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Tom Ford Gets Steamy for Estee Lauder

For the upcoming ad campaign backing his update of the Estee Lauder Cos.' Youth Dew, Tom Ford has gotten naked again - sort of.

NEW YORK — For the upcoming advertising campaign backing his update of the Estée Lauder Cos.’ Youth Dew, Tom Ford has gotten naked again — sort of.

The print ad, photographed by Craig McDean and closely art directed by Ford, shows Lauder’s regular model, Carolyn Murphy, slumbering nearly nude on a couch, with a sheet covering strategic body parts.

The ad is designed to promote Amber Nude, a new interpretive fragrance that updates Estée Lauder’s groundbreaking scent Youth Dew, which had caused a sensation in 1953. It wasn’t just the fact that Lauder had offered a bath oil that was as sensual and powerful as a perfume so that women could buy it themselves, then a new idea. There also was the eye-opening advertising image. Shot through a frosted glass shower door, it showed a naked woman toweling herself off after taking a bath.

Ford, interviewed by telephone from London Thursday, laughed as he anticipated the reaction to his latest work. “They’ll say, ‘Oh God, it’s Tom Ford taking the clothes off another person and stretching her out.'” He pointed out, however, that Estée Lauder’s 1953 bombshell was more controversial in its time, although he did admit, “I like naked women, and I like naked men as well.”

The new ad, pictured here, provides the first look at the hotly anticipated image, which will appear in the December editions of a handful of magazines. While Lauder executives would not discuss budgets, industry sources estimate that the global advertising spend, including scented strips, could hit $12 million, with $8 million in the U.S.

The ad campaign will support the fragrance launch; that launch will be accompanied by a 13-item line of luxury-priced cosmetics encased in heavy gold metal packaging. Branded under the Tom Ford Estée Lauder name, products will make their debut in November in only 100 doors, mostly specialty stores. The makeup items will be produced in small numbers of a limited edition, while the Amber Nude fragrance will continue on as a flanker to Youth Dew. In December, 125 doors will be added to the fragrance distribution, then another 775 doors will be added in the early part of 2006. Most of these will be in North America, although key doors will be added overseas. It is estimated that North American distribution will ultimately hit 1,000 doors.

This story first appeared in the September 30, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Discussing his vision for the campaign, Ford said the shoot originally had been done three ways. Murphy had been posed on fake fur, mindful of the controversy surrounding animal testing. Another session had her completely naked. “She was hiding her breasts,” Ford explained. “It was a fairly modest nude shot.”

The third version with the sheet was the ultimate winner because with the folds of fabric silhouetting the curves of her body, “she looks more sensual. It’s really beautiful,” Ford said.

His concept was to portray the steamier, more intimate side of Lauder. “I wanted to show a different side of the Lauder woman,” Ford said, ” a more sensuous side, a more evening side.”

The golden color palette of the photo was not only a reference to the amber in the name, but also the ingredients. Ford noted that Youth Dew incorporates the gourmand strain of perfumery with its vanilla notes. Amber Nude instead contains chocolate, and Ford said his aim was to make Murphy look “like a beautiful piece of candy. I wanted to make her look so delicious that you’d want to bite into her.”

John Demsey, global president of the Estée Lauder brand and MAC Cosmetics, called the campaign “quintessential Tom Ford, and quintessential Estée Lauder.” Referring to the handling of Murphy, Demsey said, “[Ford] felt it was important to convey a different vocabulary with somebody already within the brand. He thought it was important because he is making a heritage play.” His intent was to show how “fresh and modern” the 52-year-old brand could be.

Demsey agreed with the choice of images, saying that rather than showing Murphy “literally naked for shock value, Tom decided that this image is more sensual and evocative.”

Demsey maintains this is the first time that a prestige cosmetics and fragrance launch will have such a global reach. The advertising effort will move in two stages, beginning with a debut in the December editions of Vogue, Vanity Fair, W and Interview. The broader second stage will start in the early spring with an enlarged roster of magazines. The advertising in Vogue, displayed on a gatefold or spread, will appear simultaneously in all the key overseas launch markets in an unusually international effort.