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PARIS — Carded at the fragrance bar?
This story first appeared in the January 18, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
For the first time in history, showing identification will be obligatory to buy a bottle — of scent.
In the U.S., consumers will have to prove they’re 21 years or older to purchase Tom of Finland, the new men’s fragrance created by the Tom of Finland Foundation and its fragrance licensee — Etat Libre d’Orange. (In other countries, the age cutoff is to be 18.)
The reason the scent, due out starting in the end of February, won’t be accessible to people of all ages is that its outer packaging can be opened to reveal a (sometimes racy) sketch by artist Tom of Finland, a pioneer of hypermasculine gay imagery. In all, seven sketches will be available.
Tom began drawing men in 1953, but only published his art starting in 1969.
“It was almost on the same day as the Stonewall Riots,” said Jean-Claude Magret, the Etat Libre d’Orange executive charged with the development of Tom of Finland. He was referring to a pivotal gay rights moment that took place in New York’s Greenwich Village, when police “raiding” the Stonewall Inn bar were met with resistance that sparked rioting throughout the night.
Since the foundation’s goal is to transmit the heritage of Tom, who died in 1991, it opted to introduce a fragrance for the next generation. And Etat Libre d’Orange — the Paris-based fragrance retailer and manufacturer whose stated aim is to freely create products without taboos — was a natural partner.
The foundation requested the fragrance be concocted so it “does not disturb the odor of men,” explained Etat Libre d’Orange’s founder and chief executive officer, Etienne de Swardt.
With that in mind, Givaudan perfumer Antoine Lie also gleaned inspiration from the outdoor imagery apparent in most of Tom of Finland’s work.
“There is open space and fresh air. I wanted to translate that into fragrance,” said Lie, adding that he also interpreted the metal, leather, sensuality, beauty and radiance of Tom of Finland’s drawings.
Lie envisaged “a guy coming out of a shower. He’s clean, but not fragranced. And he puts on leather pants.”
So the juice he concocted includes a “crumpled leaf” and a suede accord, plus notes of metal, pepperwood, iris, vetiver, tonka bean and musks.
The fragrance comes in the standard bottle from Etat Libre d’Orange and with a black, soft-touch cap. The outer box also was created to be soft to touch, to be reminiscent of leather or latex, according to Jean-Marc Dimanche, ceo of the Vitriol design agency, which helped design the product’s packaging.
The 50-ml. eau de parfum spray is to retail in Europe for 75 euros, or $110 at current exchange. The scent will be launched in the Paris-based Etat Libre d’Orange store, online at etatlibredorange.com and exclusively in the U.K.’s Harvey Nichols at the end of next month. It then will be rolled out in June exclusively in Canada at Holt Renfrew and in the U.S., among other countries.
While Etat Libre d’Orange executives would not discuss figures, industry sources estimate the scent will ring up $734,000 at wholesale this year.
Etat Libre d’Orange has created 17 scents, including the latest, inspired by Rossy de Palma, which was introduced in September. The company, which was kicked off in 2006 and whose products are sold in 150 doors, takes its name (which means Free State of Orange, in English) from a former independent republic in what is now South Africa.
Sources estimate Etat Libre d’Orange generated total net sales of $1.2 million in 2007, and that it will make $1.8 million this year.