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Cumming Soon: Alan’s Scent

NEW YORK — He’s starred in “Cabaret” on Broadway and inspired an action figure from his role in the second “X-Men” movie. Now, actor — and frequent sight on the New York Fashion Week scene — Alan Cumming is taking another step toward pop notoriety with the February launch of his own scent, Cumming The Fragrance.

“I’m not the most obvious person you’d think of to be a fragrance spokesperson,” said the Scottish actor. “People know I’m going to be a bit risqué, shake things up a little.” Indeed, during an exclusive interview with WWD, Cumming made more than a few ill-advised sexual puns on his last name. “But really, what could be better than smelling nice, feeling sexy and having a laugh?”

The scent, created by Christopher Brosius, who founded the Demeter Fragrance Library and now runs his own perfume atelier, gives a nod to Cumming’s Scottish heritage and louche style. It’s a rich mix of peat fire, Scotch pine, Scotch whiskey, burned rubber, Highlands hay, several types of tobacco, leather, amyris, black and white pepper, white truffle oil and vetiver.

“Alan’s always been an extremely good client, and making this fragrance was the perfect scenario,” said Brosius. “It’s very smart, witty, amusing, versatile and very sexy — like Alan himself.”

Brosius has been a friend of the actor since Cumming presented him with a 2000 FiFi award for his Demeter fragrance, Snow. “There are too many celebrity fragrances where you’re like: ‘What’s the point of this person slapping their face on a bottle?’ Most of them are dreary.” While Cumming may be anything but, the packaging for the fragrance will emphasize his irreverent persona.

“The images we’ve shot are really tongue-in-cheek,” said Cumming. “I wanted something funny and witty.”

In a shoot with photographer Steven Vaccariello on Tuesday, Cumming and Brosius created a series of 10 black-and-white images, ranging from Cumming posing with a cigar and wearing a John Bartlett suit to the actor “buck naked,” Brosius said. The images will be configured in a checkerboard pattern printed on the interior of the fragrance box. Cumming, an active fund-raiser for AmFAR, will also sell original prints and possibly postcard versions of the images to raise money for the AIDS charity.

This story first appeared in the September 16, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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The fragrance will be sold in a transparent square bottle, with the actor’s name silk-screened in white, and will retail for $69 for 3.4 oz. Eventually, Brosius said, they may do extensions in body care, candles and possibly travel items. And discussions are already under way for a second fragrance, tentatively called Cumming Wild Thyme, named for the actor’s Catskill country house.

The marketing plan takes a niche approach, with a February rollout to approximately 100 doors, primarily independent beauty boutiques.

The scent’s small distribution will generate “easily” $500,000 in first-year retail sales, said Jason Schell, marketing director for Christopher Brosius Studio and Perfume Gallery. “It will be sold in independent beauty stores like A Beautiful Life in New Hope, Pa., and possibly Barneys or Sephora,” he noted.

Brosius won’t do traditional advertising, preferring instead to do launch parties — like the one planned for Monday night at Space Downtown to unveil Cumming’s new scent. Promotional support for the fragrance will come through press on Cumming’s upcoming films, including this year’s “Mr. Ripley’s Return,” next year’s “Son of the Mask,” and “X-Men 3,” coming out in 2006.

Cumming said he’d be “forcing friends to wear the fragrance” and possibly giving out samples at press premieres for his movie. “I was paying particular attention to the goodie bags during fashion week,” he admitted. “We won’t have the samples ready to give out yet,” Cumming said of Monday’s soiree. “But I’ll be there, spraying people.” — Jackie Cooperman

Rodan + Fields Launches at Bendel’s

NEW YORK — The doctors are in — Henri Bendel, that is. On Tuesday night, dermatologist skin care brand Rodan + Fields celebrated its launch at the specialty retailer with personal appearances by dermatologists Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields, who signed their book, “Unblemished.” More than 200 fans dropped in over the course of the day.

“It’s great to meet everyone, hear their concerns and give them advice,” said Rodan. “Bendel’s is known for the new, as being more of a risk-taker and it’s exciting to be part of their vision to expand into skin care.” Fields agreed, saying, “If [consumers] have clear skin, all of the other glamorous beauty products will work better,” she said.

The Rodan + Fields counter is part of a recent focus on skin care for the retailer, which has built a reputation for cultivating niche — and often new — color brands. Bendel’s current skin care offerings include Boscia, N.V. Perricone, Epicuren, Freeze 24/7, Mario Badescu, Ole Henriksen, StriVectin-SD, Therapy Systems and Z. Bigatti. “We need to be more well-rounded, to offer our color customer treatment as well,” said Claudia Lucas, senior vice president and general manager of beauty for Henri Bendel.

Rodan + Fields general manager Shashi Batra, who joined the company early this year after it was acquired by Estée Lauder Cos., cited the importance of building the brand’s presence in New York. “We were looking for a presence in New York and Bendel’s is known for nurturing brands,” said Batra. “We think it’s a wonderful platform that really speaks to our customer base.”

During the course of the appearance, three other fans stopped by: Estée Lauder chairman Leonard Lauder, chief executive officer William Lauder and group president Dan Brestle.

— Bryn Kenny

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