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LilaNur Brings Indian Ingredients, French Savoir-Faire to Bergdorf Goodman

The brand will launch at Bergdorf Goodman with seven scents and three attars.

As they say, it takes a village. But for LilaNur, a new fragrance brand launching at Bergdorf Goodman, it takes two countries, a network of skilled artisans and an international web of connections.

LilaNur, which seeks to combine Indian philosophies and ingredients with Western perfumery techniques, will bow at the retailer with 10 stock keeping units, ranging in price from $275 to $420. The ingredients are sourced via cofounder Anita Lal, who also founded Good Earth India, and whose relationship with fragrance stems from childhood.

“I’ve always been fascinated by color and scent, ever since I was young,” Lal said. “They’re two things that always delighted me, how colors meld into each other and what you can do mixing colors, and what you can do mixing scents. That’s my personal journey — I know a lot about color and a fair amount about scent.”

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Lal’s primary olfactive references are from her native India and the ingredients she grew up with in her own cultural upbringing. “The scents that I know are all natural scents, and I’ve never really worked with the synthetic or the chemical reproductions of scent,” she said.

“We’re very India-centric and we like to see everything from an Indian point of view,” Lal continued. “One thing is that in India, scenting is a very important part of our lives. We put scented flowers in our hair — it’s the tradition. I always have tuberoses by my bedside, I always take a little tuberose in my hair. These are everyday things for us.”

Lal teamed up with Paul Austin, the veteran fragrance executive, on concepting a line that blends Indian-cultivated ingredients with traditional French perfumery techniques of layering notes.

LilaNur consists of seven eaux de parfum and three oil-based attars, each based on a flower from India and blended in Grasse, France. Gul Rouge, for example, combines two types of roses with honey; Incarnation couples jasmine and rose with vetiver. The attars are all single-note, and based on rose, jasmine and tuberose. Perfumers who worked on the project include Honorine Blanc, Olivier Cresp, Fabrice Pellegrin and Clement Gavarry.

The brand’s goal? “To create a line of fragrance that is international, and has all the expertise that the West created in doing these wonderful alchemic mixtures of molecules, but to have an Indian point of view and some iconic ingredients shown in a way that you can recognize them, yet they have a twist which makes them modern,” Lal said.

Anita Lal
LilaNur’s Anita Lal. Photo courtesy of LilaNur/PRANOY SARKAR

Austin’s relationship with Indian ingredients came from his extended time spent in the country. “I did a research sabbatical in India for almost six months,” he said. “When I discovered the south, I felt as if I had entered into a perfumer’s garden of Eden, because of India’s unique biodiversity.

“I spent a lot of time studying those ingredients and traveling all over the country,” he continued. “I just became absolutely passionate about the subject.”

Austin added that Lal was instrumental in his understanding of India’s fragrance culture, not only because of her know-how with natural materials, but for her artisanal approach toward protecting culture and planet. “The idea of sustainability and craft and social impact, she’s been doing effortlessly and organically for 25 years,” Austin said. “It’s fashionable now, but she’s been living and breathing it forever.”

To that end, LilaNur is introducing a social initiative, called Flora365 in conjunction with its suppliers Jasmine CE and Firmenich, which will “drive opportunity to the people that work in the world of floral culture in India,” Austin said. “A lot of the things that we’re doing have been built around trying to drive opportunity back in the various projects through Flora365.”

“People are really at the heart of everything we’re doing,” he continued. “There are 5,000 flower harvesters whom we work with in Tamil Nadu, and 2,000 farmers. We want to create a community of people around the brand that have a genuine love of India, and a love of perfume. Everything we want to do is build a community around that.”

Social conscience aside, Lal also posited that the quality of naturals, particularly those making up the Attar Absolus, creates a more intimate experience between a fragrance and its wearer.

“We use oil, but what India has not been able to do is to bring a modern version of it,” she said. “It’s so essential to have the purest form of flower or other aromatic material soaked in sandalwood. Then, to have it applied to your skin, it actually goes into your bloodstream, it becomes a part of you. It’s a lot more personal, a lot more sensual than an alcohol-based perfume,” she said.

The interest in the fragrances has been huge, Lal said. “I have a lot of good friends in the Middle East, including royalty, and they are all looking forward to having a new, modern version that they can enjoy.”

LilaNur
LilaNur will debut at Bergdorf Goodman with 10 different scents. Photo courtesy of LilaNur

Word of mouth is also key to how the brand is taking aim at new consumers, especially as it looks to the U.K. and Indian markets for expansion.

“We’re looking at influencers in a very different way,” Austin said. “We’re looking at more organic influencers — people who have, first of all, a deep love and interest in India, and a connection to the idea of fragrance, and working with those communities to feed and understand the beauty of LilaNur.”

Although the brand didn’t comment on sales, industry sources expect retail sales in the U.S. to reach $1 million in its first year.

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