A successful fragrance is a critical element of a well-rounded lifestyle brand — and it’s something that the BCBG Max Azria Group has been missing. The new BCBG Max Azria fragrance could change that.

This story first appeared in the July 22, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Launching Aug. 1, the women’s fragrance is the result of a licensing deal struck last year between the Vernon, Calif.-based clothing wholesaler and retailer, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based New Wave Fragrances LLC, the manufacturer and marketer known for the Ed Hardy, True Religion and Christian Audigier fragrances. Priced at $55 for a 1.7-oz. eau de parfum and $75 for a 3.4-oz. edp, the fragrance marks a return by the BCBG Max Azria Group to putting serious muscle behind its scent franchise that had atrophied since its agreement with former fragrance licensee Unilever Cosmetics expired in 2005.

“It is our first perfume for the [BCBG Max Azria] brand period, so we are very, very excited,” said Lubov Azria, chief creative officer of the BCBG Max Azria Group and wife of Max Azria. “We have been looking for the right partner for a while. When New Wave came around, we thought it was the perfect fit.” Speaking more generally about the significance of fragrance for the BCBG Max Azria Group, she added, “Our whole goal is to make a lifestyle brand, and that fits perfectly into that world.”

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Zoe Bartels, vice president of marketing and advertising for New Wave, said, “This project we find is very well in tune with the brand itself.” The tie-ins between the fragrance and the brand encompass bottle and smell. The cap on the pale pink faceted bottle is the brand’s butterfly logo blossoming into a flower. Concocted by Givaudan perfumer Stephen Nilsen, the scent is a soft floral with top notes of wild strawberry, black cherry and kir royale; middle notes of jasmine, muguet, rose and violet, and base notes of musk, orris and creamy sandalwood.

“She needs something to make her feel beautiful,” said Azria of the BCBG Max Azria customer. “We are very much about dressed-up fashion. It was very important that the perfume was a little bit toward the evening. For the day, I’d don’t really use anything, but for the evening, I absolutely reach into my cabinet for perfume.”

The BCBG Max Azria scent demonstrates how the company’s perspective on fragrances has matured. Azria described its customers as women who balance work and family life, certainly an older group than the young demographic the BCBG Max Azria Group was aiming for when it launched four BCBGirls scents with Unilever in 2001 meant to build upon BCBG Max Azria Group’s strong prom dress enterprise. Although noting BCBG has customers spanning all ages, Azria said, “We’ve been around for 20 years and we’ve had retail sales for 20 years. If I started at 25, my consumer started shopping with us around 20, and they are somewhere in their 40s.”

The BCBG Max Azria Group also realized it needed help from a sizable fragrance firm to turn a BCBG fragrance into commercial success after Within, a fragrance released in 2009 that Azria developed with niche Southern California perfumer Sarah Horowitz-Thran. “It totally bombed,” said Azria. “It was such a serious scent. It smelled like a man. I learned from that. That is why it is so wonderful to work with a truly amazing team and do the research.”

In addition to Within’s challenging scent, Azria explained that BCBG’s staff wasn’t educated sufficiently about fragrance to drive Within’s sales. In contrast, New Wave has conducted training sessions with BCBG staff members to inform them about the components of the BCBG Max Azria scent and fragrance application in order to communicate to customers knowledgeably about the fragrance. “Some of them really enjoyed the [Within] scent, but they couldn’t talk to the customer about it. They were not educated, so they couldn’t sell it. I think it is going to be a huge turnaround this time,” said Azria.

The BCBG Max Azria fragrance, which is joined at retail by a 6.7-oz. shimmering lotion for $25 and 4.5-oz. perfumed body cream for $45, is being distributed to about 2,528 doors in the U.S., including Macy’s, Belk, Bon-Ton, Boscov’s, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Sephora, Ulta, Von Maur, Zappos.com, Beauty.com and BCBG stores. Industry sources estimate it will generate $15 million in first-year sales. The launch will be supported by a roughly $5 million advertising spend, and print ads shot by Camilla Akrans will break in the October issues of Vogue, InStyle, Allure and Cosmopolitan, among other publications.

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