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Monde Nouveau: Kitch and Sell

PARIS -- With the backing of Clarins, an upstart French brand called Un Monde Nouveau is aiming to capture the 25-and-under crowd with a fragrance line set apart by kitschy packaging.<BR><BR>"I've been intrigued with the way that young people have...

PARIS — With the backing of Clarins, an upstart French brand called Un Monde Nouveau is aiming to capture the 25-and-under crowd with a fragrance line set apart by kitschy packaging.

“I’ve been intrigued with the way that young people have rallied around two brands — Benetton and Swatch — because they offer quality at accessible prices,” said Patricia Riboud, managing director of Un Monde Nouveau, which is 45 percent owned by Clarins. “There was nothing like that in fragrances.”

Un Monde Nouveau’s three women’s fragrances and three unisex scents were introduced in 500 doors in France on Sept. 15 and have since been rolled out to Belgium and Switzerland. Riboud said sales for 1993 were on plan and totaled $850,000 (5 million francs at current exchange rates).

The 38-year-old Riboud, a former L’Oreal executive, expects to bring her products to the U.S. by May.

“Maybe we won’t do the department store routine, because I think we would be crushed in that system,” Riboud said, adding that she was looking at boutique or chain store distribution, perhaps starting on the West Coast.

Her European strategy, by French industry standards, is unusual. First, there’s been absolutely no advertising. Further, Riboud has insisted on dipping into both the selective perfumery and department store distribution and the mid-market variety store chains like Monoprix. Most other brands choose one or the other.

Star Fragrance International — which distributes Johnny Hallyday, St. Tropez by Eddie Barclay and Latitude by Olivier de Kersauson, a French sailor — is handling the product distribution.

Finally, there’s no outer packaging for the 100-ml. flask-shaped bottles, although Riboud compromised and provided retailers with brown paper bags and red ribbons for Christmas. She has also ordered cloth drawstring pouches for selected markets that complained about a lack of packaging.

The savings on advertising and packaging, she said, has allowed the company to keep its prices to about $20 (120 francs) for each item, making the scents the opening price point for fragrance in the top stores.

“It fits in perfectly with the current trend toward more value-oriented products, and it makes a good stab at the 18-to-25-year-old market, which has long been overlooked,” said Christian Courtin, managing director of Clarins’s international division.

According to Rigoud, the line emphasizes quality fragrances that do not evolve over time — something teenagers complain about — with a story behind each one to interest young people in perfumes.

Savage Vanilla, for example, is said to be based on a scent thought to be worn by Massai warriors, and Rock Water imitates the smell of Coca-Cola.

Riboud also set about creating a corporate structure that would involve young people: A group of teenagers works in product development, and are given a chance to become minority shareholders in the company.

“For years, I’d seen studies on selling to young people,” said Rigoud. “They always make the big companies nervous.”