REIMS, France — A vineyard that has suffered can produce great wines.
In a similar vein, amid today's tough climate for prestige perfumery, Parfums Givenchy expects its latest fragrance project to be an excellent vintage.
Dubbed the Harvest Collection, the line comprises three scents from Givenchy's existing portfolio. Each has been reworked to highlight key ingredients culled from harvests judged by perfumers to be of above-average quality. The new "vintages" will be rolled out in the coming months, beginning in December and continuing next spring.
Alain Lorenzo, who retook the reins of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned Parfums Givenchy last year after giving up the post in 2000, likened the collection's concept to that of champagne. He explained that, to maintain consistent standards of flavor and quality, every 12 months champagne companies blend reserve wines from prior years' harvests with the current year's crus (growths).
"When there's a great year, they stop blending and there is a vintage," said Lorenzo.
Like champagne, the ingredients used in Givenchy's scents are a blend of ingredients culled from several harvests. With the launch of the new line, however, the house will create special juices to celebrate exceptional harvests of particular ingredients.
The first scent to be remixed was Amarige. Originally created in 1991, the juice has recently been reworked to showcase the mimosa harvested this year in Grasse, France. The original scent's juice comprises top notes of mandarin leaf and orange blossom, followed by mimosa, jasmine, ylang-ylang and gardenia notes. The 2005 version features the "green sensation" of the 2005 mimosa harvest in its top notes along with tender orange blossom notes. Heart notes highlight the mimosa absolute's "rich and generous" quality. The base notes of the juice accentuate mimosa's powdery aspects. Mimosa makes up about 25 percent of the new formula, compared with about 10 percent in the original.
Like vintage champagne, the collection is meant to represent true luxury. It's a concept Lorenzo is keen to underscore in today's market, which has become banalized in part, due to the nonstop torrent of eaux that are flooding the market.
"We need to do something to put the perceived value back into the product, otherwise it's at risk of becoming a commodity," he said at a press conference held here. "We found the idea was not to focus on the face of the fragrance or the shape of the bottle, but on the heart of the perfume — the juice itself."Lorenzo said he was struck by the similarities between fine wines and fine fragrances when eluxury.com, the LVMH-owned e-commerce venture he headed up after leaving Givenchy in 2000, launched a site dedicated to champagne.
"It was incredible," he said. "[The descriptions of champagnes] read almost like fragrance descriptions, with the same words."
The crop for Amarige Harvest 2005 came from the Tanneron hills in Southern France between Jan. 20 and Feb. 20 this year.
Also getting the vintage treatment will be Organza, which is to be reworked around a harvest of Indian jasmine, and Very Irresistible Givenchy, which will be infused with Bulgarian rose from the Valley of Roses.
In the U.S., Amarige Harvest 2005 will bow in December in the 500 doors where Givenchy is staffed with selling specialists who can explain the concept to consumers. The Organza special edition will follow in March and Very Irresistible Givenchy will bow in May for Mother's Day, according to Pamela Baxter, president and chief executive officer of LVMH Perfume and Cosmetics. The rest of the world will get the trio together in 2006.
The scents are packaged in their original bottles, with some subtle changes. The outer packaging, for example, is transparent and covered with stylized images of each scent's key ingredient. A label indicating the origin and year of the harvest also decorates the box. The harvest concept is explained on the back and on a leaflet inside.
Upping the luxury quotient is also a price tag 20 percent higher than the fragrances' original versions, with the new edition priced at $65 in the U.S., compared with $55 regularly.
Like fine wine, quantities will be limited. Givenchy bought enough mimosa to make about 80,000 bottles of Amarige, or "a couple of percent" of the brand's usual global volume, Lorenzo said during a subsequent interview in New York. About 100,000 flacons will be produced of Organza, with Very Irresistible Givenchy perhaps clocking up slightly more.
Givenchy will focus on pushing the scents at points of sale rather than in advertising. "When we created this, it was not about marketing," said Lorenzo. "It was about making wonderful-smelling fragrances."
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