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Sarah Jessica Unveils First Fragrance

Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker was unveiled Thursday and will launch in August at Nordstrom and enter full U.S. distribution a month later.

NEW YORK — One of the most hotly anticipated scents to hit the city — Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker — was unveiled Thursday afternoon at the Plaza Athenée.

Parker’s first scent will launch exclusively with Nordstrom in August and enter its full U.S. distribution of department and specialty store doors in September.

The actress and her fragrance licensee, Lancaster, have said Lovely is likely to be the first in a series of scents. How many that series will include depends on how well Lovely performs, and Parker and her camp aren’t talking sales projections. However, industry sources estimated that Lovely could do upward of $30 million at retail in the U.S. in its first year on counter. The scent will launch in selected international doors — including the U.K., Asia, Austria, Switzerland and Australia — in September as well. Sources estimated that the scent could do an additional $30 million at retail outside the U.S. in its first year on counter.  To spur sales, Parker plans on making store appearances.

Clad in a strapless pink vintage Lanvin dress with a black bow at the bodice — and a pair of diamond earrings that technically belong to Fred Leighton but which Parker joked spend more time on her ears than in the store — Parker focused her attention squarely on this scent, questions about future fragrances notwithstanding.

“I see this as an absolutely signature scent — something that a woman in her 20s or a woman in her 70s could wear,” she said. “This is not the trendy dress of the moment; it is the classic. And it’s not a second or a third scent.” She had a few other requirements: “I didn’t want it to assault [its users], to dictate the rest of the room,” she said with a smile. “I didn’t want it to be the fragrance where you had to explain, ‘That’s not mine, it’s left over from hugging someone who was wearing it.’ Fragrance should have social skills. It shouldn’t dominate.”

While the original concept was built on a homemade concoction — which included an expensive perfume she declined to name and an oil she bought on the street — that Parker has worn for years, she estimated that only about half of those notes ended up in the scent, including patchouli, musk and lavender.

In fact, Parker and the Lancaster team went through many juices on the way to Lovely. Catherine Walsh, senior vice president of cosmetics and American licenses for Lancaster, and Carlos Timiraos, vice president of marketing, estimate that they saw “hundreds” of submissions, while Parker said she smelled at least 20.

“Something may smell great on you, but not on your friends,” said Parker, citing the fact that individual body chemistries mean that scents smell differently from user to user. “We’d get something that smelled great on me, but not on Catherine or my sisters or my friends. So we would go back to the drawing board.” In fact, one version provoked far from the desired response. “I sprayed it on,” Parker said, “and Matthew [Broderick, her husband] said, ‘Madam, do you sell braces here as well?’ Not quite the reaction I was looking for.”

She also tested scent on fabric to see how fragrance would interact with clothing.

As well, Parker admitted that her dabbling in the world of perfumery taught her a lot about perception and the difficulty of communicating clearly, such as “buttery” means one thing to her and something else to, say, Walsh. In fact, she said, the process of discussing fragrance development taught her how slippery the communication process can be, even on the level of more critical subjects, such as the Middle East peace process. She paused for a moment and reflected on what she had just said, and laughed at the thought of equating perfumery to world peace.

Lovely, a “silky white amber” fragrance by Laurent Le Guernec and Clement Gavarry of International Flavors and Fragrances, has top notes of fresh mandarin, bergamot, radiant rosewood, lush lavender and crisp apple martini; a heart of patchouli, paper whites and creamy orchid, and a drydown of sensuous cedar, white amber, sultry musk and woods.

Parker said she’s wanted to do a scent since the Eighties, and that she’s had the name in mind for years. “I really couldn’t believe that [the name] was still available,” she said with a grin.

The initial collection will consist of four stockkeeping units: eaux de parfum in 1.7-oz. and 3.4-oz. sizes, priced $48 and $62, respectively; a 6.7-oz. body lotion for $30, and a 6.7-oz. bath and shower gel for $26.

The heavy glass, teardrop-shaped bottle has a clear, faceted cap and a gray grosgrain ribbon at its neck, with the logo in gold on the glass. Parker’s monogram is engraved into the gold-tone actuator. The bottle’s carton is a ballet-slipper pink with gold lining.

Parker said the bottle’s shape was initially inspired by eggs — which resulted in the actress toting a box of eggs in a Rochas box to an early meeting at Lancaster. Meanwhile, the Lancaster team had had a similar brainstorm, and showed up with a boxful of painted, blown eggshells. “I don’t know what I was thinking,” Parker said with an infectious giggle, “that they couldn’t get eggs? I show up with my whole, raw eggs, my sad eggs, and see this beautiful array, this palette, of painted, blown eggshells, not to be believed.”

The advertising and promotional war chest — which sources estimate will top $20 million — will include print and TV advertising. Executives unveiled a preliminary version of the ad Thursday: a shot of Parker in a ballerina-inspired, pale pink Oscar de la Renta dress with the tag line “lovely on the inside.” The print campaign, which will begin running in September fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines, was directed by Trey Laird, who also worked with Parker on her Gap ads. It was shot by Michael Thompson, with hair by Serge Normant and makeup by Laura Mercier. Both single-page and double-page versions will run. As well, a TV ad is being shot with the same team and will begin running in December.

Timiraos noted that more than 50 million scented impressions are targeted, with more than one million vial samples planned.

“This is the fragrance that will set the foundation for other scents to come,” said Parker, saying that she’s working on a “whole host of things” for both genders. Other scents are being developed now, although she steadfastly refused to give further details and Walsh said it would be at least a year before another hits retail counters.

But Parker is humble. “I would love to have a kingdom of fragrances, but if this were the beginning and the end, it would still be a dream come true.”

As for her nonfragrance agenda, Parker said she finished work on one movie, “The Family Stone,” on Saturday and plans to start on another next week. She also has formed a production company, called Pretty Matches, in partnership with HBO.

There is one person to whom she may not give too many fragrance details going forward. Parker recalled that in a David Letterman interview before the deal was signed, Broderick was riffing with the talk show host when he asked Broderick what Parker was up to. Broderick revealed that Parker was working on a fragrance, and as Parker tells the story, stopped just short of giving the name of the fragrance and the company with which Parker was working. “The really funny thing was that David Letterman was saying, ‘Oh, isn’t that lovely?’ Of all the things they could have talked about.…” She joked, “I’m absolutely not going to tell him about future products,” although Parker said Lancaster was very understanding. In fact, Walsh showed Coty chief Bernd Beetz a tape of the program and boasted that they had already gotten national coverage. “My knees were knocking, but I said, ‘This is a good thing,’ and he agreed.” In fact, the two parties hadn’t yet signed the final contract, either — a minor detail.

But perhaps the most shocking revelation of the afternoon was that the noted clotheshorse, who has doubled as the angel of Seventh Avenue, has — gasp — what she described as a “very small closet.”