NEW YORK — Zac Posen, one of the rising stars of American fashion, has ended the suspense and stepped into the fragrance ring by signing a licensing deal with Selective Beauty.
And he is not thinking small.
"We're not looking to just launch a scent, but develop a house of classics," he said during an interview earlier this week. Previously, during the FiFi ceremonies in early June, Posen had promised he would sign a deal "at the right time. [Fragrance] is definitely part of my dream and my plan."
Apparently, the time is right both for him and Selective Beauty, a highly entrepreneurial licensing and distribution company that pulled off a coup in March by signing a pact with John Galliano. Now, the addition of an up-and-coming American designer establishes the young company as a power player and prominently plants it on beauty's global map.
For Posen, this is not just another deal. He made it clear that he sees fragrance as a major pillar in his plan to build a luxury house. The designer not only thinks big, but he looks at the market with the eye of an adventurous connoisseur who clearly is willing to wait for what he wants. "Patience is a virtue," Posen concluded.
For instance, Posen said he is interested in discovering applications for fragrance that fit differently into a woman's daily beauty routine — "the way a woman wants her body to smell from day into evening." This also includes fragrancing various body parts in new and unusual ways. "I wouldn't put perfume in my hair," he said. "But I might put oil on my hair."
While acknowledging that he talked to other unnamed cosmetics companies about a possible deal, Posen indicated that he picked Selective Beauty because of its willingness to work with him on key issues. "I understand the power of willingness to invest in product," he said. "Luxury is about giving the customer something to aspire to and to surprise them. I have to feel that I'm finding something new.
"This is about having a really fresh perspective," he continued, "and reminding people of their own adventureness and creativity. We need new forms. Others are just playing off of old ideas." What that means in this era when the fragrance market seems plagued by a mania for celebrity is that the consumer has to be offered "a brand with legitimacy in a time of immediacy," Posen said.Sylvie Ganter, president of Selective Beauty U.S., said the first signature women's scent tentatively is planned for launch in spring 2009 after being unveiled during the New York ready-to-wear collections the previous September.
Posen is already at work on it with Firmenich. Franck Salzwedel, the former international brand manager at the Viktor & Rolf division of L'Oréal, where he worked on Flowerbomb and Antidote, has signed on as an exclusive consultant to orchestrate the fragrance development in the role of creative director, according to Ganter.
Ganter depicted the Posen deal as the cornerstone of Selective Beauty's future plans for the U.S. Just as in Europe, where the company signed a number of licensing deals — Galliano, Jimmy Choo, Agent Provocateur as "a full service agreement," MaxMara and Benetton — the company wanted to partner with American brands. "We really want to go into product development in the U.S. and establish a creative center," said Ganter.
Posen represents the entirety of the company's luxury effort, she continued, adding that Selective Beauty is talking to other parties as possibilities for the lifestyle category.
She noted, however, that a kindred connection has been made with Posen. "We are different companies and do different things," she said, "but we look at things the same way." She added, "When he looks at beauty, we like the way he looks at it."
Ganter's sentiments were seconded by a statement from Christophe Cervasel, Selective Beauty's founder and chief executive officer. "We made the strategic decision to expand Selective Beauty into the United States with the mission of becoming a truly global company," the statement said. "Ready to make our mark as a major player in the industry, we expect to expand our portfolio of licenses to include some of the biggest U.S. names. We anticipate that Zac Posen is the first of many high-profile agreements and a sign of things to come."
In talking about his experience so far in developing his first scent, Posen talked about naturalness and freshness. Relating his experiences in walking through duty free sections of airports, he said he appreciates fragrances with top notes that are "engaging and surprising."Turning to his fashion company, Posen said he now is involved in finding a New York flagship for his first retail venture. It hasn't been easy for a self-described "luxury snob" who also sees himself as "an architecture fiend." The space not only has to be the right size, but possess the right charm.
Asked what kind of fragrance would be the equivalent of his fashion sensibility, Posen thought for a moment and answered, "It would have to be surprisingly sophisticated and it would be visceral."