Karl’s Crisp New Man

Munich — Karl Lagerfeld doesn’t only love the look and feel of freshly ironed white shirts. For the new men’s fragrance, Lagerfeld Man, he sought to capture their smell as well.<br><br>"Freshly ironed is the key concept of the entire...

Munich — Karl Lagerfeld doesn’t only love the look and feel of freshly ironed white shirts. For the new men’s fragrance, Lagerfeld Man, he sought to capture their smell as well.

This story first appeared in the July 26, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Freshly ironed is the key concept of the entire perfume. It was Karl Lagerfeld’s inspiration,” stated Quest parfumeur Christine Nagel, who created Lagerfeld Man as well as its feminine predecessor, Lagerfeld Femme.

At the fragrance’s launch here July 17, the designer said, “for me, the best moment of the day is when I put on a clean white shirt. I find this smell so wonderful.”

To re-create that fresh and transparent scent, Nagel turned to a top note of the Japanese Yuzu fruit and lavender. The masculine heart note blends cedar, cinnamon and light woods, and the deep, sensual bottom note features vetiver, amber and pure musk.

The five unit Lagerfeld Man range will premiere in perfumeries in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Scandinavia on Aug. 15. A further global rollout is planned in 2003, but the exact timing has not yet been set, said Gabriele Pungerscheg, president of European designer fragrances at Unilever Cosmetics International. She declined to give first year sales goals, but industry sources estimated Lagerfeld Man could generate $5 million to $10 million in wholesale business in its initial launch markets the first year.

Unilever decided to kick-start Lagerfeld Man in the German-speaking and Scandinavian markets because “it’s Karl’s home turf. It’s where he’s strongest,” Pungerscheg said. “There are two launch strategies: you either go step by step or make a global splash. And these days, looking at the fragrance markets and the economic times in general, we felt a cautious approach was more wise.”

The five-unit range includes a 50- and 100-ml. eau de toilette spray priced at $39 and $57 respectively. The dollar figures have been translated from the euro using current exchange rates. In many ways, Lagerfeld Man is a clear masculine follow-up to Lagerfeld Femme. The same nose at Quest created both juices, New York-based sculptor Cec Le Page also designed the bottle for Lagerfeld Man, and true to form, Lagerfeld photographed the print ad. However, given the less than stellar performance of Lagerfeld Femme, Unilever executives have taken pains to avoid the pitfalls experienced by the women’s perfume.

What did Unilever learn from Lagerfeld Femme? “People found it too avant-garde because of its packaging,” commented Pungerscheg. “Luxury provides a certain kind of safety for people. It has to be built on something you know, and while we thought the shapes were modern, they weren’t luxurious enough. And the clear outside packaging was perceived as cheap,” she said.

With Lagerfeld Man, Le Page has created a bottle that’s an abstract rendering of the human male form, “but it’s more sober. For the outside packaging, we’ve gone back to black and blue, Lagerfeld’s colors,” Pungerscheg said. The sculptural qualities of the transparent glass bottle are accentuated by painterly stripes of blue outlining the sides, and a graphic black top of matte rubber.

The print and TV ads star Danish model Christian Nielsen. Lagerfeld said he “wanted a new male type, a bit extra-terrestrial and futuristic, someone who looks like he came from a new world.” And Nielsen, he added, “was the only man I could find who moved in water like he did. All the others swam like normal men, and they made too many bubbles,” he said, referring to the twin photo books, Bodywave and Waterdance, which Lagerfeld shot with Nielsen alongside the ads.

The TV spot was directed by Stephane Sednaoui. “Film is not my profession, and I don’t have the patience or time that you need,” Lagerfeld commented. While Pungerscheg would not be specific about the advertising budget, “there will obviously be heavy media support, in TV, print and other media, as well as at point of sale,” she said. “We will try to reach as many people as possible, and sampling will be strong. The juice is special, and people like it. We tested it here, and it did extremely well. You can recognize and remember it easily.”

It is also a juice which has global appeal, unlike earlier Lagerfeld scents such as Jakko, which Pungerscheg characterized as “mainly a German fragrance. This one [Lagerfeld Man] was made to be global, and I think it is,” she said.

Moreover, it was “made to work in the U.S.” Set in the broadest terms, Pungerscheg suggested that the American market prefers light, watery and easy scents as compared with the French market, for example, where avant-garde, heavy, experimental and individual juices are more in demand.

There hasn’t been a serious American Lagerfeld launch in the last five or six years. Jakko was small, Pungerscheg noted, and Lagerfeld Femme wasn’t introduced. “The strategy before was more focused on Europe. It’s as simple as that, but this could change it,” she declared.

“There’s still a huge and loyal consumer following for the classic Lagerfeld scents [in the U.S.] It’s one of the few European brands that could make it — and has made it — in the U.S.”