As the sun sets over Marrakech, casting a golden glow over the salmon-pink walls, model Blanca Padilla relaxes on an ornate wooden lounger, the golden detailing of her Elie Saab gown glistening in the light. She has just wrapped up filming the campaign for Elie Saab’s new perfume, ‘Le Parfum Essentiel’. This floral chypre with orange blossom, jasmine, honeyed rose, shimmering neroli, and sparkling mandarin accents is downright radiant – it’s no wonder the golden aura of the Moroccan city feels like the perfect backdrop.
A celebration of femininity and self-worth, the message behind both the scent and the campaign is reconnecting with yourself, going back to your true essence, no matter what life throws your way. Our Beauty Editor-at-Large went behind the scenes on set with Padilla and Elie Saab in the Red City, chatting with the Spanish model to discover her fragrance rituals, how she stays true to herself, and what this scent means to her. Listen in.
This is your second fragrance campaign for Elie Saab. What has the experience been like?
Elie Saab has a very special place in my heart because it was the first brand I worked for during my first Paris season. It was my first real show, which was so special, and I’ve been walking for Elie Saab every season since then! So, when I was called to do the first campaign with the ‘Le Royal’ perfume, that really meant a lot and we had so much fun. We shot with a horse, and I love animals, so it was amazing!
We’re here in beautiful Morocco. Why Marrakech for this campaign?
I think there is something so warm about Morocco, especially the ambiance and the colors, those orange and terracotta shades. The perfume is all about being yourself, being comfortable, being the best version of yourself – whoever that is. In the sun, in a beautiful place like this, where it’s warm and colorful, everything invites you to relax. It’s such a magical place.
Tell us about your experience shooting the ‘Le Parfum Essentiel’.
It’s been super different to ‘Le Parfum Royal’ because, well, that one was a lot more ‘royal’! It was all about the details, about me and the horse, which was difficult as I had to really work with the horse. With ‘Le Parfum Essentiel’, it’s also been challenging, but for a different reason.
This time, it’s more about just being me and relaxing, and that’s not always easy for us models because we’re so used to being ‘on’ all the time. It’s about switching off, being yourself, and really connecting with who you are – so it’s really different, actually! But I really feel like this perfume is me, and that’s such an amazing feeling. I feel like I can just be myself, and that’s what the whole scent is about.
Do you wear perfume every day?
Not every day, but when I’m not wearing perfume, I’m wearing essential oils – which I guess is a kind of perfume!
How do you apply your perfume?
I once heard that you have to spray it in the air and let it fall onto you, but I’m not sure if that’s actually true? I just spray it onto my body – never straight onto my neck though – and then in the air. I have to be honest, I also do the ‘spray onto wrists and rub them together’ thing, which I know you shouldn’t do, but I can’t not!
What’s your earliest fragrance memory?
I have to say my mom because she had so many perfumes at home, and she loves fragrance. She also loves using rosewater on her face, so I really remember that smell from when I was little. She has a crazy good sense of smell, very developed, so fragrance was always a big thing for me at home.
What’s your favorite smell in the whole world?
I love the smell of fresh flowers, but I have so many favorites. I love the smell of gasoline, fresh coffee in the morning, and vanilla. But yes, fresh flowers has to be the top one.
Who is your ultimate beauty icon?
I was so obsessed with Monica Bellucci in Cannes last year – did you see her? I don’t understand how she always looks so flawless! And her career journey is amazing. You know, she was a model first, and I’m sure it was hard for her to be recognized as anything else because it’s hard when society puts you in that box. I think she did that really well. Of course, she’s beyond stunning, but aside from that, what I admire most is that she was able to show the world what she’s capable of.
When do you feel your most beautiful?
Definitely when I’m at the beach in summer – that’s my type of weather. When I’m a little bit sun-kissed and my hair is wild and I’m just myself. I don’t have to worry about anything. That really brings me back to my best, most joyful self.
I love the idea of keeping your true essence, no matter what happens.
Who is the ‘Le Parfum Essentiel’ woman?
She’s someone who is very loyal to herself – very authentic and really sticks to who she is, no matter what. That’s what gives her the power to do amazing things. And really, that’s a bit how I feel. I’ve had some crazy changes in my life, but it doesn’t matter what happens or how successful I am – or not – because you never know in this business. I have to stick to who I am. That’s why this perfume is so important to me.
I love that message. I love the idea of keeping your true essence, no matter what happens. You know, at some points, my life was completely different from anyone I have ever known, including my friends and family back home, and I always felt like I was living between two worlds. I had to find a balance, and the way to do that was by remembering who I was all those years ago and reminding myself that I wanted to keep being that girl. Of course, it helped growing up with amazing values, and I’m so lucky that my parents gave me that. That’s why I feel so comfortable with this whole campaign. When I read about its message, I was like, this is amazing! It feels like my own story with how my life has changed.
Describe the scent in three words.
Oh, that’s hard… well, it’s really about flowers, so I’d say comforting, fresh, and sparkling.
What are your fragrance rituals?
Lavender oil is actual my savior! I’ve found myself in situations where I’ve had really important castings and meetings, and sometimes you can’t control yourself and you’re all over the place. That’s when I’m like okay, let’s come back down. I do that by really smelling and breathing in lavender oil and saying positive things to myself before walking into that room. Right now, for example, I’m thinking about a big casting and – like everyone else – I’m freaking out! So, I imagine myself there in the elevator, smelling my lavender, grounding myself.
What feeling does ‘Le Parfum Essentiel’ evoke for you?
For me, it creates these colors. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it brings to mind these pink hues, images of flowers in the summer, and really beautiful light – like the light we were shooting in this morning, that sunrise light.
If you could create your own scent, what would you put in it and why?
Definitely something related to fresh roses because I love them. I don’t know how to explain it in English, but a real bouquet of different flowers, something really fresh and natural that feels alive. I’d add some white flowers to bring light. As I said, I love vanilla, but is it good to mix that with flowers?
Of course, it’s your dream fragrance, you can add anything!
Okay, then vanilla for sure – and chocolate cake! [laughs].
What three beauty products can you not live without?
Concealer, lash curlers, and lip balm. Oh, and hand cream because it’s freezing on planes. Sorry, I know that’s one extra!
Any quirky beauty tips?
There was a time when I read a lot about apple cider vinegar… I don’t always share this because I know some people will try it and things might go wrong as it’s really strong, but this was at a time when I was having breakouts. I mixed some apple cider vinegar with water, equal parts, and used it at a toner. Speaking of fragrance, it does have a strong smell that isn’t very nice, so I added cinnamon sticks. It helped a little.
I use that when I have crazy skin moments or when I break out, and it really clears it up after a few days. And I have sensitive skin! It’s very antibacterial. But like I said, it’s really strong, so I don’t like telling everyone as it doesn’t work for everyone. I do get a little redness from it, but it really works. I was scared to use it, I mean – it’s vinegar! But if you mix it with water, it can work for you.
Complete the sentence: To me, beauty is…