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Rihanna’s Romance With Scent

Parlux Fragrances Inc. is about to unveil its long-awaited first women’s fragrance by the singer.

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Parlux Fragrances Inc. is about to unveil its long-awaited first women’s fragrance by Rihanna.

This story first appeared in the January 7, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Called Reb’l Fleur, the fragrance’s name refers to a nickname that her grandmother in Barbados used to address the future superstar. It also is the latest tattoo — her 14th — to adorn Rihanna’s closely watched body, an addition that aroused curiosity among her fans.

The prospect of the fragrance launch itself has heightened expectations at Parlux, where chairman and chief executive officer Fred Purches hopes Rihanna will provide a third pillar of strength to his business, along with Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson. “We need a third,” he said.

Purches declined to discuss figures, but industry sources estimate that the fragrance could be generating $25 million in retail sales after 15 months and ultimately achieve a peak of $50 million at retail.

It will be launched on Jan. 25 with a visual week at Macy’s in nearly 500 doors in the chain. The U.S. distribution will swell to 1,600 to 2,000 doors, mostly department stores. Within three months, distribution is expected to spread overseas.

Befitting Rihanna’s heavyweight image, this project is expected to make an impact in several respects, beginning with the juice. “This is not a shrinking violet kind of fragrance,” said Kathleen Galvin, vice president of marketing and advertising.

Rihanna, who has had a habit over the years of blending fragrances together to concoct her own signature scent, is said to have been more involved than most celebrities in the creation of the formula, which is a fruity chypre. Developed by Caroline Sabas and Marypierre Julien of Givaudan, the structure has red berries, purple plum and peach. At the heart are Hawaiian hibiscus flower, violet, tuberose and coconut water. The base is formed by vanilla, patchouli, amber and musk.

The singer is said to have wanted a scent that reflected her roots in Barbados and life in New York and Los Angeles — “like high heels with a short, flirty dress,” she reportedly described it.

The promotional plans appear to be even more striking. The sight of Rihanna will be seen lounging from billboards via an image shot by Anthony Madler. According to executives, the ad will be plastered on billboards in New York, Los Angeles and possibly San Francisco. Purches noted, “We will have this in Times Square in time for Valentine’s Day.”

But the primary action will be on the Web and in movie theaters. The company shot a 30-second video of the star that it hopes will go viral across the Internet, via a launch pad like Facebook. Parlux also will use the video footage for a commercial that will be shown in theaters. Galvin said a deal has been made to show it on 1,900 screens over a seven-week period, with an estimated viewership of 18 million people.

Parlux refused to discuss budgets, but industry sources estimate that $1.5 million was spent on making the video and renting the screen time.

In addition, the company plans to sample the fragrance heavily by handing out 500,000 pieces and discussions are under way over plans for Rihanna to make an appearance in Macy’s in Los Angeles on Feb. 18, although that proposal has not been confirmed.

As part of the promotional attack in department stores, Parlux will offer consumers a clutch bag as a gift-with-purchase promotion.

As for price points, a 1.7-oz. eau de parfum will retail for a suggested $49, the 3.4-oz. size will be priced $59 and a 6.7-oz. body lotion will be $30.

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