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NEW YORK — Angel is celebrating a  decade on the market with a fragrance makeover.

What has resulted is a trio of Angel scents, due to be launched worldwide in April, that are fresher and more feminine than the best-selling original.

Vera Strubi, the original architect of the brand and president of Thierry Mugler Parfums Worldwide, a division of Groupe Clarins, calls the offering “a garden of stars.”

In an interview from Paris, Strubi said, “the Angel business is extremely important worldwide. Our objective is to keep growing every year. So far we have achieved that.”

What was needed at this point, she added, is an addition to the brand that would “surprise our loyal customers and recruit new customers.”

A year and a half ago, Thierry Mugler came up with the idea of adding a floral element to his original fragrance to inject a note of femininity. Ironically, even though it remains one of the best-selling women’s fragrances to come out of the Nineties, the formula is a woodsy, oriental gourmand concoction without a single flower.

So briefs were sent to three perfumers, and each was told to pick a single flower and add it to the top note of the Angel classic.

Olivier Cresp, the creator of Angel, who now is working at Firmenich, picked peony. Christine Nagel at Quest International chose lily, and Francoise Caron, also of Quest, created a violet interpretation.

The results charmed Mugler and Strubi. “Frankly, we couldn’t choose, each was so fabulous,” she admitted. “Each scent expresses a moment in life. We decided to create a garden of stars.”

The original Angel model with its star shape was modified, and the glass of each bottle — Peony Angel, Lily Angel and Violet Angel — was tinted a different color. In an unusual move, Strubi designed the outer carton of each fragrance type with its own distinctive flower photo to make the merchandise easy to pick out. This is an important wrinkle, since the perfumery business in Europe and department store merchandising in the U.S. have shifted toward self-service in the last decade, Clarins executives pointed out. “We have to be more obvious,” Strubi said.

This story first appeared in the December 17, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Strubi described the peony interpretation as soft and delicate. The use of violet is notable, she said, considering that violet fragrances had become passé and have been considered nostalgic and old-fashioned, with the ingredient falling into disuse in the modern era. However, Caron managed “to create a modern violet — playful, powerful and mysterious,” Strubi said. And the lily scent adds a “feminine, elegant  touch” to the lineup.

During a presentation in Paris, Cresp said, “Peony worked very well with patchouli [which is in the original Angel formula]; it’s a majestic flower. So when Vera called me a year ago and said she wanted to do a floral project, I thought, why not rework the idea” of Angel.

So he lowered the level of patchouli notes, edible body notes — honey, praline and chocolate — and raised the level of bergamot note, “which is leafy and lush,” he said. To all this, Cresp added “a magnificent peony juice, very sparkling, like fireworks.” He calls the new scent: “Angel, but a different Angel.”

Caron observed, “It is a very modern violet. It goes well with the patchouli in Angel. Violet is a flower with lots of personality.”

Nagel added, “my choice was a flower with identical values to Angel’s. Lily is very Mugler; there’s sexuality in the lily. I wanted a flower as strong, as present and with the same audacity as Angel. For me, the lily is royal, as Angel is a royal fragrance.”

Clarins does not break out sales projections or advertising budgets, but industry sources estimate the trio could swell the global Angel business — which is said to be somewhat more than $100 million retail on a worldwide basis — by 10 percent. Each fragrance will be priced at $60 for a 25-ml. spray. A 50-ml. refill will be priced at $85. Like the classic, the garden of stars fragrances will be refillable from in-store dispensers.

Benjamin Gillikin, president of the Clarins Fragrance Group in the U.S., said the fragrance will be launched in 220 doors here, roughly half of Angel’s American distribution. The remainder will be rolled out in the fall.

Brad Horowitz, vice president of marketing for the group, said the distribution at launch will consist of Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s.  A special advertising insert, featuring a dramatic black-and-white photo of one of the three flowers on the cover and three Discover Seal fragrance samples on the back, will be used in the U.S. and Europe. In America it will be inserted in store catalogues, and in Europe it will appear in magazines and catalogues. Sources estimate that five million inserts will be disseminated in Europe. The American promotional and advertising budget has been estimated at $2 million to $3 million.

In order to avoid indecision and confusion by the consumer at the point of sale — a traditional problem when multiple fragrances are being launched simultaneously — Clarins executives have devised a number of lifestyle questions to help the customer navigate the choices of “the garden of stars in the sky” and help trigger a decision.

Strubi said the environment has changed markedly in the dozen years since she launched Angel. Fragrance manufacturers now have to be more aggressive, she said. Instead of relying on distribution and depending on word of mouth, “you have to invest more money,” she said. “You need to be seen and have good space. And you need to be quicker.”

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