PARIS — After reinventing two of its iconic women’s scents over the past five years, Yves Saint Laurent Beauté is poised to launch a new feminine pillar, called Libre, in August.
Black Opium, a riff on Opium, came out in 2014, while Mon Paris, a new take on Paris, was launched in 2016. Both had young, modern women in their scopes.
“We were at the time targeting women in around their [mid-]twenties,” said Stephan Bezy, international general manager of YSL Beauté. He added that the demographic being drawn to the perfumes, however, was also as young as 16-year-olds.
“We said now it’s time to tackle what is at the core of our DNA – the idea of freedom,” said the executive at L’Oréal, YSL’s fragrance and beauty licensee, referring to founder Yves Saint Laurent’s fashion legacy. He dressed women in trouser suits and safari jackets, and put sheer blouses on the runway.
“Mr. Saint Laurent [accompanied] those women who were fighting for their freedom, their right to be independent, to be themselves and have the power to be who they want to be. Freedom [was] at the heart of Mr. Saint Laurent’s soul and aspiration,” stressed Bezy.
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The concept of freedom resonates no less today, albeit in different guises. Women polled by the brand said they wished to have the freedom to experiment in their lives. “We wanted to express this idea of living everything to the excess,” said Bezy.
This gave birth to Libre (French for free). Its juice has a structure winking to the designer’s penchant for turning traditionally masculine garments into feminine pieces, like the tuxedo jacket. Libre was developed starting with a fougère composition typically used in men’s scents.
The eau de parfum, created by IFF master perfumers Anne Flipo and Carlos Benaïm, contains sustainably sourced lavender from southern France and vanilla from Madagascar. Other notes include orange blossom, ambergris, neroli and mandarin.
The bottle, created by Suzanne Dalton, is meant to be totemic and like a fashion accessory. YSL’s Cassandre logo lies on its side and wraps around the flacon. “There is something irreverent, and irreverence is very much in the brand,” said Bezy.
Giving a couture touch is the chain encircling the bottle’s collar and its asymmetric black cap.
Dua Lipa fronts the advertising, as previously reported. “She is very engaged in the fight for freedom,” said Bezy, calling her “an incredible artist, an icon of her generation.”
Nabil Elderkin lensed the campaign, in which Lipa says “don’t be afraid of your freedom” and sings a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “I’m Free.”
Libre launches first in the U.S. on Aug. 1, on yslbeauty.com and then in stores in America on Aug. 15, followed by a rollout in Europe. There, prices will range from 64 euros for the 30-ml. bottle to 117 euros for the 90-ml. version.
YSL executives would not discuss estimates, but industry sources expect Libre will generate retail sales of $280 million in the first 12 months, and that the scent could rank in the top five worldwide within three years.
Today globally, the YSL fragrance franchise places fifth overall in the prestige category and fourth with its feminine scents. Of them, Black Opium ranks seventh and Mon Paris, eleventh. Among men’s scents worldwide, Y places fourth, according to NPD Group data.
All beauty categories — including fragrance, makeup and skin care — are registering double-digit annual sales growth for YSL Beauté, which has been posting double-digit revenue gains yearly since 2014.
It is the seventh-largest beauty brand worldwide in selective distribution, up seven notches since 2012. YSL Beauté has generated more than a billion euros annually over the past three years. A goal, according to Bezy, is for it to move into the top five in the midterm.
Geographically, Asia has been an important growth driver. YSL Beauté relaunched in China in May 2013. In the first quarter of 2019, the brand ranked ninth there overall, with sales growing at 61 percent — or two times faster than the local market — according to Beauté Research.
YSL Beauté placed third in makeup, after Dior and MAC Cosmetics, and before Chanel, and figured among the top three in the lip segment, with The Slim lipstick placing in the first six in China. “Lips has been a great asset for the brand,” said Bezy.
In Asia overall in the first three months of 2019, the Touche Éclat Cushion Foundation ranked among the top two facial products.
Or Rouge, relaunched last year, is one of YSL’s skin-care lines posting significant gains. “We have a high expectation on skin care,” said Bezy.
On a geographic basis, key markets for YSL Beauté are Asia, travel retail, the U.S. and Europe.
The brand’s retail footprint keeps growing, most recently in early June with the opening of a store in a mall in Guangzhou, China. YSL Beauté’s largest flagship, measuring 1,955 square feet, the shop is highly experiential, including customized products and a vending machine available at all hours. Altogether, the brand has 80 freestanding stores.
“We believe in the brick and the click,” said Bezy, citing as an example YSL Beauté making its debut last year on China’s Tmall.