By  on June 12, 2009

LONDON — Tom Ford has seen the light.

The designer, known for his sultry take on style, will show a softer side starting in September with the launch of the four-fragrance White Musk Collection.

Riffing on musk notes, the collection is to be part of Ford’s Private Blend lineup of scents. “I thought I should create something decidedly feminine, something lighter in both color and scent,” said Ford, adding his Private Blend line of unisex fragrances was originally conceived with his men’s store design in mind.

“The men’s stores are dark and luxurious. [When creating the White Musk Collection] I was in the mood for something lighter and a little fresher. In the world today, we’re all in the mood for something simple, fresh, light and a little less heavy. At least that’s what I’m in the mood for,” Ford said.

“This is his ‘white period,’” added Diana Waldron, vice president of global marketing for Tom Ford Beauty, adding the White Musk Collection is intended to appeal to men as well as women. “[Ford] felt a need and a creative desire to look at the musk category. There’s been nothing new there in a long time.”

White Musk Collection’s packaging is intended to reiterate Ford’s penchant for a lighter aesthetic. The requisite Private Blend bottles are made with clear glass and topped with white lids, rather than the dark glass and caps used for the line’s existing scents.

“I wanted [the brand] to be perceived more as a fragrance house than as designer fragrances,” said Ford of his decision to tweak Private Blend’s existing flacons for the White Musk Collection. “I was careful to choose a bottle architecture that would create a unified statement.”

While Ford honed in on musk as the linchpin of the collection, he also aimed to offer a varied take on the theme. “Musk is an ingredient I’ve loved for a long time,” he said, adding the note was in vogue in the Seventies. “When mixed with other ingredients, it gives another tone that’s animalic; there’s warmth and a sensuality that’s like skin. I think it makes things smell more human.”

While he still perceives gender differentiation for fragrance ingredients as futile, Ford allowed the White Musk Collection plays with a female-oriented fragrance palette.

“We were working with ingredients considered classically feminine,” he said, adding in the Victorian era, violet was considered a classic for men, whereas now it is generally pegged as a feminine note. “A lot of that is fashion.”

Waldron noted that Black Orchid, Ford’s first women’s fragrance that bowed in 2006, has a 30 percent male customer base. Jasmine Musk, which Ford sports from the new collection, comprises notes of ylang-ylang, jasmine, patchouli, orris, vanilla, sandalwood, vetiver, cistus and amber, as well as two musks. Urban Musk comprises ambrette seed absolute extra, white pepper CO2, notes of cumin, white honey, jasmine sambac, black plum, Tonkin musk headspace and benzoin Laos orpur. Musk Pure has notes of bergamot, pepper, ylang-ylang orpur, jasmine, lily of the valley, orris butter, orris absolute, jasmine sambac, tonka, benzoin tears and Laotian beeswax. White Suede has notes of Bulgarian rose, saffron, thyme, mate tea, olibanum, lily of the valley, amber, suede and sandalwood. Givaudan perfumers worked with Ford on all of the scents except White Suede, which was developed with Firmenich.

The eaux de parfum will be available alongside the existing Private Blend line in 50-ml. spray bottles priced at $180 in the U.S. The line will hit shelves in North America in September and will roll out internationally starting in November.

While Waldron declined to reveal projections, industry sources estimate the White Musk Collection will generate first-year retail sales of $5 million to $8 million. Those sources estimate Private Blend’s annual revenues are in the region of $25 million.

“Given the global economy and what’s happened to luxury in general, the business has been doing outstandingly well — particularly Private Blend,” Waldron said. “It has grown unbelievably.”

Private Blend is sold in 55 doors globally, but that door count will grow to at least 100 by the end of 2010. Ford’s more mainstream fragrances, including Black Orchid, are distributed through about 2,100 doors worldwide.

The designer has also cooked up a men’s scent, dubbed Grey Vetiver, which will bow in September. Also set to debut in the fall is Ford’s first film, “A Single Man.”

“The filming experience was amazing,” he said, explaining he’d like to do a movie every two or three years. “As a designer, it’s the ultimate experience as you’re not just designing the clothes [the characters] are wearing, you’re designing their lives, what they do and what they say. You design a complete world.”

While structuring his celluloid universe, Ford recounted he partook in interim design fittings using iChat.

“I love being in both worlds,” he said, adding, while he doesn’t have concrete plans as yet, he may consider a return to designing women’s wear.

Like White Musk, Ford’s filmic debut will apparently reveal his softer side. “It’s different to what people think of me. It’s very romantic,” he said. “There’s no sex in my movie — a few kisses and that’s it.”

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