Tom’s Lauder Touch: Amber Nude and Revamping Youth Dew

Tom Ford's beauty debut with The Estee Lauder Cos. will be a color and fragrance lineup dubbed Amber Nude, it was learned.

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NEW YORK — The most anticipated beauty launch for holiday will apparently be about getting naked.

WWD has learned Tom Ford’s debut beauty effort with The Estée Lauder Cos. — which will have packaging reading Tom Ford Estée Lauder — will be a color and fragrance lineup dubbed Amber Nude.

While neither Ford nor Lauder executives would comment on the new lines, Ford also is said to be tweaking Lauder’s iconic Youth Dew fragrance into a scent called Youth Dew Amber Nude, which will be accompanied by a color cosmetics collection under the same moniker. The compacts for that collection are said to be Ford’s modern renditions of classic Lauder compacts, rendered in rich gold tones.

Both the cosmetics and the fragrance are expected to be on counter by early December in some 250 upscale specialty stores, said to include Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue. Ford is expected to add both products and doors to that line for spring 2006.

Ford and his former Gucci partner, Domenico De Sole, formed their own, self-financed company and signed a beauty deal with Lauder in April. Ford, who is the first designer to be allied with the 58-year-old Lauder brand, is president and chief executive officer of the new venture; De Sole is chairman. Everyone involved with the deal declined to reveal what Ford’s and De Sole’s company were being paid for the Lauder venture, although most sources estimated the duo could net between $10 million and $20 million over the next five years.

“I’m very good about working within a framework and with a brand that has a certain history — I tend to respect that,” Ford told WWD in April. “Estée Lauder is Estée Lauder. I’m not redoing the entire brand — I’m doing a collection, Tom Ford for Estée Lauder [then to be followed by his own branded line]. I like pushing the boundaries [of an existing framework]. It’s not like starting something from scratch, which I also like. All of a sudden, I’m having to think, ‘What am I about as my own brand?’ I like having the framework of an existing brand, and a history, and understanding that you don’t want to stray too far from that, but at the same time, you want to create something new that means something to the customer, so I’m really looking forward to it.”

This story first appeared in the August 5, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

And early reads on the products are very strong.

“Redoing Youth Dew was genius,” said one leading specialty store retailer, who requested anonymity. “It’s a modern interpretation of a throwback. That’s right where fashion is.” The retailer also praised the color cosmetics, naming an oversized, gold-toned bronzer compact as a particular favorite. “They’re saying that a lot of the first collection will be made up of one-shots — but I think the whole line has legs.”

Pricing is said to be on a par with upscale specialty store beauty brands — where an elaborate compact can fetch $50 or more, and a fragrance can be well north of $60.

Carolyn Murphy, who is one of the faces of the Estée Lauder brand, will be featured in the advertising for the Amber Nude campaign, said by many to be “very sensual.” In fact, America may be seeing much more of Murphy than they’re used to: She is said to be nude, or at least looking that way, in the ad. Of course, that isn’t a Ford first. While at the Gucci Group, Ford helped develop racy ad visuals — with full-frontal male nudity — for YSL’s M7 men’s scent.

The Lauder camp wouldn’t comment on clothing or lack thereof in the ads, but Ford did touch on the subject during the April interview with WWD. “At Lauder, I may certainly hint at a little bit of provocation, but I do have respect for what the Lauder brand is and stands for and who the customer is,” he said. “[The advertising] may be slightly more provocative, but it won’t be provocative to the point of near pornography.”

But don’t expect him to swear off sex forever. “The real provocative advertising, I think, will happen when the freestanding Tom Ford brand is launched,” the designer said in April. “It really will be 100 percent my character. I’m in a different place than I was when I started working with Gucci 11 or 12 years ago. The world’s in a different place — sensuality rather than sexuality. However, it’s in my nature to be provocative, I suppose. I think that sexy is what I’m known for, and probably what I do best.”

Still, John Demsey, global president of the Estée Lauder and MAC brands, said in April: “We’re not looking to use Tom Ford for shock value. This is not a stunt. It’s not an attention-grabber. This is a synergistic move that will work well with the DNA of the brand.”

Ford is also said to be working closely with Demsey; Aerin Lauder, senior vice president of global creative directions for Lauder, and senior creative consultant Doug Lloyd on the freestanding Tom Ford brand. The eponymous collection, said to include fragrance and color cosmetics, is expected on counter in fall 2006.

In the April interview, Ford offered his take on the chaotic fragrance market.

“Every forum right now needs quality,” he said. “There’s so much flash right now, so many people endorsing things. Things are reaching sort of a hollow peak. Quality of product is number one. If I were designing ready-to-wear right now, that’s what it would be about — real, true value. And I don’t mean value for the price. I mean value in terms of quality. That’s what’s most important, and it’s what’s missing in every area.”

At that interview, Ford held the Lauder brand up as an example of quality in the marketplace.”I have so many memories of [the Lauder brand],” he said. “I think most people who grew up in America do,” he said. “My grandmother wore Youth Dew until the day that she died.”

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