When Miuccia Prada launched Miu Miu in 1993, the line was a refreshing change from the monotonous minimalism of '90s high fashion. And so, too, was the young woman it represented: stylish, sporty, intelligent, feminine, strong, quirky, playful, serious. Miu Miu showed that women are multifaceted, complicated, sometimes even contradictory — and that not one single item or accessory (be it glitter pumps, a schoolgirl blouse, or retro sunglasses) could define us. Fast-forward to 2015, and Miu Miu is repeating history with its first fragrance. At a time when many designer and celebrity scents veer safely towards the sweet, sexy, and sugary, this one distinctly stands out as a bright floral. “We wanted to open the doors and open the windows with this fragrance,” says perfumer Daniela Andrier. “We didn’t want another gourmand; we wanted something different, enjoyable, and unexpected.” And the company wanted something that wouldn’t look like all the other fragrances on the shelves, either. “The fragrance market can be very conventional: blue is for boys, pink is for girls,” says Caroline Javoy, vice president of global marketing for Miu Miu fragrances. “We wanted to make it the anti-pink.” The ridges in the blue base reference Miu Miu’s classic matelassé design, often seen in its handbags. And the red topper (which is flat, like a piece of cherry candy) was inspired by the vintage caps that women used to apply fragrance to their necks. So what exactly does this hard-to-define, unexpected, barrier-breaking fragrance smell like? Well, at first whiff, it’s straight up lily of the valley — as if you had a bouquet of them sitting in your room for a few hours. “There are lots of floral prints in the brand, and lily is very Miu Miu and recognizable. It’s blooming and joyful,” says Andrier. But it wasn't as simple as pulling down a vial of lily of the valley from the shelf. “It’s obtained by mixing jasmine with rose. And it doesn’t forgive any false steps," says Andrier. "Animalic notes can start to surface from the jasmine, and you have all these issues you have to face. But [when it’s right], it’s delightful. It makes you smile when you smell it.” This explains why it took over 1,200 (yes, 1,200) tries to get this fragrance exactly right. Once the lily of the valley was nailed down, in true Miu Miu fashion, it was time to twist it on its head. “Once you have something that is charming and appealing," says Andrier, "you can’t just stay that way. It needed to be, like, ‘She’s not only charming; she has allure. She’s not just pretty; she has something more interesting.’” She found these deeper qualities in something unusual: Akigalawood, an extract of patchouli. “It’s not ugly, but it’s rough. It has an unexpected strangeness to it that contrasts with the beautiful floralcy,” explains Andrier.
To obtain Akigalawood, they take patchouli and add enzymes to transform it into something else. The result is a spicy, peppery, vibrant scent rather than an earthy one, says Andrier. Does it embody the brand’s entire history? Not really, but that’s okay. “It’s impossible to capture 22 years of a story. You have to start modest. It can envision some qualities, but not all of them. I think the simple way is the best way of doing it right,” says Andrier. The ad campaign features up-and-coming French-English actress Stacy Martin (remember that name — you’ll be hearing it a lot) and a black-and-white cat named Truman. “It’s so cute, but we didn’t [use] a cat because cats are cute," says Javoy. "When you love Miu Miu and dig into the archives, the cat motifs keep coming back. There are baby cats on shoes and amazing coats.” And at the party celebrating the parfum in Paris, where Miu Miu also showed the resort collection, contradiction remained the theme. The brand set up an '80s disco inside a political building. Kate Moss, in a pink-and-black leather tank dress, dragged on a cigarette while Dianna Agron, in a black-and-silver sheer cocktail dress, coyly smiled and worked the room. Red glass mirrors cut into crème fuzzy carpet. Men in corsets and drag danced near Coty executives in full suits. Amber Heard giggled and clasped hands with a girlfriend as they ran up the stairs to the dance floor — while Amber Valletta snuggled up to her boyfriend on the balcony. Fashion veteran Naomi Campbell greeted old friends, while Kiernan Shipka explored the venue, wide-eyed. The clothes were a mix of prints, glossy leathers, furs, and embellishments. And it worked. If anyone can make that happen, it’s Miuccia Prada. Miu Miu Eau de Parfum will be available in September exclusively at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. $116 for 3.4 oz; $86 for 1.7 oz; and $66 for 1.0 oz.