Here’s a little secret about being a beauty editor: Nine times out of 10, when a celebrity or supermodel launches a product — be it makeup, skin care, or fragrance (actually, especially fragrance) — we are instantly skeptical. Beauty can be a fascinating world, but it can also be super-easy to slap your name on a bottle and collect the royalties. This is not the case with Original, the forthcoming eau de parfum by Anja Rubik. Anja is perhaps best known to the world as the tall, long-legged, blonde supermodel who has stalked the runways and rocked pelvis-baring dresses by her friend, the designer Anthony Vaccarello. (One such dress, a white number she sported at the Met Gala, was the most sensational on the red carpet, arguably upstaging Beyoncé’s.) She’s also fronted countless campaigns (Marc Jacobs and Furla are on this season’s roster, preceded by Gucci and Ralph Rucci) and been on the cover of Vogue many times. To the fashion world, she’s an absolute icon — a model who has maintained an upscale image despite the pressure to do otherwise. Anja is so coveted that when she appears in an editorial, it’s usually considered what fashion people call “a moment.” For his debut womenswear collection a few years ago, Tom Ford called upon her (and Beyoncé, actually) to walk in his ultra-private show. (Today, she calls it a career highlight.) She’s also the editor-in-chief of 25, an expensive art-meets-fashion magazine that those in-the-know quickly snap up at New York newsstands. More interestingly for this story, though, she’s been the face of quite a few fragrances — Chloé, Salvatore Ferragamo Signorina Eleganza, Fan di Fendi, and Elie Saab. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Anja is the fragrance world’s dream: the right mix of high-fashion sophistication and salable sexy, the perfect intersection of Victoria’s Secret (who was also a client, back in the day) and, say, Net-A-Porter.
“I’ve advertised many perfumes,” she concedes, “but it wasn’t me. I was embodying the brand or the designer.” With Original, she aims to make a statement of her own. “I thought it would be incredible to create something that represents my idea and my vision of beauty,” she says. “It’s my world…it’s all about empowering women and their sensuality.” The prime example of this, she explains, is the “Manifesto” that is tucked neatly inside the chic white box — a message from the model that hopes the fragrance “inspires you to rediscover your uniqueness…provoke you to follow your own path and spirit…[and] be a reminder to your own originality.” Those may seem like lofty ambitions for a perfume, but Anja thinks otherwise: “Smell is so powerful. I’m so into the power of smell, the impact of senses…it can take us back to a memory or put us into a state of mind and an atmosphere, and I think that’s fascinating.” That's why her objective became to bottle the kind of confidence (and, let’s be real, sexiness) that she herself projects as a model. Almost immediately, Anja thought of her longtime love of lilies, a famously complicated scent. (Lily of the valley, for example, is green and quite fresh, while Casablanca lily is spicy and more sultry.) To her mood board, she pinned Robert Mapplethorpe’s iconic black-and-white photographs of lilies, admiring “how pure, delicate, and sensual they are…but at the same time, they’re very strong and the symbol of erotica.” She decided that her beloved green tea — a unisex note — would be mandatory, but then added in a little bolt of spice and a bit of wood. The famous perfumer Patricia Choux (who, for the record, created this very sexy scent) helped Anja bring her vision to life with pink peppercorn and amber. “It was important for me to work with a woman, someone who understands my message more fully,” Anja says.
After three years, countless formulas in testing, “and many headaches from smelling too much,” Anja found The One. “I found it hypnotizing, but very stimulating,” she says. “I could smell the lilies, but also pick up on the green tea and the spiciness. I also love how it changed on my skin and became more mature. I don’t like one-scent fragrances — there’s beauty in something being complicated, something that has depth from evolving.” Original is true to its name. It’s unique in that much of the market right now is focused on gourmand scents (i.e. smelling like a piece of fruit or, worse, a piece of cake) or deep, rosy perfumes. Original manages to be fresh, but feminine — with a little bite that suggests something wicked. Anja likens it to the aforementioned Met Ball dress: “bold, sensual, sexy, and breaks the rules.” It is neither heavy nor ephemeral — it progresses into a light whisper of something salty and powdery. Let’s not forget the bottle — because nobody understands appearances quite like a supermodel, right? It has a lacquered black top with Anja’s initials, and white glass that slants down the back in an aerodynamic design, revealing clear glass at the bottom. “I like everything in black and white, because it’s the original beauty in photography — a timeless combination of color,” she explains. The fragrance launches next week at Barneys New York, but meanwhile, Anja is busy at work hosting Project Runway in Poland, her native country. “There are so many young, cool designers here who don’t have a chance to break through,” she says. “I wore one of the designers' dresses recently, and Style.com posted an image — he was so happy!” Meanwhile, she’s still being snapped by iconic photographers like Inez and Vinoodh, and she has something “exciting” coming for Vogue Paris. But, the most gratifying part of her success? “The thing that I notice and I really appreciate — something that comes from me taking initiative and starting my own projects — is the respect I get from people in the industry,” she says. “When I’m on set, people are curious of my opinions and what I think, and that’s a huge compliment. That makes me feel very appreciated.” It seems as though the muse has made her moment.
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