Etienne Aigner: Promoting the Beautiful Life
Etienne Aigner started in leather good, making belts and handbags for the fashionable folk of Europe, among them the famed designer Christian Dior. Eventually, he came to New York, where so many fashion designers go to make their marks. He opened his first showroom in 1959 to show his work to America, and today Etienne Aigner is a leading designer of leather goods, like gloves, belts, and handbags.
The Life and Times of Etienne Aigner
Etienne Aigner was born in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1904. He went work as a bookbinder in 1926 in Paris, as a young man, and for a long while, that was his only use for leather. He had noticeable talent, however, and over time he began to handmade leather goods for some of the upscale boutiques in Paris. Realizing his talent, he spent time learning from some of the great designers of Europe – Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga.
From Paris, Aigner went to New York City in 1949, intending to make his fortune in America. All he could afford at the time was dark red leather, but that color would eventually become Aigner’s signature. Turning such things to his advantages was a gift Aigner seemed to have. During that period in his life, he also perfected his logo – “A” for Aigner, shaped into a horseshoe.
The first Etienne Aigner showroom opened in 1959 on New York’s prestigious 5th Avenue, where he began to blend his leather with other materials – linen, straw, fishnet. These unusual designs were an instant hit. The ladies of New York wanted them, and soon he was taking orders from all over the world.
Aigner licensed his business, in 1965, to a German businessman who took his products to a wider range of people. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Etienne Aigner brand expanded to scarves, clothing for both men and women, watches, jewelry, and fragrances.
Etienne Aigner passed away when he was 95 years old, in 2000. The company goes on, however, making quality goods, of leather and silk, and still releasing new fragrances. A flagship store was opened in Munich in 2002, and now Etienne Aigner goods can be found in 49 countries around the world, in over 400 retail stores.
Finely Crafted Fragrances
The first Etienne Aigner fragrances were produced for men, starting in 1975. In honor of the origin of the company, many Aigner fragrances featured a touch of leather either as part of the fragrance’s composition, or in the name or packaging. All of the fragrances made by this brand today are done in collaboration with Spanish fragrance giant Puig.
The original fragrance was aptly named Etienne Aigner No. 1. This masculine scent contained no notes of leather, but the box was colored dark red and printed with a leathery appearance. It opened with citrus and spicy notes of bergamot, lemon, marjoram, sage, galbanum, and nutmeg; the heart was geranium, jasmine, vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli, and orris root; the base notes were composed of amber, oak moss, vanilla, and tonka bean.
A newer fragrance is Starlight, a luxury fragrance for women. Unlike the earlier compositions of Aigner fragrances, there is no hint of leather in the newer versions. Launched in 2008, Starlight is an elegant and mysterious scent for a woman who can truly be called a lady. It starts with fairly typical citrus notes of pineapple and bergamot, but adds in vegetable accords for something fresh and different. The middle notes are sweet and sultry with jasmine, cumin, and strawberries. The base brings in seductive warmth – sandalwood, vanilla, white musk, patchouli. Starlight’s bottle is quite distinctive: cut glass made to glitter like a star.
Still newer is than Starlight is Etienne Aigner Pour Femme, produced in 2010. The success of Starlight prompted a newer, more daring feminine fragrance named after the founder of the brand. This scent was made to encompass the feeling of the style of Etienne Aigner. It opens with the unusual scent of fresh dew, the familiar but welcome notes of bergamot and mandarin, and touches of spicy black pepper. The heart is Bulgarian rose, apricot, and freesia, while the base is delicately and exquisitely formed from notes of patchouli, white musk, amber, and cedar wood.
The Beautiful Life
Etienne Aigner’s signature style was always about living the “beautiful life”. He was a happy and optimistic man who wanted to spread the joy he felt in life to others. It was his deep belief that this beautiful life was not out of reach for anyone.
He is known for saying: “Happiness is everywhere for everyone. To achieve it, we must merely make the effort to catch it.” This is the philosophy Etienne Aigner’s brand follows to this very day.