NEW YORK -- After a nearly 20-year hiatus, designer Diane Von Furstenberg is back in the beauty game.Von Furstenberg signed an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement Thursday with Inter Parfums to develop, manufacture and distribute fragrance, cosmetics, skin care and related beauty products under the Diane Von Furstenberg, DVF, Diane Von Furstenberg The Color Authority and Tatiana trademarks. Initial plans call for launching a women's fragrance, immediately followed by color cosmetics.This isn't Von Furstenberg's first foray into the beauty business. After bursting into the fashion world in the mid-Seventies with her famous wrap dresses, she turned her attention to beauty. In the Seventies and early Eighties, she was selling a range of products, including two fragrances, Tatiana and Volcan d'Amour, as well as a color cosmetics line, Diane Von Furstenberg The Color Authority.In a telephone interview from Tuscany Thursday, Von Furstenberg discussed her past experiences in the beauty arena and outlined her plans for the new brand."Going into beauty was a natural progression for me," she said. "If you're interested in creating things for women, nothing is more personal than the beauty -- and cosmetics are the secrets between women and their mirrors. The first time, I didn't license my name, I did it myself; I just followed my instincts, although I had no experience in the beauty business."In 1976, Von Furstenberg opened a makeup store on Madison Avenue, then launched Tatiana, named after her four-year-old daughter before introducing a color cosmetics line. Von Furstenberg recalled that by the time she launched her second scent, "I was terrified with the amount of money I'd borrowed, and I sold. That was a mistake."Von Furstenberg sold that business to Beecham Pharmaceuticals in 1984; Revlon next ended up with the rights to her name. "Contrary to most designers, I learned the beauty business not from doing it as a license, but from doing it. I was very involved in every aspect of the business. But when I sold to Beecham, I had no control over anything. Everything became a license, people weren't listening to me, and the brand deteriorated."Von Furstenberg repurchased the rights to her name for use in the beauty category in 1994, but didn't immediately choose to reenter the beauty arena. "I wanted to rebuild my dress business first," she said. "Now that we are back on top with that, it is the right time to head back to beauty."But this time, she's doing it with a partner."It was clear I wasn't going to do it myself, it requires too much. So I had to find right partner," she said, noting that Inter Parfums fit the bill. "More than a license, I think this will be a partnership."The respect is mutual. "I have the greatest respect for Diane Von Furstenberg and her design and merchandising talents," said Jean Madar, chairman and chief executive officer of Inter Parfums, in a statement. "She also brings hands-on expertise in the interplay between the fashion and beauty/fragrance industries, all of which we will capitalize upon as we develop products bearing her trademarks."The women's fragrance line is expected to be released within the next year and a half. "I want to make a very big statement in the beauty market very quickly," she said. "Some things I will design myself, and on others I will act as an editor."Referring to the second planned project, color cosmetics, Von Furstenberg said, "Color is such an important part of what I do in fashion." Skin care, beauty accessories and additional fragrances -- including, possibly, one or more men's scents -- are also planned. "I'm tickled by the men's fragrance business," said Von Furstenberg with a laugh."The beauty industry needs, like everything else, fashion," she said. "Not everything is marketing. This is such a personal business. Beauty is all about seduction."Von Furstenberg promises that her products will be "very surprising, and they very much will deal with a lifestyle of a modern woman who wants it all." The products will definitely be prestige -- designed for department store and upscale specialty store doors."

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