NEW YORK — The newest Marc Jacobs fragrance, Blush, represents two sides of one grand strategy: the designer’s desire for continuing credibility in the fragrance market and Coty chief executive Bernd Beetz’s goal of creating global power brands.

Few designers are hotter than Jacobs, a fact his fragrance licensee, Lancaster, is well aware of. While it’s been barely a year since Lancaster — beauty giant Coty’s prestige arm — acquired the Jacobs scent license from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the company has wasted no time adding new elements to the business. Lancaster launched a flanker, Essence, to Jacobs’ first beauty brand less than six months after purchasing the license last May, and immediately began work on the scent that would become Jacobs’ second brand, Blush, coming this fall.

It also looks like Lancaster could be considering taking the Jacobs allure into other beauty categories: The new fragrance will launch with a limited-edition color cosmetics palette that includes blush-pink lip gloss, clear mascara and a pink-nude sparkle powder, retailing for $60. Jacobs isn’t opposed to the idea.“I love working on new things,” he said. “I wouldn’t be opposed to doing a makeup line.”

But for now, the designer is focused on his fragrances. He noted during an interview at his Spring Street showroom here this week that a bit of perfectionism had crept into Blush’s development process: “I torture myself a little, going back and forth with everything,” he admitted, adding he had learned a great deal from the first fragrance’s development process. “It’s hard to get to that level of credibility [where you want to be as a designer in the fragrance world]. But we’ve done it twice: with the first fragrance, and I believe very strongly that we’ve done that with the new one, Blush.”

Catherine Walsh, senior vice president of cosmetics and American licenses for Lancaster Group U.S. and Coty SA, agreed, adding that “the whole development flowed in a nice way — it was a great collaboration.”

Like his first fragrance, the eponymous Marc Jacobs Perfume, Blush was born of Jacobs’ affinity for florals. While his first effort was a bouquet of gardenias, his second threads jasmine through its top note and heart, anchoring it with a hint of woods and musk in the drydown. When working on Blush’s development, Jacobs said he was inspired by the jasmine that grows outside his apartment in Paris, where he lives for most of the year designing the Louis Vuitton collection. “When the windows are open, the scent just wafts in,” he said. “I wanted a fragrance that smelled like that — not overbearing, but unobtrusive, like the impression of a flower.”His ultimate aim with Blush was to create a fragrance that “becomes a part of a person, not just a layer or a coating [on the skin]. Sort of a perfume for a non-perfume person. I wanted to capture a feminine emotion — a woman who has a knowing blush, who is beautiful and seductive.”

Robert Duffy, Jacobs’ business partner, concurred, calling the final result “fresh and clean.”

Building the Jacobs portfolio is a key part of a strategy Coty ceo Beetz has made no secret of — his desire to conquer the U.S. fragrance market, as well as to create global power brands. Beetz has, over the past few years, not only acquired Jacobs’ license but also those of Kenneth Cole and Jennifer Lopez, in an effort to further that goal. Prior to these acquisitions, Lancaster’s business in the U.S. was primarily driven by the Davidoff Cool Water masterbrand, with other European brands — including Jil Sander, Joop and Vivienne Westwood — rounding out the mix.

To achieve that goal, Walsh noted she and her team are taking a different tack to build Blush in the U.S. Rather than taking the scent into the 1,300 doors that currently carry Marc Jacobs Perfume, Lancaster is keeping Blush’s rollout to just under 300 U.S. specialty and department store doors. It will be in those doors in September, and shortly thereafter will be rolled out to a portion of Lancaster’s global distribution, including the U.K., Asia, Australia, France, Germany and travel-retail doors. The remainder of Lancaster’s global doors will get the scent next spring, she said. Blush will also be a part of Jacobs’ spring 2005 ready-to-wear show in September, with a benefit after-party showcasing the fragrance, as well as a part of Jacobs’ upcoming store openings in Boston and Los Angeles.

The juice, formulated by Steve De Mercado of Fragrance Resources, opens with jasmine nectar, jasmine fresh air accord and Italian bergamot. Its heart is of star jasmine, Japanese honeysuckle, jasmine breeze accord, pink freesia and orange flower, while the drydown is of pink musk, cashmere wood and sandalwood. The scent’s bottle, manufactured by Pochet and designed in-house by Lancaster’s Chad Levigne, is a rectangle of pale peach glass topped with a sleek silver cap.The Blush collection will comprise seven stockkeeping units: eau de parfum in two sizes, 1.7 oz. for $65 and 3.4 oz. for $85; a 0.5-oz. perfume, $250; a 6.7-oz. body lotion, $50; a 6.7-oz. shower gel, $45, and a 10-oz. body cream, $80, as well as the limited-edition color set for $60.

While Coty declined to comment on projected first-year sales or advertising budgets, industry sources estimated Blush would do upward of $20 million at retail globally, with at least half of that in the U.S., and that about $10 million would be spent on advertising and promotional efforts in the U.S.

Print advertising, art directed by Olivier Van Doorne and photographed by David Sims, features Guinevere, a model and friend of Jacobs’ who frequently appears in his runway shows. “I’m fascinated by her face,” said Jacobs. “Her beauty is captivating — and I like the person she is.” The image is of the model, dressed in a silk chemise, lying on a Louis XVI chaise. The ads will break in a to-be-determined lineup of fashion, beauty and lifestyle books in September, said Walsh. Scented strips, as well as blow-ins, will be a big part of the campaign, in an effort targeting 15 million scented impressions.

— Julie Naughton

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