Zegna to Launch Fragrance Quintet

Ermenegildo Zegna is aiming to put a decisive point of view on the men’s category with a quintet of scents.

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With his first fragrance project with the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., Ermenegildo Zegna is aiming to put a decisive point of view on the men’s category with a quintet of scents.

This story first appeared in the August 31, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The collection, dubbed Essenze by Ermenegildo Zegna, is set for a December launch at Zegna’s New York City Global and Las Vegas CityCenter outposts and key Zegna doors in Europe, Latin America and Asia, for a total of 15 brick-and-mortar doors, and online at zegna.com. Both Ermenegildo Zegna, chief executive officer of the business which bears his name, and Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, global brand president of Aramis and Designer Fragrances, BeautyBank and Idea Bank at the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., see the collaboration as a watershed moment which will also extend in the future to men’s skin care.

The Aramis and Designer Fragrances division of Lauder acquired the Zegna fragrance license from L’Oréal’s YSL Beauté division in July 2011, and Zegna sees this launch as an opportunity to reintroduce the Zegna name to the beauty world. As well, Zegna noted, the collection also references the high-end men’s Ermenegildo Zegna Couture Collection, known for its luxury positioning and its rigorous quality control. “We have a small [fragrance] business, but it can become very important — not only in fragrance, but in beauty products [such as men’s skin care] in the future,” Zegna said in an exclusive interview with WWD. “I remain positive that this will be a very successful project within the next three to five years. We believe in this business, and we believe in a great collaboration with a family business. Our values are aligned — passion, commitment, vision.”

“For us, [the acquisition] was an important step in the evolution of our fragrance business,” said Gabai-Pinsky. “We’ve worked very diligently to find our own model, which is a model that focuses on and is fully committed to prestige, that focuses on the high end of the category…we need newness in the category, but to also protect the classics, which are the fundamental basis of everything we do. The way that we look at our business model is establishing relationships for the long term, from an equity and brand-building standpoint. When you look at the future, you see how important this collaboration becomes. Over the next three years, we want to develop and expand the business and become an engine of growth for the corporation. To do that, we needed to accelerate some of our existing brands, and bring in new brands that would help us gain scale in the segment and areas of the world that are very important for us. Men’s is a very important piece of the business today; it’s 40 percent of the fragrance business, and we hardly play in it.”

That will change, she emphasized, with the Zegna scents. “We didn’t want to play in a masstige way,” said Gabai-Pinsky. “We wanted to play in a luxury way, and we want to expand in Europe and emerging markets. We fully expect this business to become one of the biggest in our portfolio.”

Gabai-Pinsky said she sees “a multitier distribution strategy” for the overall Zegna fragrance and grooming business. “We will start with the equivalent of couture, Essenze, because we want to establish the brand in its positioning and understanding,” said Gabai-Pinsky, noting that the brand will also offer a service where customers can work with perfumers to create their own unique scent (with an accompanying huge price tag, that is, which Gabai-Pinsky declined to elaborate on). Existing scents Z Zegna and Zegna Intenso are more widely distributed — to 12,000 worldwide, to department and specialty stores such as Sephora, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, she noted.

In April 2013, the Essenze collection will roll out to Zegna boutiques in Beverly Hills; Chicago; Boston; Atlanta; Manhasset, N.Y.; Bal Harbour, Fla.; Short Hills, N.J.; Costa Mesa, Calif., and The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas in the U.S. and additional global doors for about 70 to 100 stores globally within the first 12 months, with travel retail expected to be in the mix. Eventually, worldwide distribution could reach 500 doors, including additional and future freestanding Zegna stores.

Firmenich’s Pierre Negrin, Frank Voelkl, Harry Fremont and Jacques Cavallier worked with Zegna and Trudi Loren, vice president of corporate fragrance development worldwide for the Estée Lauder Cos., to concoct the Essenze scents, which share one common ingredient, Calabrian bergamot, which is used in varying strengths in each formula. Zegna owns the bergamot harvest used in this collection.

“Searching for the best raw materials is in our DNA,” said Zegna. As such, each fragrance is intended to showcase a signature raw material. Italian Bergamot, the collection’s lead scent, features Calabrian bergamot oil surrounded by neroli, rosemary and vetiver. Sicilian Mandarin features mandarin with notes of bergamot, spearmint, petitgrain and moss. Javanese Patchouli highlights patchouli, combined with bergamot, pink pepper, tonka bean and cedar wood. Indonesian Oud is built around rare oud wood, with notes of rose, amber, patchouli and bergamot. Florentine Iris blends three different iris notes, paired with bergamot, jasmine, violet and musk. The rare nature of the scents will be called out in packaging inserts and in store. Additional scents are expected to join the collection going forward.

Each scent will retail for $195 for a 4.2-oz. bottle. Glass bottles feature a fabric label with a corresponding colored border that reflects the key notes in each scent.

While executives declined comment on projected sales, industry sources estimated that the collection could do upwards of $5 million at retail globally in its first year on counter. Industry sources estimated that within three years, the total Zegna beauty universe could generate sales of $200 million at retail.

Zegna remains a men’s-only apparel brand and that won’t be changing in the foreseeable future, he said. Currently, it is an approximately 1.13 billion euro, or $1.41 billion at current exchange, business that is two-thirds retail and one-third wholesale, he said. “Today, Asia is about 50 percent of the business and is a 100 percent retail business,” Zegna noted, naming Japan and China — the latter of which Zegna entered in 1991 — as bright spots. Two-thirds of the 557 Zegna stores (the corporation owns 311 of the Zegna stores) are in Asia. In total, Zegna products can be found in about 1,000 points of sale globally. The U.S. business — which, like Europe, is 50 percent retail and 50 percent wholesale — continues to gain steam, Zegna added. Overall, 50 percent of Zegna’s business is done in Asia, with the Americas accounting for 20 percent and Europe 30 percent of overall sales.

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