NEW YORK — Dolce & Gabbana, already a fashion powerhouse, is poised to become a major player in beauty with the launch of a new women’s fragrance, called Sicily.

Last year, Dolce & Gabbana’s worldwide beauty business reportedly exceeded $172.6 million at wholesale, up 28 percent, according to industry estimates. Dolce & Gabbana hopes to double its beauty business over the next five years, according to industry sources.

The U.S. is said to account for 13 percent of global Dolce & Gabbana beauty sales. All dollar figures have been converted from the euro at current exchange rates.

Spearheading Dolce & Gabbana’s beauty offensive is the upcoming worldwide launch of Sicily in October. The new scent represents the house’s biggest investment and most aggressive incursion into beauty. Although executives refused to reveal dollar amounts, sources project that in the U.S. alone, the fragrance could do at least $10 million to $12 million in first-year retail sales. That goal equals four times the first-year volume of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s last fragrance: the 2001 entry, Light Blue. There also has been talk of a men’s version of Sicily.

During a telephone interview from the house’s Milan headquarters, Stefano Gabbana defined the role of beauty within the total company. “Beauty is important when you want to complete a brand,” he said. “It is involved with the growth of the image and the business, too. That is why we made Sicily. In the sense of Dolce & Gabbana, it is a strategic name: When you think Sicily, you think of Dolce & Gabbana.” Additionally, beauty is “especially important in America. The perfume is [there] to help the business.”

Gabriella Forte, president of Dolce & Gabbana USA and managing director of licenses, concurred: “From a business perspective, beauty is an important portion of our growth strategy,” she said. “[Sicily] is the first concerted approach to marketing fragrance in the same manner and magnitude we market Dolce & Gabbana [fashion].”

Euroitalia, Dolce & Gabbana’s Italy-based fragrance licensee, and Fragrances Exclusive, the brand’s U.S.-based distributor and division of Chanel Inc., have shared closely in the development of the fashion house’s beauty vision. The three parties last teamed up on a major launch for the introduction of Light Blue, which was initially unveiled in about 200 U.S. doors. Distribution plans for Sicily, in contrast, call for a 1,000-door U.S. launch, a network that will include Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom, Marshall Field’s, Macy’s, Barneys and Sephora.Light Blue’s distribution base has widened to include 1,000 doors, and executives consider it an enduring success — it reportedly still ranks well with retailers like Sephora, Macy’s and Nordstrom.

Although the fashion house often has fielded partnership requests, according to Gabbana, he is happy with the company’s relationship with Euroitalia, which has handled all seven of Dolce & Gabbana’s fragrances, starting with Dolce & Gabbana Parfum in 1992. “Euroitalia does a good job worldwide. We work really closely and really well. We have a good relationship.”

Gabbana believes the biggest challenge to building the Dolce & Gabbana beauty business is harnessing the potential of what he sees as “a big market available” to the brand in the U.S. and internationally. Key to meeting this potential is making sure the business is positioned “very well in the U.S.,” said Forte. “It’s also about distribution complementing [and] having the same focus as our [fashion] brand — and not just an overnight push but rather well-managed growth,” she said.

Gabbana also touched on the concept of longevity. He is against launching a fragrance every six or eight months in an attempt to simply maintain a foothold in the market. “When we make a perfume, we don’t make [one that only lasts] one or two years, then another. I need to make a perfume [that lasts] forever. I would like to find Sicily in the same way 20 years from now.”

Looking beyond the fragrance arena, Gabbana didn’t rule out tapping color cosmetics, saying it may be a possibility “in the future” but that there’s “no when and where” at the moment. “Dolce & Gabbana is about color, fashion and the woman, which is why we’ve thought about [doing] makeup.” He was less optimistic about skin care, however. “With the fashion, perfume is believable — it’s close, like a dress — but skin care is a different world.”

Foremost now, however, is how well the new fragrance will do. “Sicily is like a fabric, a silk; it’s feminine and sensual,” Gabbana said. The juice, which was blended by Firmenich, has a silky feel before it dries. The eau de parfum has been dubbed a milky floral due to this tactile quality, something Forte considers a major point of difference. “Perfume is about an emotion, an allure,” she said. “How do you communicate that? It’s important to touch it, not just to smell it.”While discussing solely the Sicily initiative, Connie Ruscio, vice president and general manager of Fragrances Exclusive, said, “We’re working closely with ready-to-wear and that synergy really helps. We’ll be promoting this very, very aggressively.” Though she declined to discuss figures, sources estimate that $4 million will be spent on a fourth-quarter print ad campaign for Sicily in the U.S. Also, more than 10 million scented impressions are planned.

Print visuals in magazines like Vogue, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar — and a 60-second spot for European television — will break worldwide in October and feature actress Monica Bellucci, who currently stars in “The Matrix: Reloaded.” Director Giuseppe Tornatore and musical composer Ennio Morricone — both of “Cinema Paradiso” fame — collaborated on the film spot.

While the television strategy is not uncommon in Europe for Dolce & Gabbana, it would be a first in the U.S. if executives were to go ahead with a talked-about national television campaign for Sicily. If it happened — the commercial is believed to be in trials for the U.S. market —it would be part of a spring follow-up campaign planned for the scent. “We are going strong in the beginning and [will have] a great follow-up in the second quarter,” Forte said of the advertising plan.

Sicily contains olfactory notes of honeysuckle, jasmine, black pearl rose and heliotrope. It comes in a 100-ml. version at $85; a 50-ml. bottle, $65, and a 25-ml. spray, $45. Two ancillaries, a body lotion, $42, and a shower gel, $32 — both of which are 200-ml. — will accompany the scent.

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