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Edward Bess Turns 10, Debuts Fragrance

Edward Bess is expanding his namesake brand, launching four fragrances that will hit counters in October.

NEW YORK — Indie makeup brand Edward Bess is toasting a decade in the business — with the launch of a fragrance collection.

“There’s no faster shot to the mind and memory than a scent,” Edward Bess said over lunch last week at the Mercer Hotel in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood.

Bess, who started his namesake company by cold-calling retailers — Bergdorf Goodman bit and became the first store to sell his brand in 2006 — wanted to commemorate his 10-year anniversary with “something more than just another eye shadow.”

In October, he will unveil a collection of three fragrances — “Genre,” “Spanish Veil” and “La Femme Boheme,” as well as a fourth scent which will be sold exclusively at Paris-based boutique Colette. Each of the $175, 3.4-oz. eaux de parfum was created with master perfumer Carlos Benaim of International Flavors & Fragrances.

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“I wanted to give him carte blanche,” Bess said of working with Benaim. The moment Bess decided he would get into fragrance two years ago, he went directly to Benaim, who was given no restrictions beyond an inspiration photo for each concept supplied by Bess.

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As he took his signature, wavy, waist-length hair and put it in a half-up, half-down bun, 30-year-old Bess, also a former model, explained that developing unisex fragrances was the overarching theme of the project. While he envisions that all of his fragrances could be worn by either sex, “Genre” was based on Bess’ “love of androgyny.” It strikes what he called a “perfect balance of” alpha strengths and feminine vulnerabilities.

To create “Genre” specifically, Bess actually gave Benaim a picture of himself to influence the process.

“Edward really described what he liked and what notes he liked,” Bemaim said. “Frankincense was an important note for him, and of course he has this unusual hair that, you know, floats around him. I thought about [using] an accord, the Living Stallion,” Benaim said of bringing Bess’ androgynous vision to life. Calling it a “beautiful odor” that doesn’t smell “animal” in any way, the perfumer said that Frankincense and Living Stallion were combined with notes of suede.

Bess said “Spanish Veil” was influenced by Latin culture, the veil that clings to a Spanish woman’s face and the “mysteries that it must trap through her lifetime;” “La Femme Boheme” by the bohemian, free spirit who follows the whims of their own impulses, and “In a Scent” (it’s “Colette ‘In a Scent,'” Bess said with a laugh) by the pulse of Paris.

Bess sees fragrance becoming a significant portion of the business, which is said to do about $10 million in sales this year. His makeup and skin-care range is currently carried at Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Forty Five Ten, Net-a-porter, Colette and QVC. The latter, which drives about half of Bess’ business, will not sell the fragrances, nor will Net-a-porter.

His goal is for the category to eventually comprise half of retail sales. Currently, the fragrances will launch in the same doors where the main collection is sold, with the exception of Aedes Perfumery on Christopher Street.

“We see that the growth happening in the industry is taking place in niche fragrance. I see it with my niche color and recognize that today’s customer with access to anything, anywhere, at any time wants something that’s different,” Bess said.