After more than three years of working to restore the luster of the Oscar de la Renta fragrance business, the design house has signed a multiyear global licensing pact, as well as the sale of certain assets, in a deal with Inter Parfums USA LLC, a subsidiary of Inter Parfums Inc.
This story first appeared in the October 18, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The acquisition is expected to be completed by Dec. 2, when Inter Parfums will take over production and distribution of de la Renta’s fragrances. The agreement covers cosmetics as well as scent.
Spearheaded by Alex Bolen, Oscar de la Renta’s chief executive officer, the fashion company wrested control of its beauty license from L’Oréal through court arbitration at the end of 2009. The design house contended that the fragrance business had been allowed to deteriorate to the point where it was casting a pall over de la Renta’s other businesses. With de la Renta himself involved in guiding the project, the group launched a restoration campaign by cleaning up the business and then introducing new scents, such as the Esprit d’Oscar eau de parfum; a new women’s brand, Live in Love; the Essential Luxuries limited-edition scents, and Something Blue, which has a wedding orientation. These initiatives were launched in the shadow of the landmark 1977 Oscar fragrance, which is still operating.
While none of the parties would discuss terms of the deal, industry sources calculate that the house has tripled the size of the fragrance business since the 2009 takeover. The business, calculated in retail sales dollars, is approaching $100 million, according to industry sources.
In an interview, Bolen said the Oscar fragrance business had been in a sorry state when the house reclaimed ownership. “We had been thrown out of Saks, we had been thrown out of Neiman’s and we had mostly been thrown out of Macy’s,’’ Bolen said. “The business was limping along.” He added that those relationships have been repaired and the company is ready “to really expand sales aggressively. We can achieve our goals a lot more quickly by partnering with Inter Parfums. They can put gas in our machine.”
Bolen mentioned that Michele de Bourbon, senior vice president of fragrance sales and marketing, will interface with Inter Parfums after it takes over de la Renta’s existing fragrance business. The designer himself will also be involved.
Reached in Saint-Tropez where he was preparing his executive management team of 30 for the annual duty-free conference in nearby Cannes, France, Jean Madar, chairman and ceo of Inter Parfums Inc., described the acquisition of the Oscar franchise as “a fantastic opportunity.” He said it was a potent combination of “a legendary name with and iconic fragrance.” The original Oscar fragrance was not the first American designer fragrance but it was first to gain dominant stature. Madar said he was excited about de la Renta’s high recognition in North and South America, combined with Inter Parfums’ penetration into Asia, where it does 23 percent of its sales. Madar pointed to his company’s track record in building up other venerable designer names, such as Lanvin. Inter Parfums acquired that brand seven years ago and its fragrance sales now total nearly $100 million. “We want to leverage all of our possibilities to help Oscar reach the next level,” Madar said.
He added that there are plans to launch a new de la Renta women’s fragrance next year. Inter Parfums also plans to take over de la Renta’s recently announced amenities line with the Peninsula Hotel chain as part of a new in-house division.
The deal was put together within the last month by Financo Inc., which earlier this year had brokered the Inter Parfums purchase of the Agent Provocateur fragrance license. “This license is a win-win for both parties,” said Gilbert Harrison, chairman of Financo. “Inter Parfums has plans to grow the Oscar business. They know luxury fragrance as well as anyone in the business and have excellent marketing abilities.”
Inter Parfums has been on an acquisition march since Burberry bought back its fragrance license, which had been the biggest piston in the Inter Parfums portfolio. Madar pointed out that in the last eight months, Inter Parfums has not only acquired licenses for Agent Provocateur but also Shanghai Tang and Dunhill. He mentioned that Anna Sui, Montblanc and Lanvin are all growing at more than 20 percent a year, and predicted that within three years, Inter Parfums will easily make up for the loss of the Burberry business. “We are very comfortable,” he stated.