PARIS — The first fragrance for fashion’s most enigmatic, antilogo design house, Maison Martin Margiela, is fittingly called Untitled.
This story first appeared in the January 15, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The women’s scent, created with Margiela’s fragrance license holder L’Oréal, is due out worldwide starting later this month.
“We really worked hand-in-hand with [Martin Margiela],” said Richard Pinabel, international general manager of Maison Martin Margiela Fragrances at L’Oréal. He was referring to the Belgian designer, who is so avant-garde he has never shown his face to his fashion-obsessed public and left his namesake house in early December.
Margiela has been credited with introducing cleft-toed boots, deconstructed fashions and all-white stores, which are scented with patchouli. (Maison Martin Margiela in 2001 also came out with a limited edition 100 percent vegetable patchouli oil — for ambient or personal use — for Tokyo’s Ebisu boutique.)
“He has been personally involved in all aspects of the project,” continued Pinabel, explaining those range from Untitled’s juice to its bottle to its advertising (the latter of which is a first for Maison Martin Margiela).
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Untitled “is grounded on an entire philosophy, a new way of looking at luxury,” said Renaud de Lesquen, president of YSL Beauté, the L’Oréal division that oversees Maison Martin Margela Fragrances. “Let’s say it’s a kind of alternative to classical luxury or some kind of ostentatious luxury.
“We are convinced that more and more people are less and less sensitive to overadvertised, exposed, celebrity-driven product mixes,” continued de Lesquen, adding that in this case, it is the scent that stars.
“This project goes back to the roots of what fragrance is about,” he said, explaining that includes the quest for “genuine and noble ingredients reinterpreted in a very contemporary way.”
“The Maison Martin Margiela is all about the reinterpretation of classics,” continued Pinabel, who said, with Untitled, there is a nod to fragrances from the Seventies, which were chockablock with green notes.
For the woody green floral juice mixed by Givaudan perfumer Daniela Andrier, Margiela was keen to have a striking green fragrance (which Pinabel said the designer described as a “green flash”) in which galbanum is the main ingredient. Other notes include box green, lentiscus, incense, bitter orange, jasmine and cedar.
The objective is to bring an “olfactive signature” to both Martin Margiela aficionados and those new to the brand, said de Lesquen.
Fabien Baron, of Baron & Baron, collaborated on the design of the green-colored bottle. He drew inspiration from the fragrance flacons commonly used by perfumers toward the end of the 19th century. Their shape was reworked, and Untitled’s bottle was made to look as if it has been dipped in white paint, a leitmotif at Margiela — where even ketchup bottles in the staff cafeteria are painted the color.
As with the old-time fragrance flacons, the neck and cap of Untitled’s bottle are looped with string. It’s not just a nod to tradition but also to the Martin Margiela label, which is generally affixed to clothing with four white pick stitches.
Grounded in the brand’s roots, too, is the typeface on the fragrance’s label from a classic Olivetti typewriter, which the house often uses.
Untitled marks the debut of a new category for Maison Martin Margiela. Historically, each product line in the collection is given a number. Six is the casual line for women, while 10 is clothing for men, for example. Now, three denotes fragrance, so it’s circled on the number grid atop Untitled’s cap.
As for the scent’s moniker, L’Oréal executives said it is part and parcel of the whole project.
“We chose not to give [the fragrance] a name,” said Pinabel. “Basically, people will love it for what it is and…interpret it in their own way.”
The word Untitled appears with no capital letters and within parenthesis, which is meant to leave things open to interpretation.
Untitled’s advertising, photographed by Willy Vanderperre, was still under wraps at press time.
“It won’t be the main element of the launch strategy,” said de Lesquen, who added for the project, an alternative business model was chosen. “There are different ways to market fragrances. We want to be true to the DNA of the brand and the way the brand expresses itself, which is very understated. It’s not at all a classical fragrance launch.”
Untitled is to be launched in a select number of doors and its business built slowly but surely like another of L’Oréal’s indie fragrance brands, Viktor & Rolf, said executives. Untitled, for instance, will first be introduced on Jan. 25 exclusively in France at Colette before being rolled out elsewhere. In the U.S., the scent is to be sold in Martin Margiela boutiques beginning in March. And within its first year, Untitled will be carried in approximately 500 doors worldwide.
L’Oréal executives would not discuss sales projections, but industry sources estimate the new fragrance will generate $10 million in first-year wholesale revenues globally.
Untitled comes as 30-, 50- and 75-ml. eau de parfum sprays priced in Europe at 55 euros, 80 euros and 100 euros, respectively, or $79.70, $115.90 and $144.90 at current exchange. There is also a 200-ml. body lotion and a 200-ml. shower gel each for 30 euros, or $43.45.
The fact that Margiela is no longer at the house he created will not impact the conception of upcoming fragrances for the brand, according to L’Oréal executives.
“[Maison Martin Margiela] is really a team, and the team is working following the spirit of Martin, which has been in the DNA of the brand from the very beginning,” said de Lesquen.