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When Valentino signed a fragrance licensing agreement with Barcelona-based Puig in 2010, the fashion house was in transition. Creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli had arrived less than two years prior, and they were developing the brand’s identity for a new generation of customers. It was essential to match the fragrances with the fashion.
But Valentino’s first foray into the beauty business dates back to the late Seventies — just after Yves Saint Laurent launched its spicy Opium perfume.
“I will always be criticized for my extremely glamorous fashion,” Valentino Garavani said in a 1978 WWD interview. That year, he and Giancarlo Giammetti invited hundreds of guests — including Lauren Bacall, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin — to the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées for a performance by Roland Petit’s ballet starring Mikhail Baryshnikov, and gave away about 1,000 bottles of that first fragrance, Valentino di Valentino, to the crowd.
Over the next four months, the eau de toilette hit stores throughout Europe and reached New York in spring 1979.
Throughout the Eighties and Nineties, the brand worked with Unilever, relaunching the original scent in 1986 and introducing others such as Very Vendetta and Vendetta Pour Homme in 1993, and Very Valentino and Very Valentino for Men in 1997. A TV ad featuring South African model Georgina Grenville, who used the tag line “I’m feeling very Valentino,” complemented a print campaign shot by Steven Meisel.
In 2002, Valentino Gold hit the market. Gabriele Pungerscheg, then president of Unilever Cosmetics International’s European designer fragrances division, told WWD the fragrance was aimed at “women who are looking for a little luxury, who are buying into the Valentino world.”
A year later, Valentino transferred its fragrance license to Procter & Gamble, which promptly revealed plans to expand and bring beauty sales from 10 to 15 percent of the house’s total volume to 30 or 40 percent. Michele Norsa, chief executive officer of the fashion company at the time, spoke of the need to seduce a new generation of customers.
P&G’s first Valentino fragrance, V, was aimed at women who “want to have it all,” said Markus Strobel, then-general manager of prestige products and fine fragrances. To keep the brand’s positioning high, V was priced 15 percent above the brand’s other scents.
In 2005 came V Absolu, a more concentrated version of V, and in 2006 V Pour Homme made its debut with a sexy ad campaign featuring Eric Balfour shot by Steven Klein. In 2007, Rock ’n’ Rose targeted women discovering the Valentino label for the first time.
“The last couple of years have signaled a lot of change and growth for the brand,” Strobel said at the time. “We’ve rejuvenated the portfolio with Rock ’n’ Rose to try to reach a new Valentino customer.”
He reported sevenfold growth for the brand’s fragrance business over four years.
Rock ’n’ Rose Couture arrived in time for Valentino’s 45th anniversary that year. P&G remained the house’s licensee when Valentino retired and Chiuri and Piccioli became creative directors in 2008.
With Valentino rapidly evolving, however, ceo Stefano Sassi — who joined the company in 2006 — Chiuri and Piccioli felt it was time to find a new partner. Industry sources also suggested that Valentino was a smaller company than P&G’s other licensees, and as such it needed more one-on-one attention.
In January 2010, Valentino signed a long-term licensing agreement with Puig that went into effect in February 2011.
“Although we’re talking about a large-scale product, we feel Puig is strongly committed toward the development of the product, favoring intuition and creativity over marketing,” Sassi told WWD at the time.
From the outset, the idea was to align Valentino’s scent business with its fashion activity, explained José Manuel Albesa, chief brand officer at Puig. He said it was important to work closely with Chiuri and Piccioli and “to extract the DNA” of the brand to project it in the world of fragrance.
Adjectives he used to describe Valentino included “contemporary,” “unconventional,” “feminine,” “elegant” and “sophisticated.”
Puig opted to discontinue Valentino’s older fragrances, and September 2011 marked the arrival of Valentina, the first Valentino scent developed under Chiuri and Piccioli’s creative direction. Conceived by Firmenich’s Olivier Cresp and Alberto Morillas, the eau de parfum contains Calabrian bergamot, white Alba truffles, jasmine and Amalfi orange blossom, among other ingredients, and comes in a gently rounded bottle embellished with roses in ivory, nude and white, in a nod to the house’s fashion collections.
The Valentina campaign features Freja Beha Erichsen, a frequent pick for Valentino’s fashion ads, as a young aristocrat skipping her parents’ party at a palazzo in favor of a night on the town with friends. Rome — the birthplace of the Valentino label, Chiuri and Piccioli — was its inspiration. Also at the fore was today’s trendsetting, young generation of jet-setters, such as Sofia Coppola and Bianca Brandolini d’Adda.
The Valentina line has recently been extended with Valentina Assoluto, a chypre scent that will hit U.S. counters by April 2013.
“It’s more haute couture,” explained Albesa.
The new fragrance’s advertisement was shot in Rome, too, and shows Erichsen preparing for an evening out.
Today, Valentino has managed to attract the young consumers the company had been courting for years without losing the glamour its founder made famous.
Puig executives would not divulge numbers, but industry sources estimate Valentino’s fragrance business will generate more than 100 million euros, or $129.3 million at current exchange, in retail sales worldwide this year.
Its main markets are the U.S., Italy, the Middle East, Spain, the Asia-Pacific region and Russia, according to Albesa. Elsewhere in Europe, key countries include France, the U.K. and Germany.
“We are performing extremely well in all of them and see a lot of potential,” he said. “This is just the first chapter of a long-term adventure.”
Next up for the Valentina franchise is an offer slated for a 2013 launch. A men’s fragrance will also be explored.
“It is interesting what Pierpaolo and Maria Grazia are injecting into the men’s fashion arena,” said Albesa, “so for sure, our fragrances will follow their vision [for men] in the years to come.”