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EXCLUSIVE: Emma Watson Directs and Fronts Prada Paradoxe Campaign

The new women’s fragrance is due out starting Aug. 22.

PARIS — Prada is set to launch its new women’s fragrance, Prada Paradoxe, which is fronted by Emma Watson, who makes her directorial debut with the campaign.

This marks the first major Prada scent for women to be launched by L’Oréal, the brand’s fragrance and beauty licensee, and is meant to become a global feminine pillar.

“I think it was serendipitous that Prada came to me with this project,” Watson told WWD. “It was around the time when I had decided in my heart, and my head, that I wanted to direct something. I found the concept of being a woman who’s a paradox so interesting.

“Something that really stuck out to me when I was sent the idea for the fragrance was that Prada is about upstream narratives. And I instantly though, ‘Oh my god, that’s me,’’” she continued. “’That’s how I feel.’ I feel like I’m always running against the current.”

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Watson called the Prada woman “a curious free-thinker.”

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“I’m really curious, I try to be a free-thinker as much as one can be, given the constraints of the society and the system we live in,” she said. “It grabbed my attention. I really wanted to be part of something that gives women more strength, freedom, power and self-confidence. That’s what I feel when I read the story of why Prada Paradoxe had been created. I instantly felt that I have always been a paradox. Prada Paradoxe gave me permission.”

Watson believes she has wanted to direct since she was seven years old.

“I don’t think I thought it was a possibility,” she said. “No one offered me the directing job. I had to give myself permission. I had to ask. I love telling stories. I think I’m good at it. I think I have a vision.”

Watson explained that as a director for Prada, she wanted to find material that wouldn’t bore her, which she felt good about living inside of and exploring daily, intensively.

“I felt that way about Prada Paradoxe and combined with the sustainability aspect, it set my imagination alight with possibilities,” she said. “To be partnered with a company like Prada and L’Oréal, the scope and the scale of what you can achieve is so exciting.”

Watson said Miuccia Prada “has historically explored the space beyond traditional models and archetypes of conceived beauty and what is considered beautiful. She’s always been known for femininity that challenges conventions, a kind of femininity that doesn’t shy away from its femaleness, but that also challenges stereotypes. I think it’s obvious just by the name of the fragrance, Prada Paradoxe: For them to have taken a profound philosophical concept and make it the name of a fragrance is huge.”

Watson considers fragrance to be “a blueprint of a person, of a soul. It’s much more sensorial and emotional and memory-based. It’s not about achieving beauty, it’s actually much more intimate and personal. It’s about the relationship that a woman has with herself.”

She and L’Oréal executives kept the contents of the campaign under wraps for the scent, which is due to hit counters starting Monday.

But Yann Andrea, international general manager of Prada Beauty at L’Oréal Luxe, talked strategy.

Prada Paradoxe
Prada Paradoxe Courtesy of Prada Beauty

“Our vision and ambition for Prada beauty is really to build a global beauty brand, to be among the top players of the selective beauty market,” he explained.

Andrea added it is key for Prada Beauty to embrace today’s new vision of luxury “that we feel is more essential, meaningful, is driven by tech but always at the service of progress.”

“What we also wanted to do is to celebrate the multidimensionality of women,” he continued, saying Paradoxe is for a woman who is never the same, yet always uncompromisingly herself.

Thus the name Paradoxe — French for paradox. “It’s an augmented anagram of Prada also,” he said.

The bottle is shaped as a triangle with rounded angles, a reinterpretation of the iconic Prada logo.

“It was really important to find a design that would perfectly express the brand DNA,” said Andrea, who also highlighted that there’s a touch of eccentricity, since the flacon never sits upright.

Givaudan master perfumers Nadège Le Garlantezec, Shyamala Maisondieu and Antoine Maisondieu created the scent.

“The idea with them was to reconcile timelessness and avant-garde on one side, and nature and innovation on the other,” said Andrea.

He described Prada Paradoxe as redefining intense feminine sensuality with olfactive contrasts.

It has dominant notes of neroli and jasmine, with a white flower bouquet and an Ambrofix and Serenolide accord.

Among the innovations used for the fragrance, there’s a novel technique that extracts the neroli bud prior to its opening.

Prada Paradoxe was created with sustainability in mind, including three sustainably sourced ingredients, such as Moroccan neroli oil, and refill programs.

Andrea said for the muse and ambassador of Prada Paradoxe, it was important to identify someone who channels multidimensionality.

“Emma Watson was for us the best embodiment of the Prada woman, being an actor, an activist and also an artist,” he said. “We believe that she perfectly epitomizes modern femininity, rewriting also its codes for a new generation.”

After Watson was approached, she connected with this new expression of femininity, according to Andrea. Along with directing, she features in the advertising — showing yet another element of her multifaceted character.

“Emma has been deeply involved also in the creation of the campaign,” said Andrea. The Prada Beauty team worked closely with the designers Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons on Prada Paradoxe, as well.

In the U.S., the 30-ml. eau de parfum spray will retail for $87, the 50-ml. spray for $112 and the 90-ml. for $142. The 100-ml. refill is to go for $125.

After launching in the west on Monday, the scent will be introduced in China and travel retail in September, followed by the Middle East in November and some Latin American markets in 2023.

“Another strategic objective for us is the expansion of the brand in the Asian market, focusing on [China],” said Andrea. Other goals are to strengthen the Prada fragrance brand in the western world, mainly in the U.S.

In New York City, there will be a Prada Paradoxe pop-up store on Aug. 26.

Although Prada Beauty executives would not discuss sales projections, industry sources estimate Prada Paradoxe will generate $100 million in retail sales by year-end.

L’Oréal began managing the Prada fragrance and beauty license in January 2021. The first mission was to reactivate Prada’s rich fragrance portfolio. Then it launched Luna Rossa Ocean.

The Luna Rossa franchise has become a bestseller in numerous countries, and helped boost the brand’s overall business, said Andrea. Les Infusions were reactivated at the beginning of 2022 with a new communication campaign.

The Prada fragrance franchise ranks number eight in the U.S., where it grew almost two times faster than the market, and figures in the top 10 in the U.K. In Europe, it’s growing at double the speed of the market.

The brand has been focusing on strengthening its brick-and-mortar distribution by opening new doors, but also bolstering its online presence. There was the recent debut of a global website, currently selling direct-to-consumer exclusively in the U.S.

“In 2022, one of our top priorities is really to conquer the women’s fragrance market with the launch of a new feminine signature fragrance,” said Andrea.