By  on August 24, 2007

The fragrance world is borrowing a page from fashion's book — and positioning limited edition scents as the "It" bag equivalent in beauty.

Over the past several years, fragrance brands — especially those created with fashion designers — have been building, or reinforcing, brand equity by adding flanker fragrances to established franchises. Now, several are taking that one step further by creating limited edition flankers — ushering in a "must-buy-now" sentiment, or so the companies hope.

"You're always going to have your classic handbag and your classic pump, but you also want the fun sandal you can wear for the season — that you know isn't going to be a long-term investment," said Michael Kors, whose limited edition Island Capri launches this fall. "So instead of the black pump, [the limited edition scent is] the orange crocodile pump. And also, there's something that makes you feel special if it's limited. By the time it really catches on, you may not be able to get it any more — which is definitely a motivator to go pick it up now."

James Gager, senior vice president and creative director for MAC Cosmetics Worldwide, which, like Kors, is also part of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., agrees: "There's a certain mystique in what you can't have — it makes you want it more. With the advent of so much stuff out there and a lot of disposable income, people want something that is special. When you have a limited edition and you know it's going to be hard to get, that makes it coveted — and it starts going for big prices on eBay."

Adds Jennifer Balbier, senior vice president of global product development, MAC Cosmetics, "I actually think our customer prefers it if she has to work a little for it. She knows she's not going to smell like everyone else."

That's the theory that Gager and Balbier are following with MAC's new fragrance, Air of Style, due out at the end of November. Developed as part of the brand's Stylistics Collection for holiday, it's at the higher end of MAC's price points — $60 for 1 oz. — and just 3,000 units of the fragrance will be produced."The Stylistics Collection is intended to be more of a 'couture' collection," said Gager, adding that the cosmetics line will include gem-encrusted compacts and luxurious powders. For instance, in the Stylistics Collection, a powder is $45 and a lip gloss $22, compared with the MAC's standard price range, where a lipstick is $14 and a fragrance is $22.50 for 20 ml.

But the point isn't to increase the margin with the price hike, added Balbier. "It's more about being able to use real [essence] absolutes and luxe packaging," she said, adding that the fragrance's teardrop-shaped bottle is handblown in Murano, Italy, and is reusable after the fragrance has been used up, due to its glass stopper.

Karyn Khoury, senior vice president of corporate fragrance development worldwide for the Estée Lauder Cos., worked with Laurent Le Guernec of International Flavors and Fragrances to concoct Air of Style, which has top notes of red dates, wild red peonies, island cypress and white pepper; a heart of tuberose absolute, orange blossom, jasmine, ylang ylang and orris, and a drydown of leather, rare woods, vetiver, tonka beans and amber crystals. Balbier calls it a "baroque floral."

Air of Style will be available at MAC's retail stores, as well as Henri Bendel, Saks Fifth Avenue and select Nordstrom locations, for a total of 175 doors, beginning Nov. 29.

With Island Capri, Michael Kors Beauty will introduce the third in a series of limited edition Island fragrances inspired by the beach locations the charismatic designer frequents.

"The island hopping doesn't stop with me, but one place that has been consistent for me over the years has been Capri," said Kors. "It's one of those rare places that is laid back as well as glamorous."

Island Capri, created by Trudi Loren, vice president of corporate fragrance development worldwide for the Estée Lauder Cos., and Evelyn Lauder, senior corporate vice president and the company's nose, in cooperation with IFF, has top notes of sparkling orange bigarade, crisp green Italian basil and succulent bergamot; a heart of rose petals, violet de parma, jasmine blossom and fig, and a drydown of olive tree accord, warm white moss and sensual skin accord.Diane Kim, vice president of global marketing for Aramis and Designer Fragrances, noted that the collection will include a 1.7- oz. eau de parfum spray, priced at $60; a 5-oz. body gelée, $27.50, and a 0.5-oz. lip gloss, $12. Its target market is 18- to 34-year-olds. Outer packaging for the Kors scent is of a colorful sunset over Capri.

Advertising, featuring Carmen Kass and shot by Enrique Badulescu, will run in January fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines, said Stephanie Benedetti, vice president of marketing for Aramis and Designer Fragrances.

Upward of 25 million scented impressions are planned, Benedetti added.

Island Capri will be sold in about 2,000 U.S. doors. About 300 of those doors, including Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's and Sephora stores, will begin selling the fragrance in November; the balance of the doors will get the scent on Jan. 1. The scent will also be sold on Globally, it will enter doors in the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and Germany.

Kors said that more Island fragrances are definitely on the horizon. "Our customer either is in fact a literal traveler, or is a fantasy traveler," he said. "We'll keep taking her to new destinations. The concept works because you're not saying 'this is my fragrance for life, rather, you're switching it up and playing around."

While all executives involved declined to comment on sales projections, industry sources estimated that MAC's Air of Style would do about $180,000 in its time on counter, with Island Capri expected to do about $10 million at retail globally, with close to $8 million of that figure expected to be generated in the U.S.

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