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Rowley: Scent of a Woman

The multitasking Cynthia Rowley prepares to launch her first fragrance under her own name in September.

NEW YORK — Think you’re busy? Talk to Cynthia Rowley.

The designer is multitasking during an interview with WWD in the sunny, honeysuckle-laden back garden of her Bleecker Street showroom and retail store. In addition to divulging the details of her first fragrance, coming in early September, she’s noodling over ideas for her next ready-to-wear collection (she’s showing in the tents, rather than the Elizabeth Street Gardens, the venue for her last several shows) and debating locations for her upcoming wedding (which will take place mere days after the collection is shown). Also on the front burner: a just-launched fourth book, “The Swell-Dressed Party,” which Rowley has written with her best friend, Ilene Rosenzweig (with whom she also pens a column for Glamour magazine).

But get Rowley talking about her fragrance, and there’s an immediate focus: Two years after signing a deal with Toronto-based Riviera Concepts, she’s launching what she calls “everything I ever wanted in a fragrance.”

“It’s been my lifelong dream to do a fragrance,” said Rowley, sipping verbena iced tea. “I wanted it to be perfect. It was a very personal project, and Riviera Concepts has been a great partner.”

After narrowing down her favorite scents — which include, of all things, gasoline (“It reminds me of riding my motorcycle.”) and chocolate-chip cookies (“They remind me of my childhood.”) — Rowley focused on honeysuckle as a defining note.

Like Rowley herself, the juice — by Givaudan — is intended to be irreverent and playful. Top notes are of verbena, bergamot, white cyclamen and red current; the heart comprises pink honeysuckle, neroli, muguet and freesia, and the drydown is of heliotrope, white musk and amber. 

“This fragrance embodies Cynthia’s effervescence,” said Margaret Spasuk, vice president of marketing and sales for Riviera Concepts. “The exuberant citrus and the sexy drydown to amber — they’re all the facets of Cynthia.”

The bottle, designed by Rowley, draws inspiration from several aspects of her atelier. The gilt detailing on the iridescent blue bottle mirrors a stencil design on the floors of the retail area, and the clear-faceted cap resembles a doorknob leading into a private meeting area on the store’s first floor. The outer packaging, in a soft sky blue with lime ribbon and hot-pink accents, is in Rowley’s favorite colors, “the ones I never get tired of.”

The Rowley lineup will include a 1-oz. parfum, $160; eaux de parfum in 1.7-oz. and 3.4-oz. sizes, $58 and $78, respectively, and three ancillaries, a body lotion, a body cream and a hand cream, which are all 6.8 oz. and retail for $42, $68 and $28, respectively.

The scent will be distributed in about 300 U.S. specialty store doors, including Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Von Maur and Sephora, as well as Rowley’s own retail stores in Manhattan, East Hampton, N.Y., Chicago and Japan. Other Asian and European doors are likely to be added in the not-too-distant future.

Neither Rowley nor Spasuk would comment on projected sales or advertising spending, but industry sources estimated that the limited distribution of the fragrance would result in sales of about $2.4 million at retail in its first year on counter.

National advertising is not planned, but the brand will undertake an intensive sampling program, including a deluxe dramming program with Nordstrom.

Rowley doesn’t plan to stop with one scent. She said she would like eventually to do men’s and children’s fragrances, and she has plenty of inspiration at home in her two young daughters, Kit and Gigi.  Rowley has just launched a children’s apparel line in Japan.