By  on January 16, 2009

LOS ANGELES — Retailer Ron Robinson, who has catapulted brands to prominence and satisfied Angelenos’ tastes for fine and fashionable things at his four store concepts within Fred Segal, is marking 30 years in business by adding a fragrance to his Apothia product lineup.

The new fragrance is named Pearl, after the gemstone that traditionally signals 30-year anniversaries. Developed over two years with Givaudan perfumer Stephen Nielsen, it will be launched in March in Apothia at Fred Segal and at select locations in the Apothia brand’s retail network of 100 stores in the U.S., and 100 stores abroad.

“The reason we did Pearl is because we’ve been here for so frickin’ long,” exclaimed Robinson. “In anything — in a marriage — that’s a big deal, but in the fashion business it’s really terrific.”

It was 1978 when Robinson’s first concept, men’s, opened its doors at Fred Segal. Five years later, the influential beauty shop Apothia and children’s clothes destination Lifesize Kids joined Robinson’s retail brood. StylObjects, a haven for design junkies, was introduced about 18 years ago.

Robinson divulged that one of the secrets to his retail longevity is cultivating strong relationships with his customers. “Some of the same customers that have shopped with us for 30 years are now bringing in their kids, or often grandkids,” he said. “We could build a store that had this very slick finish to it and is hard-edge, but I think you’d miss some of the warmth of what we’re bringing.”

Robinson has also been known to have a keen sense of trends. He responded to a growing hunger for niche scents by creating the fragrance brand Apothia in 2001 with its debut IF, a clean, white flower-driven scent that remains the best seller among Apothia’s current stable of three scents. Pearl will be Apothia’s fourth scent, and Robinson is perfecting a fifth that could enter the assortment this year as well.

Robinson’s objective with Pearl was to craft a versatile fragrance that couldn’t be pigeonholed into being for a single demographic or occasion. Our customer “might wear a string of pearls with a pair of jeans and a T-shirt [or] might wear a string of pearls with a beautiful black dress going out,” said Robinson. “How do we transfer a fragrance that can be worn during that more sporty time to that more elegant time, and make it wearable day or night with either the T-shirt or the black dress?”

Robinson found that relying on delicate, often Asian ingredients, such as plum blossom and shiso leaf, helped the fragrance deftly handle the olfactory requirements of an Apothia customer throughout the day. The rundown of the notes is as follows: a top of shiso leaf, plum blossom and yuzo lemon; a middle of white peonies, pink jasmine and Japanese honeysuckle, and a base of orris, warm golden amber and ivory musk accord.

Pearl is priced at $95 for a 1.7-oz. eau de parfum. Industry sources estimate it will generate $1 million in first-year sales.

Robinson’s passion for fragrance was ignited originally by the packaging and components — and he’s paid attention to those aspects of Pearl. The boxes will be a velvety charcoal gray and enveloped in gun metal foil. The word “Pearl” in cursive wraps around the back of the bottle to one side, and 78/08 is emblazoned below it to indicate the date Ron Robinson’s retail business began. Robinson worked with firm Through Smoke Creative, based in Sausalito, Calif., on the packaging design.

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