By and  on February 3, 2006

NEW YORK — Tom Ford is feeling blue — the blue of the Mediterranean sea, that is — with Azurée, his second collection for the Estée Lauder brand.

"I love that Estée blue," said Ford, of the iconic aqua shade that the brand's founder used in the Sixties and Seventies. Later, Lauder packaging featured rich navy tones. "Also, I really wanted to exaggerate that cartouche [the stylized gold logo that Lauder products carried in the Sixties and Seventies]. I loved that Estée created this mythical place, Azurée, by combining an idea of the Côte d'Azur with her name. It's hysterical and wonderful."

The designer has long been adept at creating modern interpretations of classics, a skill he perfected at the Gucci Group and honed at Estée Lauder —and Azurée follows firmly in that tradition. History, Ford opines, gives a venerable brand a point of difference.

"Sometimes, it's easier for an outsider to come in and see those key things that give you that great brand identity," said Ford in an exclusive telephone interview Wednesday. "In the Nineties, things became transparent, clean and simple. Right now, I think what a lot of us are looking for is authenticity — taking retro things and incorporating them into the brand. It reminds people that the brands have a history."

John Demsey, global president of the Estée Lauder and MAC Cosmetics brands, agreed. "Tom showed us that we should relish and celebrate our heritage," he said.

Lauder introduced the first Azurée, a Mediterranean beach-inspired fragrance, in 1969. Ford's version, due in May, takes the Azurée lifestyle vision that Lauder built and, for the most part, translates it into color cosmetics — although a body oil spray in the Ford lineup can double as a light summer scent. That new creation is built around a tiare milk accord that comprises Tahitian gardenia petals mixed with coconut and orange blossoms.

The original leaned heavily on top notes of fresh citrus and floral, a heart of basil and spearmint and a drydown of oak moss and deep woods.

And Estée herself would like the collection, said Aerin Lauder, senior vice president of global creative directions for Estée Lauder. "It's modern Estée," she said. "It's very us. The heritage makes our classic customers comfortable, and the Ford edge draws in new customers."In total, there are 25 pieces in the spring collection Ford has created for Lauder. The centerpieces are three color families — Azurée, Cap Bronzée and St. Tropée — each with two lip colors, priced at $22 each; a $28.50 cheek glow, and a $30 eye duo. Azurée is built around peach tones with a splash of coral. Cap Bronzée's color palette is warm tones of sand, while St. Tropée's colors are mauve-based.

In addition to the three color collections, eight additional items will be offered. Six are color products: a white lip color with SPF 15, for $20; Coralée, a $20 lip gloss that can be used with all of the palettes; a black eyeliner, $18.50; a Face Gloss in Bronzée, $28.50; a Face Highlighter in Coquilée, $28.50, and a nail polish of the same shade, $18. The remaining two are the body oil spray, $28.50 for 4 oz., and a body bronzer called Body Tint, $28.50 for 6.7 oz. Lauder's specialty stores — about 250 doors — also will stock five additional items: the white lip color in gold fluted packaging, rather than blue, $35: Sunbronzer, $50; The Face Sheen in Coquilée, $40; Lip Shine in Coralée, $35, and a mirror, $45.

"It's the ultimate beach collection," said Demsey. "This is a fashion collection that is steeped in the jet-set heritage of this brand."

And the shades are designed to be very wearable. "These are colors that look wonderful with a tan," Ford said. "It's a daytime collection, a sun collection that is also meant to look good in your tanned hand on the beach. The tinted moisturizer is almost a throwback to the leg makeup of the Sixties. And bright lips. I love the summer look of a girl without makeup except for a bright pop of lipstick." Another Sixties-inspired touch is a white lipstick. "There's something about putting a little white on your skin that emphasizes the tan and makes you look slightly retro," he said. "I remember pictures of Lauren Hutton with the look in the Seventies."

About 2,100 U.S. department and specialty store doors will get the color collections. National print advertising will break in June fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines, including Vanity Fair, Vogue and Cosmopolitan, and features Lauder model Carolyn Murphy.Despite Ford's penchant for birthday-suit shots, Murphy is clad in a white bikini, with a seductive look, lounging on a beach. "Everyone can't always be naked, although I do have that reputation," he admitted with a laugh. The images were shot by Craig McDean in the Hamptons on New York's Long Island and, as luck would have it, the shoot took place on one of the few cool, rainy days in Montauk in September. "We had to do a lot of postproduction on the ad," said Ford. "It was freezing — we were all huddled under blankets, and Carolyn was lying there in a bikini. We had to take tons of goose bumps out of the picture."

While none of the executives would comment on projected sales or advertising spending, industry sources estimated the collection would do about $18 million at retail globally, with $9 million of that in U.S. retail sales. Sources estimated advertising and promotional spending at about $4 million worldwide, with about half of that to be done in the U.S.

Now that Azurée is launching, Ford is putting the finishing touches on his freestanding Tom Ford collection, which is expected this fall. "I'm so excited about getting it out there," he said. "This one doesn't have a historical component. This is what I'm about."

While he mentioned that it will include a fragrance and said the packaging is completely different from his two collections from Lauder, he declined to give additional details.

"My New Year's resolution was to learn to keep my mouth shut," he cracked.

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