Elizabeth Taylor could not have known when she launched her first fragrance, Passion, in 1987, that the daring move would reverberate into the 21st century. While she was not the first celebrity to front a fragrance—in that decade alone, “Dynasty” star Linda Evans (Forever Krystle, 1984) and French legend Catherine Deneuve (Deneuve, 1986), among others, beat her to the punch—Taylor wrote the rule book, and her fragrance was followed by a stampede into the category, with scents from Cher’s Uninhibited (1987) to Julio Iglesias’ Only (1989).
While the craze cooled off in the Nineties (Taylor’s 1991 release White Diamonds notwithstanding), by 2001 Jennifer Lopez kicked it back into high gear. After Glow by J Lo raked in more than $100 million at retail in its first year, the floodgates opened as stars from Sarah Jessica Parker, Halle Berry and Mary J. Blige to Jennifer Aniston, Kim Kardashian, Jessica Simpson, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Céline Dion rushed in. Still, Taylor’s White Diamonds remains one of the genre’s bestsellers—$1 billion-plus in retail sales to date. In September 1991, Taylor drew more than 7,000 eager fans to a personal appearance at Macy’s Herald Square, prompting Robert Chavez (then senior vice president of Macy’s) to observe, “Each day, [sales get] bigger and bigger.”
This story first appeared in the November 1, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.