New York — Imagine receiving a T-shirt in the mail from an online shop and unwrapping it from candy-colored, strawberry-scented cellophane.
Or picture buying the new Jennifer Lopez CD with a jewel case that smells like her latest fragrance. And how about getting 10 percent off every time you charge shoes at Manolo Blahnik with a transparent pink Sarah Jessica Parker American Express card scented with Lovely?
These are a few ideas for what fragrance and fashion companies can do with colored and scented cellulose acetate — a plastic made of wood pulp — from Rotuba Extruders Inc. The company is working with five fragrance companies, whose names it could not disclose, to develop products and cross promotions, said Adam Bell, president and chief executive officer of the Linden, N.J.-based company.
Rotuba, which has been in business since 1945, launched scented plastics 20 years ago with an air freshener for boats, but it didn't take off, Bell said
Now, however, "fragrances are playing a big role in purchasing decisions," Bell said. "This is a unique delivery system and we're seizing the opportunity. We saw the way fragrances were becoming part of an everyday lifestyle and said this is a natural."
Rotuba hired Karen Robinovitz, author of "The Fashionista Files," and her business partner Stacey Mayesh, an editor and stylist, as consultants to develop and pitch concepts for beauty and fashion.
"I'm so inspired by the product I literally don't sleep at night," said Robinovitz, who said ideas for new uses for the plastic often occur to her in the wee hours of the morning. "I know it's genius. It can revolutionize plastic and scent that is sophisticated and high end and also trickle down to the masses."
Other potential applications include scented children's furniture, lacquer-like boxes, jewelry, hair accessories, bottle caps, ornaments and baubles.
Rotuba creates its product, whose brand name has not been set ("Auracell" is one possibility), by mixing color, fragrance and plasticizer with cellulose acetate powder. Then its customers mold or extrude the resulting pellets into the shape they want. Rotuba can match a Pantone color or a swatch and any fragrance, although medium and base notes best survive the heating process, said Hugh O'Neill, Rotuba director of cellulosic sales. The longevity of the scent depends on the fragrance. Some can last as long as 20 years.Pellets range in price from $6 per pound to more than $20 per pound, depending on the quality and concentration of the fragrance. Pellets with a standard vanilla scent would cost $8 to $15 per pound, for example. Colors can be clear, opaque, pearlized, glow in the dark, tortoiseshell or stony.
Like cellulose, the first plastic that was used in the 1930s to make items such as bracelets and collar stays, cellulose acetate is made from wood pulp. However, unlike cellulose, it is stable and noncombustible thanks to flame-resistent additives. In addition to Rotuba, two other companies make cellulose acetate pellets: Mazzuchelli in Italy, which specializes in sheet plastic for eyeglass frames, and Eastman Chemical Co., which has a partnership with Rotuba, Bell said.
Rotuba also has projects in the works with liquor and pharmaceutical firms.
But one of the first efforts the public is likely to see is Rotuba's own. Rotuba, Robinovitz and Mayesh are launching a wholesale jewelry business called Plumbunny. Its first collection will be bracelets in two styles, 16 colors and 8 fragrances, including tiare, black currant and jasmine. The bangles will retail for $80 to $95 each and will be intended for a customer who likes Scoop, the New York-based boutique known for its colorful, trendy contemporary clothes. Samples will be available to order next month.
Eventually, Robinovitz said she hopes to create skinny bracelets in fragrances that can be mixed and matched. The accessories would come with a booklet of "cocktail" recipes, much like the instructions for combining Jelly Belly jelly beans to make unexpected flavors.
In addition to consulting with Rotuba, Robinovitz is working on her third book (a novel), developing a lifestyle show for cable television, and consulting for fashion shopping site glam.com and private jet service Blue Star Jets.
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