NEW YORK — Just over two weeks before Vera Wang’s fragrance will launch at Saks Fifth Avenue, the uber-bridal designer and her fragrance partner, Unilever Prestige, are unveiling the scent’s advertising campaign and readying the scent for its retail debut.

At a party Wednesday night at Saks Fifth Avenue’s Manhattan flagship, Wang and Laura Lee Miller, president of Unilever Prestige, presented the scent to the store’s sales force. Saks will start selling the fragrance on, appropriately enough, Valentine’s Day, complete with a personal appearance by Wang. The retailer will have an exclusive on it through the beginning of April, at which point the fragrance will roll out to select department and specialty stores. By yearend 2002, it will be in about 500 doors.

“This isn’t a unisex scent,” Wang said wryly to the crowd. “It’s very, very sensual.” The juice, by Firmenich, includes top notes of Bulgarian rose, calla lily and mandarin flower; middle notes of gardenia, lotus, iris and white stephanotis, and a dry-down of sheer musks, white woods and precious floral nectar. Wang also hinted of future engagements with Unilever Prestige — including, possibly, a color cosmetics line.

Wednesday’s party at Saks also yielded a surprise for Wang — another bride to dress, as Miller announced her engagement to the crowd.

Earlier in the day, Wang and Miller revealed the scent’s advertising campaign. The duo, who worked with New York-based advertising agency Badger, Kry & Partners to create the campaign, used “passion and commitment” as their chief inspirations. Miller noted that the shots are intended to evoke bridal candid shots — “the kind that the photographer snaps off and it becomes your favorite shot, because it captures how you feel that day,” she said. One image features a woman alone looking longingly into the distance, while the other is of a couple passionately embracing. The featured models are Vivien Solari and Jason Elliott. The ads were shot in Paris last October by Paolo Roversi, who worked with Wang on her recent book, “Vera Wang on Weddings.”

“I knew before I started with the fragrance what the ads had to look like,” said Wang. “They had to be classic, yet convey a modern concept of passion. I want people to look at them and feel the emotion, to identify with the images. Paolo has done that brilliantly with his Impressionistic shots.”

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The ads will begin appearing in March in a variety of beauty, fashion, lifestyle and bridal books, including Vogue, W, Harper’s Bazaar, Allure, In Style, Martha Stewart Living and Bride’s. A wide range of consumers will be targeted — chiefly the scent’s key demographic of 25-to-35-year-old women, noted Miller. But it’s not just about brides: “It’s about hope, and commitment, and enduring love,” said Miller, “no matter what your marital status.” But, she added, “Brides are a particular opportunity.”

“The fragrance advertising will add momentum to the overall growth of our business,” said Chet Hazzard, president and chief operating officer of Vera Wang, Ltd., adding that in some magazines, the fragrance will run within an 11-page portfolio the fashion house is running. “It will also be very inclusive for the women who aspire to our brand, but have not yet had the opportunity to be a part of it due to our positioning and pricing.”

The advertising campaign for the year includes about 59 insertions; about half of those will be scented, said Miller. More than 25 million scented strips are expected to be included in the magazine ads, with an additional 10 million scented strips to be included in store catalogs.

According to industry sources, the total war chest — make that “hope chest” — for the fragrance, including advertising and promotional efforts, is expected to top $14 million this year. About $4 million of that figure is estimated to cover the print advertising. Industry sources have estimated that the fragrance will do about $20 million at retail in its first year.