OSCAR TAKES HOME SCENT TO THE MASSES

Byline: Soren Larson

NEW YORK--In 1983, Oscar de la Renta commissioned fragranced candles for use in his home here. He liked the formula so much that he's used it ever since.
Now, after 13 years of sharing it only with guests, the designer has decided to see if his domestic scent has value on the open market. His fragrance licensee, Sanofi Beaute, will launch the Oscar de la Renta Home line in early November, with an eye toward building a substantial addition to the designer's personal fragrance business.
The collection will include City--de la Renta's original scent--along with Holiday, a new fragrance created for sales during the Christmas season. Each variety will be sold in a candle and a room spray.
"A fragrance is such an integral part of a house, a home," said de la Renta. "It enhances the atmosphere of being welcome."
To introduce home fragrance products under his name, he added, is a "natural move. There has always been a major emphasis on my homes as part of my image."
De la Renta is the latest designer to join what is developing into a significant trend. His entry into the home fragrance category will follow new lines this fall from Donna Karan and Calvin Klein, as well as the U.S. introduction of Yves Saint Laurent's candles, which have been sold in Europe since last fall.
Those designers who are expanding their business on the home front have varying goals. While both Klein and Karan expect to add on a small but important sales volume in the $2 million at retail range, YSL's entry is more of an image booster, rather than a bottom-line feeder.
Sanofi, which also distributes the YSL brand, has a more aggressive plan for de la Renta's products, according to Donald Loftus, president and chief executive officer of Sanofi Beaute Inc..
He declined to reveal specific numbers, but according to industry estimates, the designer's fragrances--the signature scent, launched in 1977, and Volupte, launched in 1992--should tally upward of $50 million at wholesale in the U.S. this year, with the older brand doing the bulk of the business.
Home--which will initially be distributed in about 100 doors of Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdale's--could account for around 15 percent of the de la Renta fragrance business in its limited distribution.
That would mean the new line could have sales in the $1 million range in 1997. De la Renta's overall volume is also expected to be boosted substantially by a new personal fragrance due next year.
The environmental brand will be sold at the de la Renta fragrance counter, with some outposting possible in home departments."It's going to provide something new to talk about at our counters, but we think down the line it's going to be a real business in addition to that," Loftus said.
While the home fragrance market has never been the territory of prestige fragrance vendors, Loftus said a combination of the right image and price point can produce a success.
As with YSL's candles, he noted, de la Renta's line will have "very accessible" prices: The candles will be sold for $45 apiece, while the 3.3-oz. room sprays will be $20 each.
The industry's move toward home-oriented fragrances "started with [promotional] candles over the last couple of years," said Jane O'Connor, director general of the de la Renta brand worldwide. "Now it's becoming a real part of the business."
Sanofi has no plans for now to advertise the new brand. The company intends to get the word out by training its beauty advisers and providing testers at counters for prospective shoppers to sample the scents.
"Oscar's name is the selling point for now," said O'Connor.
The City fragrance, created by International Flavors & Fragrances, has initial notes of bergamot, neroli, hyacinth, lilac, rose and geranium, with woody, spicy base notes, including sandalwood, cinnamon leaf and patchouli.
"This is not the usual home fragrance of just powdered flowers or apples and cinnamon," said de la Renta. "It's meant to be sophisticated. It has a richness."
The Holiday scent is also being created by IFF and is nearly complete, according to the company.
The first two will eventually be joined, most likely late next spring, by Country and Island, inspired by de la Renta's homes in Kent, Connecticut, and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The Holiday fragrance might be changed annually, depending on popularity.
"These are three distinctive fragrances for three different environments," said de la Renta, referring to City, Country and Island. "We expect longevity from all of them."
He added: "This can only be truly successful if we can convey to the consumer that this is not just a promotion or a Christmas activity."

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