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NEW YORK — Diane Von Furstenberg has returned to the color cosmetics market that she first had put her mark on 17 years ago, with a collection designed to recall past eras of high glamour.

This story first appeared in the May 23, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The designer and her licensee, Inter Parfums Inc., have teamed up to launch a 90-stockkeeping-unit assortment of color and fragrance in August.

Her goal? To revive a sphere of beauty influence — reminiscent of “grande dames” like Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden — that preceded the makeup artist era.

“I had this whole other life in terms of the beauty world,” said Von Furstenberg of her past history. “The first time, it was all instinct. It’s still instinct this time but also experience.”

The new collection, called Diane Von Furstenberg Beauty, will be introduced by Henri Bendel in late August. It is expected to remain at Bendel’s as an exclusive into the fourth quarter, before rolling out to 35 domestic doors, including selected Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York and Nordstrom locations. Launch activities will coincide with the designer’s ready-to-wear presentation in September.

For Von Furstenberg, partnering with a licensee was integral this time around, “instead of doing it on my own,” she said. “I didn’t want a big cosmetics company that would [appoint] a manager and not let you in the kitchen. [Inter Parfums] is more than willing to having me in the kitchen, and they gave me an apron” — a metaphor for “putting your soul and passion into it,” according to Von Furstenberg. “I want it to be right the second time.”

“What made us want to have this partnership was how much Diane loves the beauty business,” said Bruce Elbilia, executive vice president of Inter Parfums Inc. “It’s very edited toward [her] strong, creative point of view.”

Though initial distribution of the collection will principally be limited to top-producing stores in major markets, goals for the line are bullish. A number of initial doors, including Bendel’s, could generate sales approaching $1 million, according to industry sources. In total, the line could generate retail sales of between $8 million and $9 million during its first year, according to estimates. The Diane Von Furstenberg operation as a whole reportedly generates $40 million in annual revenues.

The beauty collection also will be sold on dvf.com, an e-commerce site that experienced a soft launch for the fashion side of the business this week. International distribution plans are in the works for 2004, according to Elbilia. This includes Europe, Asia, Central and South America and the Mideast.

The Diane Von Furstenberg fragrance, called D — which does not necessarily stand for Diane — will debut along with the cosmetics. Firmenich blended the juice for D, which contains citrus, floral and woody notes. The eau de parfum will come in a 100-ml. version for $75 and a 10-ml. spray for $60. The designer plans to launch scents every third season. Her second is seen arriving in spring 2005 but it will not necessarily be called V. “You invest [seasonally] for fashion,” she said, “why not do this for fragrance?”

The cosmetics assortment ranges in price from $17 for lip and eye pencils to $75 for color kits dubbed “glamour compacts.” It is divided into four color palettes — or “moods,” as Von Furstenberg likes to say: “stop-traffic reds, follow-me pinks, new-wave neutrals” and “sun-goddess golds.” While outer packaging is white, three interior colors — pink, beige and gray — respectively designate color cosmetics, facial makeup and eye cosmetics. The line also includes eye and lip duos. Additionally, the full beauty assortment includes different varieties of makeup bags.

“We’ll be expanding in every [product] category,” said Elbilia. “We want to get into bath and body and skin care, to create a beauty destination. It’s part of a strategy to leverage the brand equity.”

The idea of adding beauty to create a lifestyle destination brand is important to Von Furstenberg. It’s also important to Ed Burstell, vice president of Henri Bendel, which carries the fashion. “Diane is well on her way to becoming the modern woman’s global lifestyle brand,” said Burstell, who cited the revival of the designer’s apparel business five years ago. “Consumers want a return to glamour and Diane Von Furstenberg presents an aspirational lifestyle that’s very desirable.

“This is going to be our biggest cosmetics initiative since Laura Mercier,” he added, citing the makeup artist brand that sources say generates in excess of $2 million annually at Bendel’s. Von Furstenberg’s beauty collection will reportedly be placed permanently in Bendel’s prominent ground floor atrium.

For support at retail, the beauty collection will rely heavily on a dense slate of in-store events and personal appearances by Von Furstenberg. There’s an ad campaign in the works, too, which has yet to be finalized but will most likely go the co-op route.

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