By  on April 21, 2006

NEW YORK — Daisy Fuentes — who is gearing up to launch her first scent, Dianoche, this summer — is clearly passionate on the subject of beauty.

"When I was younger, I was always the one to get my girlfriends ready. I would do full-on hair and makeup," she remembered with a laugh during an interview Wednesday afternoon. "They'd leave the house looking like supermodels, and I always looked like Cinderella because I'd have five minutes to get myself ready!"

The multihyphenate Fuentes — model, actress, clothing designer — sees fragrance as a natural, well, blooming for her business pursuits: Born in Cuba and raised in New Jersey, Fuentes said she was enrolled in cosmetology school when she got her first TV job. Her TV gigs have included stints as a VJ for MTV and on-camera positions with WXTV, Univision's New York affiliate and WNJU, Telemundo's New York affiliate. She also has hosted her own talk show.

Lately, however, Fuentes has turned her attention to her multiple successful licenses with Kohl's Department Stores. "I had beauty in mind before I even started with sportswear," said Fuentes, who designs swimwear, accessories, shoes, handbags and jewelry for Kohl's. "This is something I always had in my mind, and I've had a very clear vision for it. And when everything started going very well with Kohl's and I knew I had a home there, I thought, 'Wow, maybe this is my chance.'"

Fuentes turned to BeautyBank, the Estee Lauder Cos.-owned division that produces the chain's beauty offerings, to make that vision a reality. Daisy Fuentes Beauty is the division's fourth freestanding brand — the others, launched in 2004, are American Beauty, a color cosmetics line; Good Skin, a dermatologist-oriented skin care line, and Flirt!, a sassy color cosmetics collection.

"Daisy has created one of the top-selling brands at Kohl's," said Jane Hudis, president of BeautyBank. "She's covered a magnitude of categories, all of which are doing extremely well. She is crossover — she crosses over many genders and ethnicities, different types of women, and appeals across the board. That's why everything she's touched has been so successful. She is not only a fashion expert but she's a beauty expert. This collection is all about her thinking, her vision, her concept. There's an extraordinary synergy here. It is our intention to build Daisy Fuentes Beauty into a very large and successful brand."Fuentes believes strongly in items that can serve more than one purpose — such as sportswear that, with slight adjustments, can double as apparel for an evening on the town. She was determined to bring a similar sensibility to her first fragrance, which is a scent duo, one for day and one for night. They share a heart of tuberose and can be layered or worn individually. "I love scents and I love to layer perfumes," she said. "I wanted something that you could wear alone, but layer together as the day goes by."

The fragrances, developed by Fuentes and Lauder's Karyn Khoury in cooperation with International Flavors and Fragrances, share a heart of three tuberose essences, effectively linking the day and night scents. "It's not hard to find two fragrances that you like, but it is harder to find two that work together and go from day into night," said Fuentes. "The hearts had to be the same." The day fragrance adds hydroponic jasmine, mandarin citrus, coriander and basil as top notes and vanilla, moss and tonka bean as the drydown. The night scent uses rich red rose, radiant lilies, orange blossom and purple freesia in the top accord, and amber and sandalwood as the drydown notes.

"I didn't want it to be generic," Fuentes said, noting that she was up at BeautyBank's offices about every other week working on the scent — and enjoying every minute of it, calling the development process "one of the most fun things I've done in my career." Would she like to do more scents? "Are you kidding me?" she said. "I love this! Try to keep me away now!" She foresees going deeper into the beauty category, which could eventually entail, say, a color cosmetics or skin care line.

Dianoche's name has refreshingly logical overtones: "We have a day and a night component," explained Fuentes, who said her favorite time of day is sunset. "In Spanish, dia means day, and noche means night. We simply put them together." And that had an unexpected bonus, said Roxann Paulson, brand manager for Daisy Fuentes Beauty: "Since we ran two words together, we had no problem getting the name cleared [trademarked]!"Creating the bottles, which are linked by a gold-toned neck engraved with Daisy Fuentes Dianoche, was a slight challenge, however. "I said to them, 'Do you know who you are? I know you can do this!'" said Fuentes. The packaging team, led by Lauder's Jim Nevins, had a slightly less optimistic view, but in the end it all worked out. The top part of the bottle — the night version — is a slim column that can be detached and put in an evening bag. The day version is in the bottle's base, a glass orb. The set, which includes 60 ml. of scent in total, will retail for $42.50. Three ancillaries will be produced at launch: Body Shimmer All-Over Moisturizing Lotion, $23.50; Firming Body Cream, $25, and Body Sugar Silky Skin Scrub, $25. Fuentes' vision extended to the colors: "I envisioned even the bottle going from day to night, which is reflected in the colors of the scents — from light gold [for day] to darker, deeper gold [for night]," said Fuentes.

Dianoche will enter Kohl's 750 North American stores in July, and it will be exclusive in North America to the chain. However, Hudis hinted that the fragrance might roll out to other doors internationally. While none of the executives would discuss sales projections, industry sources estimated Fuentes' first fragrance could do $5 million at retail in its first year on counter.

Advertising, said Hudis, will be done primarily through Kohl's circulars and mailers, and Fuentes is eager to make personal appearances on behalf of the scent. "I'm very proud of this," she said. "If I didn't have my TV career, I would totally have my own salon or my own product line. I would somehow be involved with beauty. This is such a huge part of who I am. It's the direction I think I was meant to go in."

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