By  on February 15, 2002

NEW YORK -- Chantal Roos is getting ready to rewrite the story of O, with a new Oscar de la Renta scent targeted at the liberated, self-assured contemporary woman.

It also is aimed at restoring de la Renta's fragrance fortunes by reestablishing him as a force in the global beauty world, following a decade of eroding sales.

In late April, the president and chief executive officer of YSL Beaute will launch the new scent, called Intrusion, a name meant to sum up the designer's vision of a new powerful, self-assertive femininity.

The fragrance was unveiled Wednesday at a well-attended reception at the Four Seasons, which featured not only de la Renta and Roos, but also an appearance by Domenico De Sole, chief executive officer of the parent Gucci Group. The fragrance ad consists of a photo of a sultry Liliana Dominguez, one of de la Renta's favorite models who took part in his ready-to-wear show earlier in the day. She also attended the reception.

During the product presentation, a voiceover on a concept video declared: "Free to be who she really is, she chooses her life, she chooses herself."

As a parting shot, the narrator adds, "It was a man's world before she came."

Fragrance presentations, generally slick in nature, are usually punctuated by clipped marketing sound bites from executives. But the remarks delivered by de la Renta were anything but perfunctory.

He later good naturedly admitted that he had a speech prepared but didn't read it because he couldn't find his glasses. Instead, de la Renta treated the crowd to a highly personal and poignant account of his emotional journey since Sept, 11, when he was forced to cancel his fashion show. De la Renta said he had briefly secured a last-minute spot on the Paris show calendar then reversed course and put on a modest scaled-down showing in New York instead. To desert New York, he decided, would mean "negating everything I came to this country for." Living here is all about exercising and enjoying freedom, he continued, and the show he staged Wednesday was meant as a tribute to this "extraordinary sense of freedom. This is the most wonderful place in the world to be."Returning to the subject of the fragrance, de la Renta said its positioning is true to this theme. "Never has a woman ever been in control of her destiny as she is today," he said, adding that the fragrance "is dedicated to this woman of today."

He noted that during the last seven years, his fashion business has been energized by an influx of young staffers, who helped transform his business and attract a younger, hipper clientele. All this led up to the conception of the fragrance, which was orchestrated and shaped by Roos. "I saw all this coming together," de la Renta said later during an interview. "This is a new century."

When asked if the name had some connection to the "Sex and the City" stars who have attended his shows in the past, de la Renta laughed and said, "Sarah Jessica Parker is the woman. She represents what the modern woman is about. She is assured and she is liberated."

The fragrance, created by Jacques Cavallier and Alberto Morillas of Firmenich, is a crisp, sheer, sparkling floral. Roos hired Doug Lloyd to design the bottle to give it an architectural feeling. It was given an air of modernity, she said, with its strong rectangular shape. The heaviness of the glass and the sturdiness of the metal cap were meant to convey luxury. A tortoiseshell band was added for a classic touch.

The line consists of a 1.6-oz. eau de parfum spray, priced at $60; a 3.3-oz. version for $85 and a 6.7-oz. perfumed body veil for $48.

De la Renta's classic women's fragrance of 1977 was one of the early pillars of the American designer fragrance business. The franchise was built painstakingly by the storied entrepreneur Milton Stern.

Roos wants to return to that sense of marketing purity, by investing heavily in in-store merchandising, sampling and demonstration. The early advertising will be done in specialty store catalogs.

The fragrance will make its debut April 28 with a two-week preview at Saks Fifth Avenue. According to James W. Ragsdale, vice president of Oscar de la Renta Parfums, the brand will be launched in 200 specialty stores, including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman and selected Marshall Field's. In September, it will be rolled out to 400 upscale department stores, including Bloomingdale's.The plan is to build the business meticulously. Executives would not discuss numbers, but industry sources figure the first-year target is $10 million wholesale in the U.S. alone. The fragrance also will be launched in other markets around the world.

Industry executives said that the business done by de la Renta's previously launched fragrances has dwindled over the years, settling to about $25 million wholesale on a global basis, with 70 percent done in the U.S. and Canada and most of the rest done in South America and a smattering in Europe.

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