View Slideshow

LAKE COMO, Italy — Versace is aiming to launch the best-selling fragrance in its history with the October debut of Crystal Noir, a women’s scent that industry sources say could do $40 million at retail its first year.

Moreover, the timing is critical. The parent Versace Group reportedly is near closing a deal to license its beauty business, Giver Profumi, which now generates an estimated $90 million. Reports have been circulating that a European beauty player, reportedly Inter Parfums, is on the verge of striking a deal.

The importance of the fragrance project was underscored by the fact that the new initiative was unveiled recently at the Versace villa on Lake Como.

Over a dinner served in Versace’s Villa Fontanelle’s garden, overlooking Lake Como, chairman Santo Versace said the villa, which his late brother Gianni Versace considered his principal home, was where the company unveiled its first women’s scent, Gianni Versace, in 1981.

The new fragrance was presented after dinner by three dancers while fireworks spelled out Crystal Noir. The fragrance was created as a result of the vision of Donatella Versace. “I’ve had a passion for fragrance as long as I can remember,” said the designer, who owns hundreds of bottles. “I’ve spent hours at fragrance counters around the world. I collect them all, from parfums to essential oils to scented moisturizers. It’s my most personal expression. But I like to change my fragrance constantly. I love to mix and layer multiple scents based on my mood, the weather, an event I’m going to, what I’m wearing, anything. Some people know a lot about cooking, some know a lot about gardening. I’m an expert with fragrance and I love them,” said Donatella.

The interview was conducted via e-mail about two weeks ago, well before the fashion house acknowledged that the designer had gone into rehab for issues related to substance abuse.

Famous for her appearance, Donatella said that choosing a fragrance in the morning was the most involved part of getting dressed.

“If I don’t wear fragrance before walking out of my house it is as if a part of me is missing and I think it’s the same for a lot of women,” she said.

This story first appeared in the July 30, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

You May Also Like

Crystal Noir was created with characteristics that Donatella described as close to her heart. The bottle, shaped in dark violet jewel-cut glass, features a heavy cap that looks like a large, black diamond. Made of heavy garnet glass, the bottle was designed by Donatella in conjunction with A/R Media and Tino Valentinitsch, and was inspired by the facets of a diamond. The fragrance is meant to capture the essence of the fashion label’s couture line Versace Atelier. In contrast to the bottle’s dark exterior, the juice is clear. Donatella said she deliberately designed the bottle this way.

“I feel so strongly about this new fragrance and wanted to create a bottle that looked like a timeless jewel bottle when sitting out, but at the same time with the surprise of a light fragrance inside,” said Donatella.

Boasting two main ingredients — gardenia and amber — the fragrance’s juice was an idea born out of earlier Versace fragrance creations.

“I’ve been working with tuberose notes for my last several fragrances and I wanted to expand the collection with a softer and lighter offering. I’ve become infatuated with the floral sweetness of the gardenia and in usual format for me, I wanted to add a strong note of amber to balance the gentleness of the gardenia, giving it a surprise,” said Donatella.

The formula was created at Givaudan by perfumer Antoine Lie. The fragrance has no projected age target, according to Donatella. “The scent is light enough to be worn during the day by younger women as well as by women who want to feel glamorous and sensual in the evening,” she said.

Director of Giver Profumi Ferdinando Silva Coronel said, “This fragrance represents a new direction in the women’s fragrance world. I feel that it doesn’t only represent a new proposal, according to the latest trends, but will represent also something absolutely new that will, without question, surpass the success of our existing fragrances.”

A print campaign for the fragrance, featuring model Isabeli Fontana and shot by photographer Steven Meisel, will run in magazines accompanying the launch. The fragrance will be rolled out in 11,800 points of sale worldwide, 400 of them in the U.S., including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Parisian, Macy’s and Sephora.

The fragrance will sell in two eau de parfum sizes: 50 ml. for $70 and 100 ml. for $90. An accompanying bath and shower gel will retail for $35 and a body lotion for $40.