NEW YORK — You could say that fragrance was always part of the design for Jill Stuart — with love, from Lucy.
At age 12, the designer — whose fashion designer mother counted Lucille Ball among her clients — received a set of fragrance oils from Ball as a gift.
"And that," said the designer with a laugh, "was the beginning of the obsession."
Stuart was so enamored with the perfumery concept that as a teenager, she concocted her own mixes, using food coloring to tint them and decanting them into vintage fragrance bottles to give as gifts. Now, she's sharing them with the world at large: her first scent for distribution outside her circle of family and friends.
Jill Stuart Fine Fragrances, a trio of juices in vintage-inspired crystal bottles, are scheduled to bow at selected Nordstrom doors today. Five years in the making, they will expand to additional upscale specialty store doors next spring. Distribution will initially be held to under 100 doors, and Ronald Curtis, president of Jill Stuart and also Stuart's husband, noted that the brand would likely top out at 400 stores globally.
Why a trio? Stuart readily admits that she couldn't decide on just one — her favorite fragrances since childhood have been lily, vanilla and jasmine, and she wanted to do them all.
Concocted by Stuart working with consultant Pamela Vaile and Firmenich's Richard Halpern, Jasmin Fleur has top notes of fresh freesia and ivy leaves; a heart of Indian jasmin, orange flower water, green lily and honeysuckle, and a drydown of praline musk and Australian sandalwood. Night Blooming Lily opens with a burst of green lily and fresh lily of the valley; has a heart of peony, rose and carnation, and a drydown of caramel and creamy musks. Vanilla Lust opens with Madagascar vanilla; has a heart of coconut milk, neroli essence and caramel, and a drydown of tiare flower and warm sandalwood. Each scent can be mixed with others in the collection — important to Stuart, who says she has always loved to mix and match fragrances.
Each of Stuart's scents comes in three forms: eau de parfum spray; essence, a concentrated oil, and parfum, a highly concentrated juice that is applied with a crystal glass stopper. The eau de parfum, essence and parfum in each collection will retail for $62 for 1.7 oz., $78 for 0.5 oz. and $145 for 0.5 oz., respectively.The heavy crystal bottles, influenced by Stuart's love of the Twenties and vintage fragrance bottles, were created by Marc Rosen, and the vintage-inspired scalloped outer box was designed by Buero New York's Alex Wiederin. "We wanted to develop this line into a jewel," noted Curtis. "Jill and Pamela [Vaile] are fragrance aficionados. They both wanted to do something very special and unique with this launch, and I think that goal has been achieved."
National advertising for the scents, which will begin breaking in March fashion, beauty and lifestyle publications, was photographed by Mario Sorrenti.
While none of the executives would comment on numbers, industry sources estimated that the fragrance trio would do upward of $12 million at retail — perhaps as much as $20 million at retail globally — and that at least $2 million would be spent on advertising and promotion.
The fragrance — and a color cosmetics line that Stuart and Curtis hope to roll out in the U.S. next year — bowed in Japan last month at 30 store-in-store locations, including Hankyu in Osaka and Ginza-Matsuya, reportedly triggering waits of up to two hours to buy products.
And while Stuart is planning on creating her own stable of scents and is already at work on a men's scent — "We'd ideally like to add one or two fragrances each year," added Curtis — she may have already influenced the next generation of perfumers. Stuart has passed the love of perfume to her nine-year-old daughter, Sophie Curtis, and, like her mother, Sophie collects vintage fragrance bottles and concocts her own scents.
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