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Beauty Beat: Clive Christian Perfume Upping the Price Ante

Clive Christian is sure fate played a hand when he acquired the oldest perfumery in England six years ago.

MILAN — Clive Christian is sure fate played a hand when he acquired the oldest perfumery in England six years ago, a move that led to the formation of his own fragrance business.

Now, Clive Christian Perfume has planned fragrance introductions for this month and next, as well as expanded distribution in the U.S. at Neiman Marcus this year and future openings of signature boutiques on the international front.

Nearly three decades ago, Christian’s young daughter Victoria found a green bottle under the floorboards of an old house that Christian, then an interior designer, and his wife bought and were renovating in London. The bottle turned out to be a fragrance from England’s historic Crown Perfumery and, in 1999, Clive Christian acquired the perfumery that supplied British royalty.

While an old Crown Perfumery fragrance inspired Clive Christian’s 1872 scent — a reference to the year Crown Perfumery was founded — Clive Christian decided to cease production of Crown Perfumery’s entire portfolio of 27 fragrances in 2002 due to poor sales performance.

“Crown was the first fragrance company I bought, as I admired the traditions of the company,” he said. “We may have discontinued the entire range but I wanted to keep history and traditions of the Crown Perfumery and evolve it with my own ideas.”

Victoria Christian is now the brand ambassador for Clive Christian Perfume in New York and her father heads up the business in London.

Christian made a rare appearance at Fragranza last month, a specialty fragrance and cosmetics fair held annually in Florence. He was promoting No. 1 Artwork Edition, a new-look version of his No. 1 fragrance. The limited-edition eau de parfum is being launched globally this month; 1,000 individually numbered, 50-ml. bottles were produced and priced at 550 euros, or $646 at current exchange.

In all there are six scents in the Clive Christian portfolio: 1872 for men and women, X for men and women and No. 1 for men and women. Prices range from 185 euros, or $217.35, for a 50-ml. version of 1872, to 50,000 euros, or $58,740, for a commissioned, individually designed bottle of No. 1 perfume.

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Christian plans to up the price ante further in December when the company launches Imperial Majesty, a bottle hewn from Baccarat crystal that features a solid gold collar adorned with a five-carat, brilliant-cut white diamond. Imperial Majesty contains the No. 1 women’s and men’s fragrances. Only 10 500-ml. flacons were produced and they will retail for 115,000 British pounds, or $200,203.

“Everything we do we make first, then price it second,” said Christian. “We don’t think it is a good idea to have a fragrance at a good price and then make it afterward. No. 1 is so expensive [because] it has ingredients that are rare and natural.” He added that creating the scent can often take more than two years.

The No. 1 label announces that it’s the “most expensive perfume in the world,” even though Christian said he believes this bold decree is the antithesis of British sensibility. “I wanted to create something we truly believed in,” he said. “There were a lot of people who told me not to use that phrase but it made a statement in a loud and proud way and it worked. [No. 1] is the best-selling scent in terms of [Clive Christian Perfume] volume.”

The brand has around 150 doors in the U.S., U.K., Middle East, Italy and Germany. It is set to open 35 doors in Switzerland and Austria by 2006. Christian said the company has doubled in size annually for the past five years. In the U.S., Clive Christian opened 15 doors in Neiman Marcus this year. The company said it is already 147 percent up on the yearly target there and another five Neiman Marcus doors will be added by yearend.

Christian’s perfumery dossier is impressive. He has created special editions of his No. 1 fragrance for Queen Elizabeth II as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002. He made another — a White Tie and Tiara bottle of No. 1 encrusted with pearls and diamonds — that was auctioned at Sir Elton John’s annual White Tie and Tiara ball for John’s AIDS foundation.

Christian’s future plans include a new fragrance for 2007 designed to complement the other scents in his portfolio. Additionally, a yet-to-be-determined number of signature stores will be opened in major world capitals in the next five years.