After a years-long hiatus from the fragrance business, the BCBG Max Azria Group wasn’t interested in returning with a routine perfume — and creative director Lubov Azria made sure the company only developed a fragrance she could be confident suited the BCBG lifestyle.
This story first appeared in the September 11, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I always want to dress a woman completely,” said Azria, Max’s wife, speaking on Aug. 31 from New York, where she was preparing for fashion week. “I love the idea of having a woman come into a store and everything is available to her. If she is truly a BCBG customer, there is a dress for her and a perfume that finishes her look.”
The BCBG Max Azria Group, based in Vernon, Calif., will introduce the Within fragrance in November at 208 of its U.S. doors and 38 in Canada, and on its Web site. The fragrance will be offered in a gift set for $118 and a 2-oz. bottle for $58. Industry sources estimate first-year sales to be around $10 million.
Earlier this decade, the retail and apparel company launched four perfumes branded BCBGirls, which is now rolled into its contemporary brand BCBGeneration, under a license agreement with Unilever Cosmetics. While those perfumes are no longer marketed, Azria said the “great success” BCBG Max Azria experienced with them and persistent customer inquiries about the fragrances convinced her of the viability of perfume for BCBG. “I know there is a huge demand,” she said.
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Azria, though, decided a licensing deal wasn’t appropriate for the uncompromising fragrance she wished to create. An avid fan of the fragrance Light by perfumer Sarah Horowitz-Thran, Azria sought out Horowitz-Thran’s Westlake Village, Calif.-based Sarah Horowitz Parfums, largely known to work with niche brands, to assist her in crafting an evening fragrance women could pair with BCBG dresses.
“It was really exciting for me to do something not with a license. They make it for a large amount of people so the actual smell of it would be watered down for the general market,” said Azria. “Anything that you do yourself has more meaning to it, and the perfume smells different. I think it is less watered down and has a spiritual approach to it. It is really about a woman [because] it was created by a woman. It wasn’t created to be mass produced.”
Horowitz-Thran found that Azria appreciated the hands-on approach to fragrance provided by her smaller perfume outfit. “She wanted something that was more personal and take it to the next level,” Horowitz-Thran said of Azria. “They [BCBG Max Azria] are launching it on a larger scale to their customers, but they really took a creative and niche approach to it. That is going to be a difference in the marketplace for them.”
With Horowitz-Thran’s help, Azria settled on Within’s mix of notes: apple blossom, pear and bergamot are the tops; night-blooming jasmine, honeysuckle and freesia are the middles; and sandalwood, tobacco and amber round out the base. Azria described the scent as a tad “controversial” because of the tobacco, but she was drawn to its muskiness. “I like perfumes that smell a little bit masculine,” she said. “We are bringing something that is missing from the market — that sensuality and seduction in a perfume.”
Horowitz-Thran called Lubov Azria an inspiration for Within, which is manufactured by flavor and fragrance firm Mane. “She comes off as feminine, but is visionary and is very strong as well,” she said. “To me, the fragrance is very feminine, but there is a dichotomy with the deep base note. The surprise of the base note is what makes it so interesting.”
The name Within and Azria’s image adorning the packaging illustrates her powerful connection to the perfume. She also plans to make appearances in stores to promote the fragrance. “I am the face of the perfume because this is something that I felt strongly about,” said Azria. “There is a real person behind the vision.”
Although Azria indicated Within will eventually enter BCBG’s stores worldwide, she said the distribution will roll out slowly as the company gains an understanding of customer receptivity to its reentrance in the fragrance market. She hinted that another fragrance — perhaps a lighter, day-oriented fragrance — could be a follow-up to Within, but she said a second perfume isn’t in the works yet.
“I would like to see more perfumes,” said Azria. “I really would like to grow the business.”