By  on February 19, 2010

PARIS — With his latest fragrance, Serge Lutens is making a clean break with his past. Lutens bills L’Eau Serge Lutens — a scent for women and men — as “the antiperfume.”

He began working on the project about 15 years ago and then abandoned it 12 months later. “I took it up again six or seven years after,” he said, adding he worked on the fragrance a few times and then, all at once, it came together. “It became a matter of great urgency, and from that moment, I have the impression that what I wanted was very clear.

“I wanted something that is fresh, that maintains the freshness, which evokes water and does not smell like cologne,” explained Lutens, adding he cannot bear eau de cologne. Lutens said the freshness in the new scent is meant to give the idea of the comfort of cleanliness one gets from bathing.

“For me, that is a form of total luxury, to be clean, to smell clean and slip into a white shirt. The purest thing in the world is a white shirt,” he said. Lutens also conjured up the image of a breath of fresh air and sleeping on a clean pillowcase.

“It is a luxury,” he said. “I want to capture this [passing sensation and] odor and prolong it.”

Lutens refers to fragrance as “a succession of accords.

“I wanted to reconstruct the marvelous odor of ironing,” continued Lutens. To this end, he mixed L’Eau Serge Lutens’ juice to contain a note of clary sage, among other ingredients.

For the new fragrance’s name, Lutens opted to include his own moniker to associate it with a rupture from his past. “L’Eau,” he said, is simple.

L’Eau Serge Lutens, an eau de parfum, comes in an upright rectangular spray bottle that retails in France for 100 euros, or $135.70 at current exchange.

Lutens photographed the scent’s advertising featuring the flacon.

Serge Lutens brand executives would not discuss sales projections, but industry sources estimate L’Eau Serge Lutens will generate 10 million euros, or $13.6 million, in first-year retail sales worldwide.

L’Eau Serge Lutens was introduced in Paris’ Les Salons du Palais Royal boutique on Feb. 1 and since then, approximately 100 bottles have been sold there. Starting Feb. 15, the fragrance was launched on the brand’s Web site, in Paris’ Sephora flagship, the U.K.’s Selfridges and Brussels’ Senteurs d’Ailleurs. Then, starting March 1, it will be rolled out to 29 markets, including elsewhere in Europe, Asia and the Americas. In the U.S., L’Eau Serge Lutens is to be carried in retailers such as Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.

Lutens thinks he’ll continue adding to the fragrance family begun with L’Eau Serge Lutens, but he won’t stop creating the more oriental scents for which he’s also known.

Lutens explained there have been other major fragrance turning points in his career, such as Nombre Noir, from 1982. “These ruptures are at a given moment absolutely necessary if I don’t want to collapse, fall — if you will — in a cliché of myself and finish dying of boredom,” he said. “I don’t want to lock myself in.”

L’Eau Serge Lutens marks a new chapter in Lutens’ history. “It is a white page I must turn again once more,” he said.

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