By  on January 23, 2009

John Varvatos is going from a vintage feel to an artisanal look.

The men’s wear designer is poised to launch his third men’s scent, a fragrance called Artisan, that is due out in March, in an effort to bolster what he describes as a steadily growing Varvatos fragrance business.

“We’ve got two men’s fragrances [a signature scent called Classic and a subsequent fragrance called Vintage] that have been working well,” Varvatos said during a recent interview. “It’s a nicely growing, positive business — without the injection of a new fragrance every season.”

While neither the designer, nor executives at his Shiseido-owned licensee, JV Fragrance & Skincare, would comment specifically on revenues, Varvatos said his men’s fragrance business was up by double-digits in 2008, compared with 2007.

Market sources, however, project Artisan could push fragrance to about 46.4 percent of net sales for the total John Varvatos business, which sources pegged at around $140 million in 2008.

The designer’s fragrance business, which includes the two men’s scents and a year-old women’s fragrance, comes in at about $50 million globally with half of that coming from the U.S., sources said. They added that Artisan could do upward of $15 million in retail sales in the U.S.

Artisan, said Varvatos, was inspired by, “Driving [to] Upstate [New York] in the spring and opening the window and getting a burst of clean, fresh air.” Of the olfactive composition of Artisan, compared to his other men’s scents, he added, “We needed something lighter.”

Plans call for the scent to be introduced March 1 at a yet-to-be-named specialty store chain, then roll out the next month to Varvatos’ full fragrance distribution of 900 doors in the U.S. This network includes Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Sephora locations.

Subsequent to the U.S. launch, there are plans to roll out the scent internationally; worldwide there are upward of 1,600 fragrance doors, which are found in Western and Central Europe, Russia and Asia. In comparison, there are about 250 Varvatos fashion doors in the U.S. and 350 worldwide.

“The launch of Artisan will help solidify Beauté Prestige International’s leadership position in the men’s market,” said Nicholas Munafo, president of BPI USA, which is a division of Shiseido. With two scents in the top 15 [prestige ranking] within BPI’s U.S. distribution network, he added, “We think Artisan can be the third.”

The eau de toilette, described as a citrus, herbal scent, was created via a collaboration between Varvatos and Givaudan perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux, who has worked on Varvatos’ previous scents.

Artisan opens with notes of Sicilian clementines, tangelo fruit, Mexican winter mandarin oranges, as well as thyme, Spanish marjoram and Greek lavendin.

The heart of the fragrance has an accord of North African orange tree blossom blended with Indian murraya, an orange jasmine tree, which in this case, is billed as a first in the composition of a men’s scent. Rounding out the middle notes are three iterations of ginger — from Nigeria, China and a so-called “purple ginger” developed by Givaudan.

Artisan’s base notes mix a woody combination of Kephalis and Georgywood, along with ambery Belambre and musky Serenolide.

Key to the scent’s image is the bottle’s handmade, caramel-colored rattan cover, which Varvatos claimed is the only such hand-done prestige fragrance packaging.

“The wicker aspect is a major point of difference at the fragrance bar,” added Munafo. “It mixes hip and edgy with classic.”

Each bottle looks slightly different because each is a one-of-a-kind wicker objet d’art, according to Varvatos. A metal cap, meant to resemble pewter, is engraved with the name of the designer and scent and it has a distressed, “old-world” metallic look, said Varvatos.

The designer worked together with Jon Cisler Designs to do the bottle, which has the flask shape of Varvatos’ two existing men’s scents. Even Varvatos’ signature women’s scent, launched early last year, has a similar flask shape.

Artisanal fragrances are “a lost art in the fragrance world where things are mechanized and churned out.” Varvatos said. “We said, ‘Let’s approach [the creation of this scent] with an artisan mentality.’”

Artisan will be available in two versions, a 125-ml. edt priced at $75, and a 75-ml. size for $55. A $22 deodorant stick will accompany the scent.

An advertising and promotional campaign that will include print ads in May issues of selected upscale men’s fashion and lifestyle magazines, Munafo noted, is said by sources to be worth about $5 million.

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