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Chicago Designer Uncorks Unisex Scent

CHICAGO -- Designer Richard Dayhoff, known for his women's sportswear, is launching a fragrance. But he isn't limiting it to the fairer sex.<BR><BR>Dayhoff also intends to break with tradition by selling the new product mainly through small specialty...

CHICAGO — Designer Richard Dayhoff, known for his women’s sportswear, is launching a fragrance. But he isn’t limiting it to the fairer sex.

Dayhoff also intends to break with tradition by selling the new product mainly through small specialty stores, rather than big department stores.

Dayhoff’s first foray into fragrance will be called simply Dayhoff, and is designed to appeal to men and women, the designer said.

“It’s going to be clean, simple and light,” he said, “reflecting my philosophy of design.”

The fragrance is being manufactured in a 2-oz. pour bottle that will retail for $40 to $45, Dayhoff said. Both the bottle and box have a minimalist design, bearing just the name of the fragrance in Dayhoff’s signature typeface in black, on the clear bottle and the white box.

The fragrance could achieve retail sales of about $150,000 in its first year, Dayhoff said.

The designer said he has been planning a non-gender-specific fragrance for more than a year. A fragrance should be able to exist in its own right rather than being associated with men or women specifically, Dayhoff said.

“It doesn’t say male. It doesn’t say female. It’s really clean and classic,” he said. “It’s a fragrance — it just is. You don’t identify a lemon as a gender — it just is. That’s what this is.”

Dayhoff said this makes the concept behind his fragrance different from Calvin Klein’s recently announced fragrance for both sexes, CK One, which Klein is positioning as a “shared” fragrance.

“The scent is for both men and women, but it’s not a shared scent, it just is a fragrance,” Dayhoff repeated.

He noted that masculine and feminine characteristics co-exist in his sportswear, although he designs exclusively for women.

“We don’t do a lot of color in our clothing. There’s a men’s wear influence in our subtle patterns, the feminine side is the fluidity of the fabric and shape of the garment,” he said.

The scent should be in a similar vein, he said.

Dayhoff also intends to merchandise the scent differently from other designer fragrances. Rather than targeting big department stores, he hopes to sell the product mainly through the smaller specialty stores and boutiques that constitute about 80 percent of his apparel accounts, some of which have never sold fragrance before.

However, he doesn’t completely rule out department stores, noting that Marshall Field’s, for example, has carried his apparel for eight years.

Many smaller stores have been prevented from carrying fragrance before because big designer names require large outlays, Dayhoff noted.

“If you buy [a major designer’s fragrance] you have to buy the whole counter,” he said. “The backbone of our business is the smaller stores. They would love to have a fragrance.”

The scent is set to be launched in October or November in 75 to 100 doors, Dayhoff said. About 150 stores currently carry Dayhoff’s apparel line.

Celeste Turner, with two stores in the Chicago area that carry Dayhoff’s apparel line, said it would also carry Dayhoff, the first time the store has stocked a fragrance.

“We do so well with Richard’s things. I like the concept of the clothing and the fragrance is a nice extension of what he does,” said Nora Innis, an owner of the Lake Forest unit and manager of the Chicago store.

Part of the appeal to her customers would be that Dayhoff is a Chicago name.

“We don’t have a Chicago designer who has done a fragrance before,” she said.

Adding a fragrance to a boutique is a way of adding an extra service for the customer, said Marla Zegart, owner of Excentrique, a Chicago store that specializes in local designers. She said she only carries one fragrance now, Nicole Miller, but would add Dayhoff when it is available.

“My customer tends to like more modern things and with this being lighter it will be perfect. And it is great for any gender,” Zegart said.

Dayhoff is adopting the same low-key approach to marketing the scent as he is to its design and distribution. Promotion will focus on countertop displays with a photograph of the bottle rather than any sexy imagery or witty taglines, he said.

Dayhoff said he will use salespeople in the stores to educate consumers, telling them that the fragrance can be worn by men as well as women.

In department stores, the scent will be carried at the men’s and women’s fragrance counters, Dayhoff said. And he doesn’t rule out approaching some smaller men’s wear retailers to stock it in the future.

According to industry consultant Allan Mottus, selling fragrance through smaller, specialty stores can be a bit of an uphill struggle.

“With small stores that haven’t sold fragrance before, it can get lost on the counter or suffer pilferage,” he said, adding that, “Consumers are trained to buy prestige products at a department store.”

But, he said, “If he has a loyal following, he should do well.”

The juice, which is being developed by Bell Fragrance, based in the Chicago area, will have citrusy top notes of mandarin, lemon, pineapple and bergamot. The middle notes will be more floral, including jasmine, nutmeg and lily of the valley. The scent dries down to a musky amber, Dayhoff said.

The cost of putting together the fragrance is comparable with designing a new apparel line, and equally satisfying, Dayhoff said.

“It’s just like developing a garment. You put all the ingredients together — bottle, cap, packaging, oil — and send it to the manufacturer and they put it together,” he said.