The flour-bombing incident at a recent launch party for the fragrance True Reflection is just the latest trying episode in what’s been a year of extreme highs and lows for reality star Kim Kardashian that included a storybook wedding and a divorce 72 days later. It’s enough to make anybody want to press the pause button.
This story first appeared in the May 4, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I definitely think I’m in a reflective period in my life, probably more so than any other period,” said Kardashian. That contemplative mood inspired Kardashian and Lighthouse Beauty, her fragrance licensee, to create True Reflection, Kardashian’s fourth fragrance since 2009, and the first to solely target prestige distribution. It will roll out to all Lord & Taylor doors by June, but will officially launch at the retailer’s Manhattan flagship store on Fifth Avenue in the fall.
“True Reflection is something that Kim wanted to do to reflect on her experiences in life, what she’s gone through in the last six to 12 months, which has her thinking and reflecting on the changes in her life,” said Lighthouse Beauty chief executive officer Philip Zellner. “Lord & Taylor is the most upscale marketplace that we’ve taken any of her fragrances to. We are reaching a more mature audience who we believe can really share in Kim’s experiences in reflecting on what she’s gone through.”
If some customers might think it is in poor taste to capitalize on a divorce, Kardashian is clear the perfume isn’t about her split with New Jersey Nets player Kris Humphries specifically. “That is definitely a part of who I am, but that is not what the fragrance is about at all,” she said, adding, “It is about overcoming things and letting your true self come out.”
Fragrance customers remain crazy about Kardashian’s self, true or otherwise. Even after the news of her divorce broke, Zellner recalled that sales of Kardashian’s fragrances, which are estimated by industry sources to generate a combined $50 million annually in retail sales, didn’t dip. “The fans, they just love her,” he said. “No matter what she’s going through, so long as they are true fans, they will continue to support her. At the time when she got divorced, it was right before the holidays. We expected a growth spurt anyway, and it still occurred.”
Kardashian’s audience is so broad that Zellner has devised a two-tier distribution strategy for her fragrance franchise. While her initial fragrance originally entered Sephora, Kardashian fragrances have migrated into the mass market at retailers such as Walgreens, Target and Wal-Mart. The objective for True Reflection is to establish a foothold for Kardashian fragrances at the prestige end of the market. Because its distribution will be limited as a result, the fragrance has been estimated by sources to generate $10 million in sales this year, a fraction of what the other fragrances register at mass retail.
“We really need to treat her fragrances business as twofold. We need to reach the fans who shop at the mass stores, and we need to reach her audience that shops at department stores,” said Zellner. “There will be continued launches geared to her adult, more mature, prestige-shopping audience, as well as in mass.” In addition to Lord & Taylor in the U.S., True Reflection will be sold at department stores and high-end specialty stores in the Middle East, Central and South America and Europe, among other regions. Zellner anticipates 70 to 80 percent of sales being international.
Barbara Zinn-Moore, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of cosmetics, gifts and gourmet at Lord & Taylor, anticipated True Reflection would appeal to a 20-to-40-year-old range of customer who follows fashion trends, reads magazines and, of course, watches reality television shows. But Zinn-Moore was insistent that the Kardashian tie-in wasn’t the reason Lord & Taylor picked up True Reflection. She commended the juice and the packaging. “It happens to be Kim Kardashian, but we brought it in because we thought the product would sell. It doesn’t hurt that it is Kim Kardashian,” she said.
Givaudan perfumer Caroline Sabas concocted the scent with a customer older than Kardashian’s young teen fans in mind. It has bergamot, plum and peach in the opening notes; night-blooming gardenia, chocolate orchid and lotus flower in the middle notes, and textured woods, patchouli and skin musk in the base notes. True Reflection’s packaging is also intended to up the sophistication level of the Kardashian fragrance brand. Its two-toned, faceted bottle, which is housed in a rose-gold box, is designed to resemble a highly polished cut crystal. The eau de parfum will come in 50- and 100-ml. versions for $55 and $68, respectively.
“It’s kind of decadent, playful and seductive all at once. It is warm and embracing. It is a very mature scent,” said Zellner. Kardashian said, “This fragrance is different because it really changes on your body. When you spray it, it keeps on evolving, and you want to keep smelling it to figure out what that really is.”
Lighthouse Beauty is expected to spend roughly $2.5 million on television and print advertising to promote True Reflection. The TV spots were directed by Nigel Dick and produced by Brian Linse, and feature a song by Carolina Liar tailored to the fragrance. They have an Old Hollywood feel and show Kardashian pulling up to a turn-of-the-century mansion in a vintage Corvette convertible, and then walking through the mansion. “In this campaign, I was channeling Elizabeth Taylor,” said Kardashian. “When I was shooting it, her auctions were going up for sale. I was learning more about her. She’s an idol of mine.”
Kardashian, like Taylor, has definitely experienced fame’s downside, but whether it is bad press or being showered in flour by an irate animal-rights activist on the red carpet, she hasn’t let it faze her. Speaking about the flour-bombing incident, which occurred the same night winners of a contest for the non-profit career development organization Dress for Success got a chance to meet Kardashian, she said, “I just kind of live my life and try and be as positive as possible and not really let things like that affect me.” She admitted, however, “You obviously have to take it seriously. I think I was more frustrated with the fact that these women were what the night was about.”
Kardashian doesn’t feel compelled to exit the spotlight anytime soon. There’s no end in sight for the E Entertainment Television show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” The Kardashians have reportedly signed a deal to earn $40 million for three more seasons. “The next season will be a lot more focused on my little sisters. Their careers are becoming busy. They are doing more than their school and cheerleading,” said Kardashian. “They now have jobs outside school,” which might lead them into becoming licensing juggernauts similar to their older Kardashian-Jenner antecedents. For the family as a whole, she concluded, the show’s longevity “depends on how much longer we are having fun doing this, and we are still having fun.”