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Matthew Williamson Set to Launch First Signature Fragrance

Next month, British designer Matthew Williamson will launch his first signature

LONDON — When Matthew Williamson decided to launch his first signature fragrance, his thoughts washed up on an exotic beach.

“I wanted the central, overriding note to be reminiscent of the sexy oiliness of a girl’s warm skin after a day of sunbathing,” said Williamson, who regularly takes his inspiration from the hot shores of India, Ibiza and Morocco.

Matthew Williamson Fragrance, with its white floral notes, will launch in the U.K. in May and hit counters in the U.S., Hong Kong, Australia and Canada in September.

The designer said during an interview at his flagship here that he told the perfumer, Clement Gavarry of International Flavors and Fragrances, to “imagine the sort of scent Jade Jagger and Helena Christensen would wear — and take it from there.”

Gavarry said Williamson fell in love with Indian jasmine sambac. “From there we built a fragrance exploring the facets of the jasmine flower in completely different ways,” said Gavarry.

Top notes include bergamot, lime, neroli, tagete, ginger and cinnamon oils, a warm sand accord and schinus molle. The  middle notes are jasmine sambac, orris concrete, ylang ylang java oil, magnolia flower oil, rose, gardenia and living heliotrope. The drydown is from labdanum resin, sandalwood oil, vanilla, olibanum resin, benzoin resin, patchouli heart and sensual musk.

“It reflects my personality and characteristics but it embodies the true essence of the brand; sexy, feminine and uplifting,” said Williamson, who plans to wear it himself. (He currently wears Avignon by Comme des Garçons). “I wanted it to be a contemporary and modern fragrance that would also be timeless as a classic.”

Williamson designed the rectangular, clear glass bottle with the help of Henri Monclin of Ateliers Dinand. The block-like bottle has a pink tinge to it, and a clear, cube-shaped lid. The bottle was inspired by the showpiece glass tank at the back of Williamson’s London store.

The collection includes eau de parfum in two sizes, 50 ml. for $80, or 42 pounds, and 100 ml. for $105, or 55 pounds. There will also be a 200 ml. body cream for $76, or 40 pounds, and 100 ml. bath oil for $61, or 32 pounds. Juniper Brand Development, the British company that owns the license, expects U.K. retail sales to reach $9.6 million, or 5 million pounds at current exchange, in the first year.

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In the U.K., the designer’s flagship and Harvey Nichols will carry the fragrance exclusively for five weeks. In July, it will roll out to an additional 450 doors in the U.K., including Selfridges, Harrods, House of Fraser, Debenhams and John Lewis.

In September, the scent will launch internationally. In the U.S., it will be in around 100 doors. It will also roll out in Canada, Australia and Hong Kong. By early 2006, the scent will launch across Asia.

The ad campaign was shot by Robert Jaso and styled by Bay Garnett, and breaks in the July issues of British magazines including Vogue, Elle, Glamour, Harpers & Queen, POP and The Sunday Times Style magazine. The ads come in both single-page and double-page spread versions.

The star of the campaign is a little-known model called Portia Freeman, which is surprising considering Matthew Williamson relies heavily on celebrities such as Madonna, Kate Moss and Kelis to promote the brand. “I wanted freshness,” said Williamson. “I didn’t want it to be about the girl, I wanted it to be about the fragrance.”

The ads will also be featured on subways and buses in the U.K. Juniper said it plans to spend $750,000 on advertising in the first year. The company also plans to issue a limited-edition scented bracelet to promote the brand at Harvey Nichols in the U.K.

Williamson has flirted with fragrance in the past. In 2002, he collaborated with London perfumer Lyn Harris on a limited-edition eau de parfum.

“I dipped my toe in last time, but I knew nothing about fragrance,” said Williamson, adding that this time he dove straight in. “I was much more clued-up and involved on every level every step of the way, from packaging to production to advertising.”

Fragrance is just one part of Williamson’s burgeoning business. Next week Williamson will be in New York scouting for spaces for a Manhattan flagship, which he plans to open within the next 18 months.

“As the business grows, life is getting harder by the day,” he said. But the rewards are worth the effort. “The London store has done fantastically well. It’s been phenomenal,” said Williamson who just celebrated the first anniversary of his Bruton Street store.