NEW YORK — No one will ever accuse Sean "Diddy" Combs of being understated.
The dapper rapper made a very important delivery to Saks Fifth Avenue's Manhattan flagship Thursday morning, driving a Brinks truck packed with the first shipment of Unforgivable, his new men's fragrance for the Estée Lauder Cos.
Combs is doing two versions of Unforgivable. His first fragrance is a $300 "couture" version which will be carried by Saks Fifth Avenue's Manhattan, Beverly Hills, Atlanta, Bal Harbour and Dadeland stores and Combs' own stores in the U.S., while a less pricy version will bow at about 1,800 department and specialty store doors, including Macy's and Sephora, in mid-February.
Surveying the screaming crowd of teenage girls crammed behind NYPD barricades, loudly professing their love for Combs, Saks Fifth Avenue's vice chairman, Ron Frasch, observed dryly: "I think Sean is ready for the Tom Ford challenge." Ford's first products for Lauder debuted at Saks in November and shattered the store's personal appearance record, drawing in about 1,000 people and $30,000 in sales.
As for tackling records, Combs observed, "Tom makes them, I break them." And he has reason to be confident: more than 500 fans stood behind barricades in 38-degree weather just to catch a glimpse of Combs — who was simply making a delivery of the product, not doing a traditional personal appearance where fans are greeted and bottles are signed.
Before the bottles had even arrived, Saks had pre-sold 11 of the 2.5-oz. eau de parfum units. By the time he left at noon, 30 of the superpricy bottles had been sold, five while he was standing at the counter.
The bottles are of smoked gray glass in a clear acrylic holder, topped with a gunmetal sculptured cap and packaged in a black keepsake box. The packaging was inspired by Combs' favorite things, including Ferraris, yachts and planes, and his homes around the world. "It's architectural, a mix of classic and contemporary," he told WWD earlier this year. "I saw maybe 20 different bottles, and when I saw this one, I thought it was different and unique and something that I felt would be remembered."Frasch and his team agree. "I think that Unforgivable will bring in a new customer base and service the ones we already have," he said. "That's what is so exciting about it."
Combs, who was scheduled to return to Saks Fifth Avenue Thursday evening to kick off sales for his Sean John women's apparel line, gave consumers a peek at the collection at the fragrance event. Combs was accompanied by two female models clad in his designs — cream dresses topped with cream winter coats with fur collars. Combs himself chose an elegant ensemble from his men's line — a gray cashmere turtleneck, gray pants and a gray jacket, accessorized with diamond stud earrings.
Combs said that he has already begun work on his women's fragrance, which is expected to be launched in fall 2006. While he was quick to emphasize that there isn't yet a finished juice, he has definite ideas of what mood he wants it to convey: "Right now, I'd have to say that we're looking for something refreshing, yet sensual," he said. Will it be as sexy as his men's scent? "Oh, it will be much sexier," he said with a roguish grin.
One thing's for sure, however: Combs will stay intimately involved with all of the projects which bear his name, especially the fragrance. "Lots of people, when they do a fragrance license, think of it as just another ancillary," he said. "This is a big deal to me, and it is my brand. I want to be involved in every aspect, from making the fragrance to meeting the sales specialists."
Combs is also putting the finishing touches on his next album, due in April, and planning to film two movies next year. He's also working on a TV commercial for Unforgivable, which is expected to air this spring.
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