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Tom Ford doesn’t believe in wasting time, and right now the focus is on his new women’s fragrance White Patchouli, due in September, and the men’s wear shop he will open in Milan on Monday.
This story first appeared in the June 20, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The designer said the 10,000-square-foot, six-floor Milan space is “cleaner, sharper, more angular and maybe a little more contemporary” than its New York counterpart. “I want each store to reflect the context of the city in which it is,” said Ford by telephone from Milan. “The New York store is very intimate, but the Milan space gives us space to display everything. In Milan, we have a floor for suitings, a floor for sportswear, a floor for leather goods, a ground-floor perfumery.”
So is he saving room for women’s wear in the Milan location? “Not yet,” said Ford. “Logistically, I don’t think I could take that on right now. I have to find a niche to give women what they don’t already have. Once I figure that out and get the men’s distribution exactly where I want it, I will return to it. That’s probably at least two or three years from now.”
Distribution plans for White Patchouli, from the Tom Ford Fragrances division of the Estée Lauder Cos., include additional Tom Ford stores slated to open this year, including doors in Moscow and Kuwait this fall. By yearend, there will be 18 freestanding Tom Ford stores. The designer — who has also recently opened shops-in-shops in Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Zurich’s Trois Pommes, São Paulo, Brazil’s Daslu and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong — eventually aims to have 100 freestanding Tom Ford stores.
Beginning with the Milan store opening, Ford will create a Private Blend fragrance in honor of each new freestanding store opening. Each scent will be formulated with the city in question in mind, and will be exclusive to the designated store for six months before permanently joining Ford’s Private Blend fragrance lineup, which currently consists of 12 unisex scents.
The Milan fragrance is called Italian Cypress — “It’s a very Seventies’ gentlemen’s fragrance, the kind that you don’t encounter very much anymore,” Ford said. The Kuwait fragrance, due out with the store in September, is called Arabian Wood.
The success of the Private Blend collection has been “a happy surprise,” said John Demsey, group president of the Estée Lauder Cos., who oversees Ford’s fragrance brand. “Originally Private Blend was a positioning tool, but it has turned out to be a modern-day fragrance house.
“Private Blend is today in about 40 points of distribution and is probably the most successful hyperluxury scent brand out there,” continued Demsey, noting that top doors include Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, France’s Galeries Lafayette, Italy’s Rinascente, Britain’s Selfridges and Harrods and Germany’s KaDeWe. Over the next 12 months, the fragrance will enter an additional 30 points of sale, said Demsey. Industry sources estimated that the Private Blend collection would do upward of $25 million at retail globally in the next 12 months.
White Patchouli was formulated by the designer in cooperation with Givaudan, and is seen as a counterpart to his other women’s scent, Black Orchid. “For this project, I wanted to reinvent patchouli,” said Ford. “I loved the idea of mixing patchouli with white florals. We used patchouli orpur, which takes out some of the darker, smoky notes of patchouli. We mixed that with peony, bergamot and jasmine.” Additional notes include rose, coriander and ambrette seed.
The white glass bottle reflects the fragrance name — “Black Orchid, black bottle; White Patchouli, white bottle,” he said. “This is a different bottle and a different mold, but it has the same ribbed glass as Black Orchid.” Eaux de parfum in three sizes will be sold: 1 oz. for $60, 1.7 oz. for $92 and 3.4 oz. for $138. A scented body lotion will also be offered and will sell for $45 for 5 oz.
In the U.S., White Patchouli will have a one-month exclusive in Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue’s New York flagship before rolling out to wider distribution in October. At full rollout in the U.S., White Patchouli will be available in some 400 specialty stores and an additional 2,300 doors globally. While Ford and Demsey declined to discuss sales projections, industry sources estimated that White Patchouli could do upward of $20 million at retail globally in its first year on counter.
The black-and-white ad, shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, features singer Erykah Badu and will break in September in U.S. fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines. “I wanted to continue with that stylized, glossy image [which the designer started with his Black Orchid fragrance ads in 2006],” said Ford. “And not too many people are doing black-and-white ads right now, which was also a consideration.”
Industry sources estimated White Patchouli’s advertising and promotional budget would top $8 million.
Ford is continuing to work on men’s grooming and women’s color cosmetics, as well as a new fragrance called Champaca Absolute, which is expected to join the Private Blend lineup.
Any personal appearances in the near future? That earns an immediate “no” from the designer. “I need to settle down and design,” he said with a laugh. “I’ll be working all summer — but I’ll be in L.A. most of the time, and it will be nice to be in one city in July and August. I’ll also try to get away to Santa Fe to the ranch. But after this, I’m not talking to the press until September.”