By  on August 28, 2009

Marc Ecko is making a play for the men’s fragrance market with the launch of his first scent, Ecko by Marc Ecko. The designer is taking the same bold approach to the beauty business as he has to the apparel and media industries.

“This isn’t the typical fashion designer fragrance brand,” said Ecko from the 23rd Street Manhattan headquarters of Marc Ecko Enterprises, the company he founded 15 years ago with little more than a handful of spray-painted T-shirts. “This is every man. My story is really an American dream, made from scratch, made from nothing but a dollar and a dream,” explained the New Jersey native. “My consumer knows my story, and that’s why I wanted the smell to feel invigorating, bright and alert. I didn’t want it to be moody or avant-garde.”

Due to hit department store counters Oct. 1, the signature scent is meant to position the brand as a genuine lifestyle resource for Ecko, who counts a dozen youth-oriented brands under the umbrella of his company in markets as widespread as media, video games and apparel. While Marc Ecko Enterprises has not emerged from the economic downturn unscathed — it sold its Avirex young men’s brand and watch trademarks in June — Ecko said the new fragrance “helps your focus on the core brands, which, in the face of a bad economy, are the ones that continue to do the best.”

For fragrance licensee Parlux, Ecko by Marc Ecko is intended to help capture a larger share of the men’s fragrance market.

“Come January, this will really be our only men’s fragrance, so a lot of energy will be going into building our men’s business,” said Neil Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Parlux Fragrances Inc., which will launch a scent from Kanye West next year, as well as a fragrance from Jay-Z in the spring. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based firm also will layer on a new men’s sport scent from Ecko in fall 2010. Said Katz: “Within the next two years, we will have four men’s fragrances, all uniquely positioned to address different segments of the men’s audience.”

Industry sources estimated that Parlux would spend roughly $15 million on the advertising and promotion of Ecko by Marc Ecko. Market sources also estimated that the new scent will generate first-year wholesale sales of $25 million.

Perfumers Vincent Kuczinski and Lois Evans of Ungerer & Co. worked with Ecko to create the aromatic fougère, which has top notes of ginger, white grapefruit, lightening accord and hyper citrus accord; a heart of violet leaves, black licorice and wild artemisia, and a drydown of static accord, tonka beans, white incense and energized musk accord.

“It was always my aspiration to get a scent that was highly wearable,” explained Ecko. “I wanted it to be like a stimulant — almost caffeinated. I wanted it to be clean and bright, but something that wasn’t so clean and soapy that it wasn’t sexy. And it was important to me that it have a semi-unisex vibe.”

The collection includes eaux de toilette in two sizes — 1.7 oz. for $55 and 3.4 oz. for $65 — as well as a 2.6-oz. deodorant stick for $19.

The sent will be available in roughly 2,000 department store doors including Macy’s, Dillard’s and Belk, and is expected to find its sweet spot with 14- to 35-year-olds.

The highly technical bottle, which Katz described as “a real challenge” to execute, was inspired by a prism that Ecko spotted in the gift shop at New York’s Museum of Natural History last year. “It was basically a triangle made out of crystal, and when I held it up, I got a reflection of myself,” said Ecko. “It was very cool that it was this interactive thing, and it was a playoff of the notion of an echo with these images bouncing off one another.”

Dale Kan of Brandology worked with Ecko to create the finished product: A sleek glass triangular bottle, which boasts a mirrored back to reflect the Marc Ecko name and signature rhino logo printed backward for a holographic effect. Said Ecko: “I wanted to do something that provided a little sense of discovery for the consumer holding it.”

Creating points of intrigue for his consumer base is nothing new for the 36-year-old, a self-described orator of youth culture, who continues to marry savvy self-promotion with irreverent marketing in his apparel, video game and multimedia divisions. And Ecko’s new scent is no exception. In addition to featuring himself shirtless alongside scantily clad models in a steamy video that will appear in-store for the new scent, Ecko teamed up with HBO and its hit series “True Blood” earlier this summer to create a vampire-themed campaign for a fictitious version of the scent, which appeared on billboards and buses in June. The ad pictured the scent’s bottle alongside a vampire about to sink his teeth into a model with the tag line, “Attract a Human.” Ecko said, “We got a billboard here in New York and out in L.A. during [pop arts convention] Comic-Con, which is exactly the sweet spot for our consumer. It was a great precursor to get a community talking about the fragrance, which has been very effective.” Ecko also operates brand-related Facebook and Twitter sites as well as a daily blog.

A traditional print campaign, shot by Tony Duran and featuring Ecko with model Tori Maisey, will break in October music and lifestyle publications, including Details, GQ, Rolling Stone, Spin and the Ecko-owned Complex magazine.

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