By and  on July 20, 2007

MILAN — With a new scent called Infusion d'Iris, Prada is betting one of perfumery's most valuable ingredients — the root of the Florentine iris pallida flower — will yield the fashion house's best-selling fragrance to date.

In conjunction with fragrance licensee Puig Beauty & Fashion Group, Prada will introduce an eau de parfum called Infusion d'Iris this fall in 40 countries, with the U.S. getting it first in September, followed by Europe that same month and Asia in October.

"It's the biggest launch in the Prada portfolio," said Jose Manuel Albesa, general manager of Fragrance and Skincare SL. The business unit is a 50-50 joint venture of Prada and Puig. "We expect it to be number one in terms of volume," said Albesa.

Infusion d'Iris is the fashion house's third major fragrance and it follows Prada's signature women's scent from 2004 and Amber Pour Homme last year.

Patrizio Bertelli, chief executive officer of Prada SpA, said in a statement, "Our objective with this new perfume is to amplify the Prada Parfums line and strengthen the presence of our brand in this sector, where Prada is growing — at the same time upholding the values of quality, innovation and respect for tradition."

Miuccia Prada worked with perfumer Daniela Andrier from Givaudan to create Infusion d'Iris, which was developed over a two-year period. Iris, the fragrance's prevalent olfactory note, is at the heart of the scent. "Miuccia Prada wanted to interpret the iris note in a modern way," said Albesa.

The fragrance is balanced by top notes of orange blossom and mandarin, as well as base notes of galbanum, lentisc, benzoin, incense, vetiver and cedarwood. Puig executives said that notes like vetiver and cedarwood, which are often found in men's scents, differentiate Infusion d'Iris from other women's scents.

"The fragrance is very modern — it has nothing to do with feminine stereotypes," Jordi Puig, general manager of Puig USA, said during an interview in New York. "Strong ingredient contrast contributes to the freshness of the fragrance."

The flacon of Infusion d'Iris was inspired by vintage fragrance bottles. It is meant to convey the brand's tradition visually, considering a silver plate on the glass flacon features the rope-bordered Prada crest, which was designed by Prada's grandfather, Mario, in 1913.It's the first fragrance to feature Prada's original 94-year-old logo, and, as a result, the designer said she felt like she was working on her first fragrance for the house. The bottle, which was designed by Prada, is accented in pale green, as is its outer packaging, a color that's considered a signature hue of the house.

"It's an evolution of the portfolio, it reflects the rich, luxury heritage of Prada as well as innovation, a sense of tradition and uncompromisable quality," said Albesa. "The whole concept is to mix Prada's past with elements from its future."

Albesa expects Infusion d'Iris "to perform very well," but he declined to comment on a sales figure. Industry sources, though, estimate that numbers could hit $50 million at retail globally during its first year on the market.

"It will take Prada to the next level and we are very excited to see the results," said Albesa. He added that Infusion d'Iris should help continue the double-digit sales growth the Prada beauty business has experienced for the past two years, which was recently fueled by the performance of Prada's men's scent. "It achieved top five in the U.K. and some other markets and we are excited about that," said Albesa.

Infusion d'Iris will initially be available in September at Saks Fifth Avenue's New York flagship, 30-plus Neiman Marcus locations and 12 Prada boutiques. Also in September, the scent will be launched in European countries like the U.K., France and Italy.

In October, Infusion d'Iris will reach Asian markets like Hong Kong and Japan, as well as the Middle East. Then, in November, the scent will experience a rollout in the U.S. to about 250 doors, including additional Saks locations, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom, Barneys New York and Bloomingdale's. Latin America will get the scent in 2008.

The prestige division of Coty Inc. distributes the fragrances marketed by the Puig Beauty & Fashion Group, including Prada, in the U.S. prestige market. And, while Prada fragrances are carried in a total of 1,300 doors in the U.S., "We first want to see the results and then build [Infusion d'Iris]," said Puig. "We're building the Prada [fragrance] franchise little by little."The Infusion d'Iris line will be available in five sizes, including three sprays — at $67 for 50 ml., $90 for 100 ml. and $125 for 200 ml. Splash versions of the scent will come in a 400-ml. bottle for $210 and a 750-ml. size for $350. Each of the two latter sizes comes with a silver decanter funnel and a 30-ml. splash bottle. All prices are for the U.S.

An eight-item, ancillary line that will accompany the scent is tantamount to a bath and home care collection in itself. The range includes a shower gel, 250 ml. for $45; a body lotion, 250 ml. for $50; a 500-gram jar of bath salts for $70, and a set of two perfumed soaps for $40. There's also a candle for $75, a 1-liter bottle of linen water for $75, a pack of cotton towelettes for $60 and perfumed drawer inserts for $60.

Steven Meisel photographed a worldwide print advertising campaign for Infusion d'Iris in Los Angeles. Art director Ezra Petronio worked in conjunction with Miuccia Prada to create the campaign. The image features Russian model Sasha Pivovarova touching the fragrance with leather-gloved hands.

"It's a vintage bottle with a strong woman of today," Puig said of the visual.

Albesa said the investment behind Infusion d'Iris was substantial, though he wouldn't break down the numbers. He said that compared to Prada's preceding fragrance launches, Infusion d'Iris would have a larger global distribution network of 10,000 doors and a bigger advertising budget. Industry sources speculate the advertising and promotional budget could range from $15 million to $25 million.

In the U.S., industry sources estimate the scent could generate between $12 million and $14 million in retail sales during the fourth quarter and that about $6.5 million would be spent to promote the scent in the U.S.

"We'll have a very strong campaign," said Puig, who noted that single- and double-page print ads will break in the October issues of fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines in the U.S.

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