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The celebrity fragrance genre is about to make room for a new entry: that of R&B superstar Usher Raymond IV.
The performer, who uses only his first name professionally, is readying a fragrance masterbrand that will hit stores in September. This confirms a WWD report published Feb. 22.
And that’s not all: Usher said Wednesday that he planned to use the fragrances as a first step into the fashion world.
“I see fragrances as an opportunity to diversify my profile and make a great introduction into fashion and lifestyle,” the entertainer said in an exclusive phone interview from his Atlanta home. “This is an opportunity. I am looking at apparel and accessories, but designing a lifestyle line takes time. Some people create a line based on what inspires them, or a place. [The fashion and scents] are like my music. I give my fans my spirit and personality through my work, and that takes time. So my strategic plan is to launch the fragrances first, and then to move on from there.
“I want to make a proper introduction to the fashion business, because fashion is definitely coming.”
And he’s got a clear vision for it. “I want my fashion lines to represent modern style, but not be too trendy,” he said. “I want to create classic pieces of clothing that work year-round. I want great wovens [fabrics]. I’m going to start with the styles that I wear, but I won’t stop there. I have thought about a child’s line, and I would like to do juniors, women’s and big and tall clothing. It’s all on the horizon. But first, it’s about the fragrances.”
With a distribution of 1,800 department and specialty store doors in the U.S. and a global rollout in 2008, the brand is engineered to make a splash. While none of the executives would comment on sales projections or advertising spending, industry sources estimated that the masterbrand would do upward of $80 million at retail globally in its first year on counter, and that about $40 million would be spent on advertising and promotion globally.
Usher says that the women’s scent, Usher She, “represents a woman of mystery and confidence; a woman who exudes sexuality. The men’s fragrance [Usher He], for me, represents something I would wear — with everything from a tux to a pair of jeans.”
Firmenich formulated both scents with Usher. The women’s scent, developed with perfumers Honorine Blanc and Richard Herpin, has top notes of red currant, pink freesia and apple blossom; a heart of frangipani, apricot nectar, blooming jasmine and passion rose, and a drydown of amber wood, sensual musk, cashmere wood, vanilla orchid and incense. The men’s scent, developed with Herpin, has top notes of verbena, pineapple and melon; a heart of blue lavender, white pepper and violet leaf, and a drydown of vetiver, amber wood, black suede, sandalwood, sensual musk and guaiac wood.
“These are smells that I love,” said Usher. “To me, suede says ‘man,’ so it’s in my men’s fragrance. Florals and vanilla are in the women’s, because they’re feminine.”
The women’s lineup will consist of eaux de parfum in two sizes, 1.7 ounces for $52 and 3.4 ounces for $68. A 0.5-oz. parfum will retail for $120, and three ancillaries will be offered: a body lotion, $38 for 6.7 ounces; body cream, $45 for 6.7 ounces, and a shower gel, $35 for 6.7 ounces. The men’s collection will include eaux de toilette in two sizes, 1.7 ounces for $50 and 3.4 ounces for $65. A concentrated eau de toilette will retail for $95. Four ancillaries will be sold: after shave tonic, $45 for 3.4 ounces; after shave balm, $40 for 3.4 ounces; deodorant, $16 for 2.6 ounces, and shower gel, $25 for 6.7 ounces.
A spinning ring that the entertainer wears inspired the cap and neck of the fragrance bottles, said Paul McLaughlin, creative director for Liz Claiborne Cosmetics. The detail is in shiny silver on the women’s bottles and matte silver on the men’s. Both are engraved with Usher’s credo: “It’s not how famous u r, but what u r famous for” along with his birthday, 10/14. (The singer will celebrate his 29th birthday this year.)
And he certainly has fans a-plenty at Claiborne. “Usher has a great understanding of the fragrance market,” said Art Spiro, president of Liz Claiborne Cosmetics, which holds Usher’s fragrance license. “He was totally engaged in the project even before we met with him.”
And in terms of his products’ appeal, Usher’s thinking big. “A lot of people may say, ‘Who is this for?’ ” he said. “They point out that I have fans from 6 to 60 years old. But this isn’t about being urban or suburban, and it’s not about any age. It’s for everyone.”
In addition to the scents, the suave singer has two other pressing projects: He is newly engaged to fashion stylist Tameka Foster and planning a November wedding, and he is recording a new album, also due in November. While acting has been another project for the entertainer, he says that pursuit is “on pause” until he’s released the new album and his scents.
“I’ve been away from my fans for three years [in music] and I have high hopes for [this album],” he said. “I want to give back. I’m working with both up-and-coming and established artists, and it’s definitely going to be a monumental moment in my career. Actually, I go with that attitude to everything I do.”
Another project close to the entertainer’s heart is Usher’s New Look, a 501c3 nonprofit organization he founded five years ago to give at-risk youths a new perspective through education and real world experiences. Two years ago, he instituted a residential two-week camp, Camp New Look, intended to show kids the business sides of sports and entertainment from industry leaders. Supporters include Sean “Diddy” Combs, Andre Agassi, Quincy Jones and DeAngelo Hall.
“I feel a responsibility to do something positive,” said Usher, noting that the camp will be held this year July 16 to 28 in Atlanta. “I found myself through music as a child. This camp is intended to show at-risk youth that they can achieve great things. I’m one of the fortunate few who has made it, so I use myself as an example. If we give our kids something to look forward to, there will be more people like myself. Guys like Diddy, Jay-Z, Russell Simmons and me, we had to find our own way. I think, if you give a kid an opportunity, they can change a generation. If we start now, tomorrow we’ll see more Barack Obamas.”
Usher has also, through New Look, been a significant contributor to the relief efforts following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita with his Project Restart, which kicked off with an all-star concert in October 2005. The project has provided clothing, food and housing for evacuee families, and has helped more than 1,000 families resettle into their communities. “We’re taking on a block at a time and building New Orleans,” he said. The fund has also benefited Katrina evacuees in metropolitan Atlanta. “I hope that others will follow.”
“A lot of the initiatives I take on are journeys,” Usher said. “I’m looking for corporations to underwrite some things, as well.” Armani Exchange is one brand that’s already joined the effort: The retailer is selling limited edition dog tags to support Usher’s New Look in its stores and on its Web site, armaniexchange.com. Usher’s philanthropic Web site is ushersnewlook.org.
But he’s modest when his philanthropic work is mentioned. “It represents the man I aspire to be,” he said. “It’s better to give than to receive all the time. I’ve been blessed abundantly. It isn’t just about Usher — it’s about other people, too.” Usher is also writing a book. “I’m preparing a book that talks about my musical journey and what it’s taken to make the lifestyle happen,” he said, adding that a publication date has not yet been set. “I’d like it to be motivational.”
To promote the scents, a national print campaign is planned for September fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines. The ad visual will be shot on April 18 by Mario Sorrenti, said Marcy Fisher, vice president of cosmetics marketing at Liz Claiborne. Added Usher, “The ad is meant to express the different facets of Usher. It will give a picture of how things are in the world of Usher.” Spiro added that the brand was considering TV this fall, as well as a comprehensive Internet campaign.