NEW YORK — Can Enrique Iglesias give Tommy Hilfiger’s men’s fragrance business a needed jolt? The designer is about to find out.

Hilfiger’s fragrance licensee, the Aramis and Designer Fragrances division of the Estée Lauder Cos., has signed the singer — who, fittingly enough, is perhaps best known for his song, “Hero” — to a gig as the face of True Star Men, the male counterpart to the women’s fragrance the company launched with Beyoncé Knowles last fall.

So what do Knowles and Iglesias have in common, other than their day jobs as singers? According to Hilfiger, they have that certain je ne sais quoi that ensures consumer acceptance on a very wide scale. “Both Beyoncé Knowles and Enrique Iglesias have tremendous global appeal,” said Hilfiger, who joined the singer and Lauder executives for a clandestine interview during stopovers at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport (Hilfiger was on his way to Miami, while Iglesias was en route from there to Los Angeles). “Enrique is talented, creative and appeals to a tremendous range [of customers]. And for a superstar, he is so humble and down to earth. With him, what you see is what you get.” As well, said Hilfiger: “We are the number-one designer brand to the Latin community.”

And there’s another benefit to the pairing, said Hilfiger with a roguish chuckle. “The fragrance is sexy and it’ll help you get the girls.” Speaking of the typical user, Hilfiger said: “He can play Enrique’s music, light a few candles and see what happens.” That will likely come as welcome news to the 18- to 35-year-olds who are the scent’s target market.

While few details are known about True Star Men’s juice, Iglesias — who formerly wore Jean Paul Gaultier’s eponymous scent — has definite ideas of what he likes: subtlety.

“Really strong perfumes have been known to give me headaches,” Iglesias said with a smile.

The fragrance deal follows last week’s restructuring of Hilfiger’s apparel business, under which the designer plans to shutter his young men’s business and revamp his men’s, women’s and children’s divisions and his purchase in December of the rights to the Karl Lagerfeld brand. Hilfiger is also in the midst of an ongoing investigation into his company’s commission policies by the U.S. Attorney’s office. 

This story first appeared in the February 1, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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Hilfiger also is at work on a reality TV series with CBS, which is expected to begin airing later this spring.

Lauder signed its original scent deal with Hilfiger in 1993, which was followed by the division’s first product launch, the Tommy masterbrand, in 1995. The designer’s scent business initially soared, but in recent years, it has had a number of rough spots — which both the designer and Lauder executives themselves have admitted.

But Lauder and Hilfiger seem convinced Iglesias can help turn things around — and the singer appears to be up for the challenge. Clad head-to-toe in Hilfiger apparel and wearing one of the designer’s men’s fragrances, he is obviously ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work.

“I was talking to my management about Beyoncé’s deal with Lauder, saying, ‘I’d like to have a deal like that,’” said Iglesias. “I’m not just saying that because they’re paying me. I thought the [Knowles] project was very well done — subtle and classic. And I also like the idea of combining my name with the name ‘True Star.’” And he’s not the only Iglesias male to feel that way: The singer’s father, heartthrob Julio Iglesias, fronted a fragrance during the last hot-and-heavy celebrity scent game in the Eighties.

While none of the executives would discuss what Iglesias is being paid for the Hilfiger gig, industry sources estimated that he would get what is said to be the average celebrity scent payout: an up-front check between $1 million and $2 million, and 1 to 3 percent of sales after the fragrance hits the counters this fall.

The fragrance will be released in the brand’s full North American complement of doors — about 1,800 specialty and department stores — in September, and globally in October, said Fabrice Weber, president of the Aramis and Designer Fragrances division of Lauder. “Enrique’s aspirational power is undisputable,” said Weber, praising the singer’s “multicultural appeal.”

“Enrique perfectly fits the territory we are building with the Tommy Hilfiger Toiletries franchise,” said Weber.

It is thought that Lauder is aiming for a top-10 ranking for the men’s True Star scent, which would mean retail sales of at least $18 million.

Its female counterpart is said to have done “substantially more than $50 million at retail” for the the first year, according to estimates by industry sources. Domestically, the estimate for the new scent’s first year at retail is $20 million to $25 million. The women’s True Star didn’t catch fire until late into the launch because the bulk of the TV and cinema advertising didn’t kick until December. True Star for Her reportedly was Hilfiger’s best launch since Tommy Girl in 1997.

“We had an excellent Christmas season in North America,” said Weber, noting that much of True Star’s business was done in the four days leading up to Christmas. “We did months’ worth of business in those four days. And we’re optimistic about [True Star for Her’s] prospects, especially internationally.”

For his part, Hilfiger maintained that music always has been a part of his raison d’être, both for his apparel and his scent businesses. “The whole Tommy Hilfiger philosophy is built on the ‘fame’ principle: fashion, art, music and entertainment,” said Hilfiger. “Musicians set the fashion trends. Look at David Bowie, Madonna — they’ve always had very specific effects on the fashion industry.”

Even before signing Knowles and Iglesias to deals, the designer said that, in the Nineties, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs had modeled apparel for his brand, and said that he had hired Knowles’ group, Destiny’s Child, to perform for the summer 1998 launch of his junior line at Macy’s Herald Square.

While Iglesias may not be singing in Macy’s, he likely will make personal appearances in stores to promote the fragrance, he said during the interview. And the male version of True Star also will be backed up with an impressive war chest of advertising and promotional vehicles. Weber confirmed that both national print advertising and TV ads will be produced, although he wouldn’t give further details — except to say that Iglesias will sing in the TV spot. The print campaign is said to already have been shot by Mario Testino, also the lensman on Lauder’s recently launched Donald Trump fragrance ads. Sources said that the TV campaign has not yet been produced.

Speaking of singing, Iglesias is hard at work on a new album. While there is not yet a release date for the project, Iglesias’ manager noted, “It’s fair to say he is in the final stages of the production and that soon new music will be out there.” 

This pairing marks the latest salvo in the burgeoning celebrity fragrance genre. While the field currently boasts a number of female stars — among them Jennifer Lopez, Knowles, Britney Spears, Scarlett Johansson, Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron — there are relatively few male celebrities in the game, with Donald Trump and Antonio Banderas among the handful in the category. In fact, Iglesias’ biggest competition on the men’s side this fall likely will come from another Lauder license, which is expected to make big news this autumn: Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’ Sean John fragrance brand.