By  on June 30, 2006

NEW YORK — Betsey Johnson has always done things her own way and in her own time — and her first fragrance, due out this fall, is no exception. While she's aware that she's launching her scent during a jam-packed season, the quirky designer seems unfazed by the maniacal market competition that awaits her.

"We have wanted and needed a fragrance for so long," said Johnson during a recent interview at her Seventh Avenue showroom here recently. And she was definitely hands-on, helping to develop the fragrance, a fruity floriental, in cooperation with Mane USA, Colorful Licenses and the Karis Group. It has top notes of juicy pear, tangerine, grapefruit and black currant; a heart of freesia, lily of the valley and apple, and a drydown of cedarwood, sandalwood, praline, amber and musk. While the rose is a Johnson apparel design symbol, there's no rose in the fragrance formula. "I figured, screw it, as long as it smelled good," Johnson said. "There's a good balance of flowers, food and fruit."

So far, Johnson said her personal test group — her daughter, Lulu, and several male friends — has given it a stamp of approval. "And I love that Lulu loves it — she can be critical about these things!" (Lulu also produced another of the designer's passions: her first granddaughter, Layla, born in March.)

Equally important to Johnson was the perfume's bottle. "I've bought perfumes just for the bottle — even when I hate the smell!" she said, noting that she's accumulated quite a collection of them over the years. The Betsey Johnson fragrance bottle is modeled after what she calls a "grandma-funky, musty-misty" bottle she found decades ago, but brought up to date with signature Betsey touches, including a flexible fuchsia fan-like top. "What I liked about this is that you can throw it in your purse, but when you put it on your dresser, it's an absolute trip," she said. Eaux de parfum in two sizes — $55 for 50 ml. and $75 for 100 ml. —will be offered, as will two ancillaries, a 200-ml. bath and shower gel for $28 and a 200-ml. body lotion for $28.

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