle East.”
Rather than working directly from a design brief, Caulder Moore was careful to take its cue from the Ajmal business model. “One thing I really liked about Caulder Moore was that it didn’t really go by a brief, per se,” explained Ajmal. “The team went by the business; they immersed themselves in it.”
That the design firm was able to take a relatively small space and transform it into a series of different areas is testament to its talents, Ajmal noted. “The first thing they did was to take the store and break it down into different spaces,” he noted. “They took this one space and said ‘these areas are distinctive in terms of the experience, so why not separate them so that they look different?’”
Selected for its ease of access and emphasis on luxury brands, Wafi City was a perfect fit for Eternal by Ajmal, said Ajmal. “The ease of getting to Wafi is greater than with some other malls. We can’t be somewhere like Mall of the Emirates,” he continued, “because the type of clientele we have doesn’t want to spend 20 minutes trying to find parking and then another 20 minutes getting to where they need to be.”
Eternal by Ajmal’s client base, he added, “prefers a more intimate environment. Our customers like to be dropped off at the door, walk straight in, and visit the select few stores that they like”.
Designers at Caulder Moore were able to borrow from Wafi’s reputation as a premium shopping destination. “We felt it was a very good marriage because Wafi is about bringing the very best of the world to its consumers, and the Ajmal brand fits really well alongside that,” said Correia.
Breaking it down
The store is divided into four distinct sections: the glass art gallery, the oudh sanctuary, and dedicated areas for oils and branded perfumes. “When a person walks from one area to another, it almost feels like they are in a different store,” said Ajmal. “But at the same time, the continuity is there.”
Creating distinctive yet harmonious spaces was key to the design, said Correia. “What we really tried to do was create an environment that complemented all these diverse aspects.
“Eternal by Ajmal is about the marriage of art and perfume, so it was about displaying the art glass in a really beautiful, almost gallery-like space, but also about understanding that what complements it is the perfume,” said Corriea. “That’s how we looked at defining and displaying the two kinds of spaces.”
High-gloss lacquered surfaces with a gold edge trim adorn the largely white gallery area, while the lighting helps to create a sense of modernity, giving customers the feeling they are actually in an art gallery. “The lighting was important in linking all the areas together, while separate lighting features helped to define each space,” she added.
Domed surface areas create intimacy in the service area, while chrome lighting features add to the distinctive design language of the boutique. “The lighting highlights the product, which is the most important thing,” said Correia. “It also makes it easy for customers to navigate the space on their own, or for staff to take them through for a more personalised service.”
In contrast to the ultra-contemporary art glass gallery, the couture perfume area exudes a warmer ambience. “Couture perfumery is about bespoke relationships, about understanding customers and the scents they’re looking for, so that’s why we went for the warm veneered timber,” explained Correia.
In an exclusive boutique that only aims to attract some five to ten customers per day, providing a relaxing service area was crucial. “It is all about the service provided and the time taken to understand the needs of the customer,” said Ajmal. “A lot of the time, it is not the transaction, but the communication between the sales person and the customer that makes the difference.”
The couture perfume space also introduces gold into the style mix, allowing the design to flow naturally into the gold-laden oudh sanctuary. Gold-leaf wallpaper allows customers to feel they are experiencing something special, Correia continued. “The oudh sanctuary was really about the premium nature of oudh – it’s a desirable and status-driven product and we wanted the gold to reflect that luxury.”
Ajmal agreed. “The oudh area is the most precious area, so there is a lot of gold. Whether you admit it or not, when you are in an area with a lot of gold, subconsciously you think ‘precious’.”
Contemporary furnishings feature throughout the boutique, helping Eternal by Ajmal to stand out from its competitors. “Competitors tend to treat oudh in an old fashioned context; they always look at a very Arabic, very traditional aesthetic,” said Correia. “We’ve managed to bring this product and brand into a very contemporary aesthetic but have still not lost all the other qualities, like passion, luxury, personal service and quality.”
Though the design language of the boutique speaks of high-end luxury and quality products, ensuring the project was completed on budget proved challenging. “It was difficult,” said Correia. “We played with different design features, which, when we looked at costs, we obviously had to simplify.”
To overcome this challenge, Caulder Moore worked with local contractors wherever possible. Usually, explained Correia, the design firm sources its materials from the UK. When cost is an issue, however, “we start liaising with local contractors to find local equivalents within the marketplace”.
The company’s Dubai contractor understood the boutique’s design and “was very mindful of the fact that it had to be brought in on budget,” said Correia. “We reached a very good compromise,” she concluded.