With Halle by Halle Berry, the Academy Award-winning actress is planning to bring a piece of herself — not to mention a little stardust — to the mass beauty market this winter.
This story first appeared in the October 3, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Fragrance is something I’ve wanted to do for myself,” said Berry during an interview with WWD Thursday afternoon, clad in a spaghetti-strapped brown Hervé L. Leroux dress, Gucci platform stilettos and Stephen Dweck jewelry. “It’s a real, true expression of who I am — I was involved in all aspects of making it. It felt like it was the right time in my life to take it on, and Coty’s been a great partner to do that with. I hope this is the first of a number of fragrances.”
It’s been a busy year for Berry, who gave birth to a baby girl, Nahla Ariela, in March, and is producing and starring in three upcoming movies in addition to launching her first fragrance. “Life is wonderfully different now,” she said with a big smile. “I have a baby, and this baby — my fragrance — is about to be born. It’s a wonderful, wonderful time in my life to have a child, especially a daughter.”
For her first fragrance outing, Berry wanted a sensual signature scent. “I wanted it to be uniquely expressive of who I am,” she said. “So when I got involved with Coty and realized that they would allow me to really be a partner — to do smell tests and be a part of creating the bottle and the images and juice we present — I thought, ‘OK, this is somebody I will not just be giving my image to and they’ll create a fragrance with my name on it. This is a chance for me to create something that I will love and want to wear and want other women to wear.’ I want women’s partners to think they smell beautiful — like Gabriel [Aubry, her boyfriend and father of her daughter] says I smell when I wear it. I think women’s scents are as much for men as they are for other women.”
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And, Berry notes, coming up with a scent with which she was fully satisfied was a long process. “I thought, ‘Oh, this should be pretty quick.’ Two years later…,” she said, laughing. “We had all sorts of smell tests, all sorts of rounds about what the bottle should look like. Details of the bottle. The size. The cap. The inside of the cap. What color the juice should be. All of these were decisions that I really hadn’t thought about in the beginning that one has to make. It was a very educational process.”
Along with International Flavors & Fragrances, Berry came up with a woody oriental juice. “They brought IFF to me, which was really great of them,” said Berry. “It was fascinating to see what would and what wouldn’t smell good together.”
Happily, Berry’s two favorite notes coming into the process, fig and mimosa, play nicely together and are included in the final scent. Which is a relief to Berry: “[Before my fragrance] I was mixing other brands that shall remain nameless to make my own scent with fig and mimosa,” she said. “With Halle, I added olibanum, which is an African root, which brings spice to the fragrance, and sandalwood, which smooths everything out and makes it yummy. It’s very sensual, very natural, very much reflective of the outdoors.”
Top notes are of Sicilian bergamot, fig leaves and pear blossom; the heart is of freesia petals, hibiscus flower and ultra mimosa, and the drydown is of sandalwood, driftwood, cashmere musk, olibanum absolute and sensual amber.
The bottle is a glass rectangle with a wave-textured back (meant to evoke the beach, explains Berry) and a rose gold-toned neck in a bangle design. The juice is also tinted a rose gold shade. “I wanted the bottle to fit well in the hand,” Berry said. “For me, if the bottle is too clunky or cumbersome, or too small to grab, my experience with it isn’t as pleasurable. This is easy to hold, easy to spray and it’s something that’s simple. If you put it on your vanity, it’s beautiful and elegant.”
Eaux de parfum in three sizes — 0.5 oz. for $17, 1 oz. for $28 and 1.7 oz. for $35 — will be offered, as will a 6.7-oz. body lotion, at $12.50. Globally, a 6.7-oz. shower gel and a 2.5-oz. deodorant natural spray also will be sold.
Halle by Halle Berry will roll out in March in 16,000 U.S. midtier and mass market doors, as well as an additional 10,000 doors globally, said Steve Mormoris, senior vice president of global marketing for Coty Beauty. Key international markets include the U.K., Canada, Germany, Australia and France, he said.
Advertising, photographed by Cliff Watts with creative direction by Trey Laird, was shot on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. “I wanted it to be somewhere warm, so I could actually get in the water,” said Berry of the ad, which features a sun-drenched Halle with beachy waves in her hair. “And I wanted it to be earthy and natural, and to present myself in a way that I’m not usually seen — the way that I really am.” Berry — usually photographed on red carpets in high-fashion gowns — wears a gauzy white halter and hints of sand in the ad.
Both print and TV have been shot. Print is scheduled to break in February fashion, beauty and lifestyle books in the U.S., and in March books globally. As well, Berry says she will be making in-store personal appearances at the fragrance’s launch.
While Berry and Mormoris declined to discuss sales projections or advertising spending, industry sources estimated that Halle by Halle Berry will do upward of $50 million at retail globally in its first year on counter, and that at least $5 million would be spent on print advertising in the U.S. in the fragrance’s first year.
In three weeks, Berry will begin filming her next project, “Frankie and Alice,” about a woman who suffers from multiple personality disorder. Berry is playing the title role, as well as producing the film. “The reason for producing is [that] trying to find great roles for women is often really, really hard, and I’m discovering you have to make these things happen for yourself. I’ve owned this property for 10 years — that’s how long it’s taken to get it done. It’s a great role for a woman — a great, full character to play.” Berry hopes to have the film completed by Christmas and released late next summer. She’s also working on “Tulia,” in which she plays a Texas lawyer working on behalf of a group of local African-American men who are wrongly convicted of involvement in a drug ring, and “Class Act,” a story about a Nevada teacher who enlists the help of her sixth-grade students in her Congressional campaign. All three roles are based on true stories.
Are other business categories likely? Berry isn’t ruling them out. “You never know,” she said. “I’m starting with this fragrance, and we’ll see where it leads me.” Fashion line? “I could see doing it, but who knows? I will see if this fragrance inspires me to move on to something else. Hopefully it will. But right now I’m really focusing on fragrance.
“The beauty business has been good to me,” continued Berry, referencing her longtime contract as a Revlon spokeswoman, a role which continues. “I’m a red-blooded American woman — I love all things beauty. Finally deciding to come up with my own fragrance seems like a natural evolution to me. I’ve waited awhile, because I take it really seriously. If I’m going to call it Halle, it had better be something that I’m really involved with and proud of, and it arrived at a time in my life when I really had time to do it. All of the right elements came together.”