Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is a man of style.
And he’s quick to point out that his teammates never miss an opportunity to rib him about it. “I get a lot of grief for things that I do, but it’s all good,” he said during an interview with WWD. “My teammates and I have a great rapport. But every time you see me on a magazine, I can guarantee it that someone’s going to tape it to my locker. It’s just something that they do to bring a lighthearted approach to a stressful workplace.”
This story first appeared in the July 18, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The 25-year-old Newton has designed his own men’s wear with Belk for the past two years — showing up for the interview in a gray checked jacket, bow tie and matching trousers — and he’s just inked a deal to front a fragrance campaign for L’Oréal’s new Drakkar Essence scent. And no hard feelings, teammates — Newton’s planning to put together Drakkar Essence care packages for everyone at training camp. “So everyone who comes out of the locker room is going to smell like new money,” he said. “It’s not just the generic soap that you get in the container that’s like disinfectant. It also smells good. So I think I’ll get some brownie points for that.”
The young NFL star certainly has zeroed in on the right demographic for the scent. Alexandre Choueiri, president of International Designer Collections at L’Oréal USA, said, “Twenty-two years after Drakkar Noir launched, we thought we were ready to bring in a new chapter. The ambition here under this new Drakkar brand, Drakkar Essence, was to open another segment of the market.” He was referring to Millennial customers. “So we were looking for something younger, closer to their day-to-day passions. The idea of partnering with an NFL player came exactly because of those reasons.”
In the choice of Newton, L’Oréal was reaching back to an old tradition of decades ago when Joe Namath and other prominent stars served as spokesmen for Brut and other scents.
The French beauty leader also found a walking, talking fashion maven in Newton. The son of a Pentecostal preacher, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback said he had style drilled into him from a young age. “Every Sunday I had to wear my Sunday best to church. It was dress pants, dress shoes, button-down shirt. The ladies were wearing their big Kentucky Derby hats — I mean, you’re listening to the preacher but you can’t even see him!” he said.
“I’ve always felt a sense of importance with fashion. I remember being in sixth grade and taking great pride in picking my clothes out. That’s when I figured out most people didn’t know how to iron.” Like any good Southerner, Newton was meticulous about ironing. “When I was in college, guys were paying me $10 to iron their shirts,” he said.
Newton particularly enjoys designing his Made Cam Newton line with Belk, which he began creating with the retailer two years ago. The assortment of merchandise includes men’s apparel (including sizes for big-and-tall men, young men and juniors) as well as footwear, jewelry and watches. “It gives me an opportunity to look up to par,” he said. “Appearance has a lot of different layers, and I have a lot of different outlets for looks each and every time I decide to change it up. Whenever people ask me what I’m wearing and I say my brand, it’s like a pinching moment for myself. Growing up in Atlanta, a fashion-sensitive area, made me want to look good, feel good and approach life in a good manner. I hear artists talking about, ‘What’s the point of bringing something to life if it’s not your own [view]?’ It’s kind of the same thing with fashion — someone’s trying to tell you that you should buy a tie in red, but deep down you want it in blue. Make it a blue tie.”
He admits to looking for style clues in men’s fashion magazines: “You can’t go wrong with GQ.”
A total stylish look doesn’t just apply to clothing, he maintains. “Appearance is not just the visuals, but also the way a person carries themselves,” said Newton. “It’s the hair, manicure, pedicure, their scent, their smell. Anything you can do to bring elegance to yourself, I’m all about. Drakkar is the scent that gives my style that extra kick. I’m always looking for ways to switch up the look, to be relevant. For me, trying to dress to impress has many different facets.”
But he also has an eye on the marketing. “It was said to me that you want to sell to the females…because females buy more fragrances than men do,” Newton said.
The new Drakkar is in the same olfactive family — aromatic fougère — as the original Drakkar by Guy Laroche, the predecessor of Drakkar Noir. But the earlier fragrance was spicier. “When Drakkar launched, it was in the Eighties, and it was more like this idea of conquering and seducing everybody,” said David Suffit, creative fragrance director of Givaudan, whose perfumer, Michel Girard, created the new scent. “Here, it’s more about empowering the person who’s wearing the fragrance, but it’s also more about the self-confidence of wearing the fragrance for yourself. There is something a little more intimate about Drakkar Essence.
“We wanted to do a very contemporary interpretation of the fougère,” he said. “We have this gigantic splash of freshness on the top, with the grapefruit and the spearmint, so it’s very stimulating, very uplifting, very energizing. The back has a very sensual and very modern twist — very sleek, very dry and clean wood, which is very rich and intense. Then there is a lot of white musks.” He added that the heart is “mostly sage and lavender.”
The price points for the eau de toilette range from $48 for a 1.7-oz. bottle to $68 for the 3.4-oz. size to $88 for the 6.8-oz. version.
The original Drakkar is off the market and Drakkar Noir remains in very wide distribution. The fragrance is due to launch throughout the Macy’s chain with a visual week slated to start Aug. 20, then roll out to a full distribution of 1,500 U.S. doors. The launch will be supported with some magazine advertising, but most of the promotional power will come through social media.
The Drakkar brand’s historic ad slogan has always been “Feel the Power.” L’Oréal added a hashtag #showyourpower in a sly reference to Newton’s habit of striking a Superman pose on the playing field after scoring touchdowns. The hashtag will be used for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Vine, where consumers can download pictures of themselves or even videos so they can join in.
Choueiri explained, “We’re going to ask the customers to show either in a picture, in a video, or in a Vine video, so there’s a big, big activation around that to show their own power pose and to show their self-confidence and their happiness.”
Executives declined to discuss sales projections. But industry sources estimate the fragrance could generate about $9 million in sales during its first year on counter.
Surprisingly, for such a young man, philanthropy is important to him. His Cam Newton Foundation is committed to enhancing the lives of young people by addressing their socioeconomic, educational and physical and emotional needs. The foundation’s theme is “Every 1 Matters,” and emphasizes the impact of these three developmental pillars. Through specific areas (Every 1 Gives, Every 1 Learns and Every 1 Plays), the foundation focuses on the need for charity and community-service programs, and aims to make education a priority, in part by helping to eliminate barriers to the learning process. The Cam Newton Foundation also recognizes physical fitness and health as a vital element in youth development.
“I’m from the South, and I come across a lot of teenagers who I meet through my foundation — and I see this over and over again — the kids think it’s cool to wear baggy pants and have somewhat of a macho attitude,” said Newton. “You know, ‘I’m this, I’m tougher than you.’ But I’m trying to empower them. Whether you go to college or not, you’re going to have to get a job. And going to a job interview with your pants sagging — if I’m the boss, the person who comes in dressed more appropriately is going to be who’s going to get that job.”
When the conversation turns to values, Newton observed, “As simple as it seems, a lot of kids do things out of retaliation for them not being heard, like ‘Mom, I want attention.’ Mom’s not there to give them attention. [She] has two or three jobs to keep, a section 8 house and the utility bill to pay. Their father figure is not in their life. Their older brother sells drugs, or may be locked up, their sister is not even in their life.
“I want those moments to have with those kids because I had those moments in my life — and look at me now. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or the situation that you’re in now, it cannot outweigh what you’re expected to be.
“That’s what I preach and teach to these kids. Like, ‘Listen man, what’s the light at the end of your tunnel? What motivates you? Is it money? Is it cars? Is it getting out of the ’hood?’”
Newton then drove home his message: Use your time; don’t smoke or use drugs. “I’m going to read a book every day to build my vernacular so if I do get approached by a coach, I’ll know what to say,” he declared. “I [want to] know some current events. I may not know any rules of soccer, but I know when the World Cup is playing.”