New Scents Offer Essence of Donna

Donna Karan plans to mix things up at fragrance counters this fall with the launch with licensee Estee Lauder of Donna Karan Essence.

NEW YORK — Donna Karan plans to mix things up at fragrance counters this fall.

That’s when Karan and her fragrance licensee, the Estée Lauder Cos., will launch Donna Karan Essence, a collection of four single-note fragrance oils intended to allow women to “be their own perfumers,” said Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, senior vice president and general manager of Donna Karan Cosmetics.

Karan says this latest project goes to the essence of her personality.

“These are the oils that are close to my heart,” she told WWD during a recent phone interview about the collection, calling nature “the world’s best perfumer.”

“I love oils — I’m oil-obsessed,” Karan said. “I really do think oils are the purest essences there are — unspoiled, untainted, luxurious.”

For the first Essence collection, Karan chose two notes that are probably familiar to consumers — lavender and jasmine — and two that probably aren’t, wenge and labdanum.

Wenge, a dark African wood with a spicy scent, is Karan’s favorite wood; since it isn’t distilled for fragrances, it has been recreated in the fragrance labs, noted Trudi Loren, vice president of corporate fragrance development worldwide for Donna Karan Cosmetics. Labdanum is a wild shrub found in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea; the resin of the plant, which is used in this fragrance, is a deep, intense scent, she added.

“I’d love to keep adding to the line, but this was the group that I had to start with,” said Karan. “First of all, I am wenge-obsessed. It’s such a wonderful, warm, spicy scent. It takes you on a journey to Africa, just by smelling it. I have furniture made of it all over the place. Lavender is so calming, and I love the color. Jasmine — there isn’t a person in the world who doesn’t love it. It’s intoxicating. And labdanum is so grounding and sensual.”

The Essence collection will be sold in several ways: as singular oils, eaux de toilette sprays, body lotions and candles, and also as a set of the four essences. Karan noted that the oils are particularly versatile: “You can use them in the bath or a steam shower, rub them on your wrists or layer a couple of them on your body,” she said. “I play with them all the time — there are so many ways to use them.”

This story first appeared in the August 12, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The oils, each packaged in an amber glass vial enclosed in a leather necklace pouch, are $90 for 0.25 oz. The eaux de toilette are each $165 for 3.3 oz., while the body lotions are $55 for 6.7 oz. Candles are $95 each, and the Essential Oil set is $185 for four 0.25-oz. vials.

In the U.S., the Donna Karan Essence lineup will be available in October at Neiman Marcus and Donna Karan freestanding stores. At launch, the brand will be in under 50 specialty store doors. While none of the executives would discuss sales targets or advertising and promotional spending, industry sources estimated that the line would do about $500,000 at retail in its first year on counter. In-store sampling and co-op advertising are planned, added Diane Kim, vice president of global marketing for Donna Karan Cosmetics.