Kimora Simmons Dares the Beauty Industry

Kimora Simmons launching her fifth scent, called Dare Me, this month.

View Slideshow

Kimora Lee Simmons is ready to give the beauty industry a dare.

This story first appeared in the April 2, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“This scent is meant to be a call to action — I am challenging everyone to be bold, inspired and intelligent,” said Simmons of Dare Me, which is rolling out this month in mass market distribution.

The juice is Simmons’ fifth fragrance — Goddess, Golden Goddess, Seductive Goddess and Fabulosity preceded Dare Me — and she couldn’t be more excited. “I’m a perfumista,” she said with a laugh during a Wednesday phone interview. “I’m not a chick with her first fragrance — that was years ago!”

But she turned serious when talking about what it takes to be successful in the fragrance market these days.

“The market has gone far past slapping any name on a bottle, especially in this economy,” she said. “I think it’s important to give the customers so much more. You have to have your story, and that’s created by your passion. You can’t just be the next whatever. You have to immerse yourself in the culture of what you’re trying to put out there. And this message with this fragrance is empowerment and self-reliance, not to mention a great fragrance and gorgeous bottle. I am trying to do a lot of those things in that one little bottle.”

The scent, done with Givaudan, has top notes of magnolia and island coconut, a heart of audacious Southern honeysuckle and African white milkwood and a drydown of creme de musk and sandalwood. “It’s fruity, but not overly fruity,” said Simmons. “It’s got a little fruit and floral with coconut — it’s very girly and sexy and spring-summery.”

Dare Me will be available in about 18,000 mass market doors, including Walgreens, Target and Kohl’s. It is expected to appeal most strongly to women from 16 to 24 years of age, noted Steve Mormoris, senior vice president of global marketing at Coty Beauty.

Dare Me marks the first time that one of Simmons’ fragrances will launch directly in the mass market (others have ended up there after launching in prestige distribution), and she’s enthusiastic.

“These price points will allow many more people to experience my fragrance, to try it out,” she said. “And I love that the smallest sizes are going to not only be accessible pricewise, but easy to carry everywhere. I love the idea of bringing people back for more.” Added Marsha Brooks, vice president of marketing, fragrances, for Coty Beauty, “We wanted to go where the younger customers are, and that is not department stores.”

Three eaux de toilette will be sold: a travel size, $12.99; a 15 ml., $17, and a 1 oz., $28. The scent’s bottle is hot pink with a jeweled cap and metallic gold details. Outer cartons are of hot pink with the signature Baby Phat cat emblem, embossed gold graphics and inspirational messages from Kimora. “We think consumers in mass will respond very positively to this scent — both to the juice and to the pricing,” said Mormoris.

National print advertising, featuring Simmons and shot by Alexi Lubomirski, will begin running in June fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines, and personal appearances in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta are planned, said Simmons.

While Simmons and Coty executives declined to discuss sales projections, industry sources estimated that Dare Me would do about $10 million at retail globally in its first year on counter, and that about $4 million would be spent on advertising and promotion globally in that same period.

Simmons has also begun tweeting about the scent (“I’m totally addicted to Twitter!” she said) and is featuring the scent’s development process on her Style network reality show, “Life in the Fab Lane,” which started its third season on March 28. “Everything now is about cross-promotion,” she said. “Also, consumers love to get in on the process of how the fragrances are developed, how they’re promoted. And when they see that, they will know it isn’t as easy as it may sound.”

She also admits to admiring Elizabeth Taylor’s long-running success in fragrance. “She’s always been able to reach her audience — everything is glamorous but attainable,” Simmons said. “That’s my goal with my fragrances.” She is at work on a sixth fragrance, although she declined to discuss details.

Now bicoastal, Simmons maintains homes in New Jersey and Los Angeles, where she lives with partner Djimon Hounsou, their son Kenzo, and her daughters with Russell Simmons, Aoki Lee and Ming Lee.

View Slideshow