By  on May 16, 1994

PARIS -- Comme des Garcons will launch its first signature scent in Europe in October and possibly in the U.S. next spring.

As with her often unconventional fashion collections, designer Rei Kawakubo is approaching the fragrance business in her individualistic way.

Though her choice of name for her first scent is less surprising -- Comme des Garcons.

As reported, the scent will be controlled by Comme des Garcons Parfums, which is fully owned by the Tokyo-based fashion firm.

"It's a natural evolution," said Adrian Joffe, managing director of Comme des Garcons Parfums SA. "In the past decade, several large groups have asked us to do a perfume, but we always said, 'We'll do it when Rei is ready.' Now she is, but she wants to control the scent herself." The scent will initially be offered to all outlets that carry the Comme des Garìons fashion line, he said.

"We wanted the people who handle our fashion to have the chance to retail the perfume. It's only fair," Joffe said. "Comme des Garcons retails in about 500 stores and I'm confident most everyone will want the scent."

The house will launch the scent in Paris with a party during the fall ready-to-wear season and follow that with a similar happening in New York during collection time. Kawakubo will attend both events.

The scent, bottle and packaging will all be created in France. Joffe promises that the perfume will be "spicy and revolutionary."

The launch will be entirely financed in-house and will parallel Comme des Garcons' long-time strategy of relying on heavy editorial coverage of Kawakubo's avant garde fashion and relatively limited advertising. However, that sort of game plan is likely to prove a lot trickier in the beauty business, where multimillion-dollar launches are the norm.

"It's not really true that we don't advertise," Joffe said. "In the mid-Eighties, Rei was the first designer to make ads without clothes, and we still spend a lot on our catalogs. Of course we'll have to advertise this perfume.

"When the scent has reached a broader market next year, [the advertising] will be done in Rei's own way," cautioned Joffe, who is currently interviewing photographers to shoot the campaign.At least initially, Comme des Garcons will be sold in just a 100-ml. spray and a 100-ml. splash. Its price will be around 460 francs, or about $90 in the U.S. The house plans to make 42,000 bottles for the initial shipment.

"We will not be very strong linearly in the beginning," he said, referring to the limited number of products in the line. "There's not much point in a whole lot of advertising," said Joffe. He declined to provide a figure for the cost of the launch.

Joffe added that he's in negotiations with several U.S. candidates to distribute the fragrance in the North American market.

To create the scent, Comme des Garcons sent a two-page description by Kawakubo to four French producers without informing them of the author of the text. After six months, H&R won the contract.

"The image Rei Kawakubo has of a Comme des Garcons perfume is one that works like a medicine and behaves like a drug," reads a forthcoming announcement of the scent.

Joffe said: "It's a medicine because it's good for you, and a drug because you won't want to give it up. Rei is a very, very busy woman, who drinks a lot of coffee. Hopefully, after the launch she'll drink a lot less coffee and use more and more perfume."

Joffe should know something about attachments. He married Kawakubo in July 1992.

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