LODI, Italy — Turning 30 can be tough — just ask any carefree twentysomething. But for Roberto Martone, president of fragrance manufacturer and marketer ICR-ITF, it’s an occasion to celebrate.
He recently feted his company’s three decades in business the way he knows best — with an anniversary soiree at the firm’s headquarters here, which included the launch of a new Gianfranco Ferre women’s fragrance, called Ferre. He also discussed plans for a Roberto Cavalli cosmetics line.
A pharmacist’s son, Martone began ICR in 1975 from offices in Milan, when he signed his first fragrance license with designer Renato Balestra. He added a fragrance license with Trussardi in 1981 and, six years later, signed a joint licensing deal with a young Calabrian designer, Gianni Versace — putting ICR on the global fashion map.
“Gianni’s ideas were so advanced for what consumers were ready for back then,” Martone recalled of the designer he called a genius.
In 1988, ICR’s operation became too big for its headquarters near Milan’s canal district. A pair of signoras who worked for ICR informed Martone of a space near their homes in Lodi, a district south of Milan. “While I decided whether we were going to move there, these two signoras prayed at their church that I would choose Lodi,” Martone remembered. The company was subsequently moved to a 193,750-square-foot factory here.
In the Nineties, ICR signed agreements with more big names in Italian fashion — Bulgari in 1991 and Salvatore Ferragamo and Emanuel Ungaro in 1995. ICR signed a fragrance license with designer Gai Mattiolo in 1997.
Four years ago, ITF, the fragrance division of fashion group IT Holding, was founded. Martone’s company, ICR, owned 20 percent of ITF, which held fragrance licenses for Cavalli, Ferre and Romeo Gigli.
In March 2004, ICR acquired the remaining 80 percent of ITF.
While ICR-ITF sold its 25 percent stake of Versace Profumi to Euroitalia last December, ICR-ITF started a production contract a month later with English luxury firm Asprey. Also last January, ICR’s Italian distribution agreement with Ferragamo and Ungaro was dissolved, but ICR has a contract for production of both fragrance brands until 2009.
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Martone said buying ITF was a crucial gain for the company’s identity. “Today, ICR-ITF is a significant business.” he said. The company’s portfolio includes five fragrance licenses: Cavalli, Ferre, Gigli, Mattiolo and Exte. Besides Asprey, Ferragamo and Ungaro, ICR-ITF holds fragrance production agreements with Versace, Bulgari and Hotel L’Siranusa, which is a fragrance and bath line for luxury hotels.
Since the acquisition of ITF, work has been under way to restructure the consolidated group. To allow for increases in production capacity, additional warehouses and new production spaces have been built onto the existing space. The integrated ICR and ITF offices and production plant now totals 452,084 square feet.
This year, the company will produce from 65 million to 75 million fragrance components, including caps and closures, an increase from the 55 million pieces manufactured in 2004. Martone expects that figure to rise by 15 percent next year.
“The company has hiked investment in information systems and constructed a factory that’s automated for finished production,” said Martone. “We are also doubling the production space and reorganizing layout of the company. From the point of view of production of selective fragrances, we are important here in Italy, but now we have a world presence.”
Key 2005 launches include a new women’s scent from Exte, called Tattoo; a women’s fragrance by Mattiolo, and the new Ferre scent for women. The latter is set to be unveiled in Europe in October, and the U.S., Asia and the rest of the world next spring. The Ferre scent is part of ICR-ITF’s reconstruction of the Ferre perfume portfolio. A brand shakeup has seen two older scents removed and the release of a unisex scent, Eau de Cologne Ferre.
The idea, noted Martone, is to make the new Ferre scent the cornerstone women’s fragrance within the Ferre brand. Martone hopes the scent will position the brand securely in the high-end fragrance market, where he believes it belongs.
“Ferre has aspects that are more elegant — the heavy, elongated, rectangular bottle with its embossed glass bottom, and the fact we used iris in its natural, most precious form,” said Martone.
Accords of iris flower are featured in the scent’s top notes, heart and base. Ferre will only be manufactured as an eau de parfum, a blend by Pierre Bourdon of Fragrance Resources Inc., who used natural iris to concoct the scent. Iris leaves were combined in the top notes with bergamot, honeydew melon and pineapple; iris flower along with rose, jasmine, magnolia, freesia and ylang-ylang comprise the middle notes, and iris root is mixed with amber, vanilla and basmati rice in the base notes.
This list of ingredients led designer Gianfranco Ferre to dub Ferre his aristocratic scent. At the launch party, the designer said he loved the new scent because it represented a different Ferre woman. “This woman is more modern and more real, it’s not about being a rigid icon, but a contemporary, aristocratic woman,” he remarked.
A worldwide distribution network of 5,600 doors is planned for the fragrance, a launch that will be accompanied by a print advertising campaign shot by Inez & Vinood.
Meanwhile, Martone is working on other ways to color his company’s future. A Cavalli makeup line is slated for launch early next year. The line will include skin, lip, eye and nail products. “The line is well under way with the packaging design finished,” said Martone. “I think the brand is growing fast. Cavalli’s fashion has become world-known as an expression of seduction dominated by color, so it lends itself to a makeup line perfectly.”