NEW YORK — Cartier is aiming to overhaul its fragrance business with the fall introduction of its newest women’s scent, Le Baiser du Dragon.

For the first time in Cartier fragrance history, the brand will launch the scent first in the U.S. rather than in France. And to give the fragrance maximum impact, the scent is being tied to a new jewelry line of the same name, noted Stanislas de Quercize, president and chief executive officer of Cartier.

“We see this scent as the first step toward the rebirth of Parfums Cartier,” said de Quercize, who also is aiming to create a new women’s category — woody vetiver — with the fragrance. “Le Baiser du Dragon is centered around unexpected woody notes, which are not commonly used in women’s fragrances,” he added.

The fragrance’s target audience is 30- to 45-year-old women, noted Joseph Giugliano Jr., general manager of fragrance for Cartier.

The juice, by Alberto Morillas of Firmenich, is a woody vetiver. Morillas also created Cartier’s Panthere de Cartier. Le Baiser du Dragon’s top notes are of soft amaretto, vibrant neroli flower and luminous gardenia; middle notes are of sensual cedarwood, iris and Bulgarian rose, and base notes are of woody vetiver, patchouli, smoky amber and tear of Benzoin, a resin of a wood that smells like chocolate and caramel.

The collection includes a 1-oz. parfum for $175 and eau de parfum sprays in three sizes: 1 oz. for $55, 1.6 oz. for $80 and 3.3 oz. for $110. Ancillaries include a 6.75-oz. bath and shower cream for $45 and a 6.75-oz. body milk for $40. Exclusive gift sets for Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue also will be offered. The Neiman Marcus set includes a 1-oz. parfum, a 3.3-oz. eau de parfum, a 6.75-oz. bath and shower cream and a 6.75-oz. body milk for $370, and the Saks gift set includes eau de parfums in both the 3.3-oz. and 1-oz. sizes as well as full sizes of bath and shower cream and body milk for $250.

The bottle is designed to be a modern interpretation of vintage Cartier packaging, symbolizing the brand’shistory, linking back to the brand’s original flacon, said de Quercize. The clear, round glass bottle features the black Chinese symbol for longevity. The bottle’s top is also of glass — black with a red strip and a silver stylized Chinese-symbol top. The bottle and cap were designed in-house, and manufactured by Bormioli Luigi. “The colors and symbols are intended to correspond to the brand’s core values, including strength and elegance, luxury and mystery and harmony and serenity,” added de Quercize.The fragrance launches in the U.S. in mid-August and will be in extremely limited distribution, noted Giugliano. While Cartier fragrances are currently in about 269 doors, total distribution for the new scent will be less than 200 doors, he said. About five of these doors will get the fragrance on Aug. 15, including Cartier’s New York flagship and Neiman Marcus doors in Dallas’ North Park, Beverly Hills, Chicago and San Francisco. The second wave will hit on Sept. 15, when the remaining Cartier boutiques and Neiman Marcus doors — about another 63 stores — get the scent. In November, Saks Fifth Avenue’s New York flagship will get the scent, and post-Christmas, the remaining Saks doors — about 59 of them — will get the fragrance. In spring 2004, the fragrance will enter its remaining doors —select Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom locations.

While neither de Quercize nor Giugliano would comment on projected sales, industry sources estimated that the fragrance would do upward of $5 million at retail in its first six months on counter, with total first-year numbers expected to top $8 million.

While no national advertising is planned at launch — a campaign is tentatively planned for spring 2004 — Cartier will drive awareness through in-store materials and about 1.5 million scented pieces, including deluxe miniatures and direct mailers. Scented Cartier ribbons and hair mists also will be offered.

“We think that the Le Baiser du Dragon fragrance is extraordinary — it’s a unique, timeless scent that we feel is destined to become a classic,” said Jim Gold, senior vice president and general merchandising manager for Neiman Marcus. “A great juice is coupled with a bottle that’s a work of art. I think that everything about this fragrance represents pure luxury, which is why Cartier and Neiman Marcus are the perfect match. It’s a great marriage, and we’re going to make sure it’s a home run.”

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