Ralph Lauren is making a bold move in luxury marketing by launching a collection of 10 fragrances positioned around the opulent experience of travel.
One of the lifestyle accessories being offered is a leather travel case, priced at $3,900. If the large sizes of all 10 fragrances are also purchased, the tab jumps to $6,300. If accompanying $300 kidskin leather sleeves are bought for each fragrance, the total tops out at $9,300.
It is the most premium and ambitious effort Lauren and L’Oréal have made since the beauty giant acquired the designer’s fragrance license in 1985.
The other departure is the positioning. For the last decade at least, collections of multiple scents — pioneered by the likes of Tom Ford, Giorgio Armani, Chanel and Dior — have become commonplace. What makes the Lauren project different from many of the collections is that the positioning of the fragrances is framed by travel destinations, rather than purely by ingredient stories. The geographic destinations have been turned into glamorized metaphors with the names Riviera Dream, Legacy of English Elegance, Song of America, Portrait of New York and Treasure of Safari.
“I have always been inspired by different ways of living,” Lauren said. “My new collection fragrances are the sensual expression of these worlds in the most personal way. They evoke the spirit of what I’ve loved for almost 50 years.”
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“We aren’t coming with a collection of fragrances,” said Guillaume de Lesquen, president worldwide of Ralph Lauren Fragrance at L’Oréal USA. “We are coming with a collection of experiences. We don’t want to launch another collection of fragrances.”
The fragrances will be unveiled Tuesday evening in Lauren’s flagship at 888 Madison Avenue. The launch comes as Ralph Lauren Corp. is retooling its business model under its new president and chief executive officer Stefan Larsson. The plan for the fashion house includes speeding up the supply chain; focusing on the core brands; shutting 50-plus stores, and making job cuts of about 8 percent of the company’s workforce, or 1,000 people.
But L’Oréal couldn’t be more bullish about the fragrance collection. The beauty giant has worked for four years in developing the project, employing a team of three leading perfumers — Calice Becker of Givaudan, Carlos Benaim of International Flavors & Fragrances and Harry Fremont of Firmenich.
De Lesquen said the game plan was to have top perfumers from the three major fragrance houses, who had been born in France but have lived in the U.S. for a considerable length of time. “The idea was to mix French haute perfumery and American modern style,” he said.
Each of the “worlds” has two unisex fragrances and each scent has a statement accord, which doubles as the name of the product. Two supporting accords complete the olfactive idea.
In Portrait of New York, Fremont said he envisioned Vetiver as reflecting the energy and modernity of the city and the scent became the most masculine in the collection. “My main inspiration was black tie parties,” he said, adding that he created a “rich slick fragrance” to gain sophistication. Haitian vetiver was contrasted with fresh green cardamom to add freshness in addition to warm black pepper.
The other New York fragrance is White Lily, also by Fremont. That also is the signature flower at Lauren’s flagship. The perfumer took the opulence of the white Casablanca lily and mixed it with creamy Madagascar vanilla and spicy fresh pink pepper to add sensual depth.
The perfumers also used cutting edge technology in creating desired effects. In developing a scent conjuring images of the South of France, Becker used a Givaudan technique called freeze frame, which involves freezing a lime, then as it thaws using head space technology to capture escaping molecules. “Zesty and crisp, Lime conjures the brightness of a coastal retreat,” she said. The other Riviera Dream fragrance is Orange Flower by Fremont.
Becker paired Damascena rose with a black currant accord and the sensuality of patchouli to suggest a stroll in an English garden surrounded by femininity. Benaim created White Teas as the other English Elegance entry in a nod to the English tradition of afternoon tea.
Fremont used the fresh, aromatic aroma of Sage to portray the American West, and Benaim chose Magnolia with its top fruity note as the centerpiece of a fragrance that he maintains possesses “floral luminosity and effortless elegance.”
The Safari fragrances consist of Benaim’s warm and sensual Amber and his Oud, which Benaim also created.
Personalization, a strong trend in the industry, is another characteristic of the project. The leather sleeves for the bottles can be monogrammed at point of sale and each bottle comes with a removable silver collar that can be engraved.
“Each product could be personalized,” de Lesquen said. “Each product could be accessorized in a luxury way.”
Prices of the 10 eaux de parfum are $140 for the 50 ml. size and $240 for the 100 ml. version. A compact metal diffuser for travel is $65 and a 150 ml. universal body cream that can be scented with each of the fragrances is $95. Scented candles are priced $70.
The Madison Avenue store will be one of two New York points of sale for the collection this fall. A 250-square-foot salon has been created, where jewelry was previously sold. The other key door is Bergdorf Goodman, which is expected to start merchandising the line in July or August.
Globally, distribution will be limited to 12 doors this year, including Palacio de Hierro in Mexico City, Oberpollinger in Munich and Tsum in Moscow. The collection will also be carried in key Ralph Lauren stores in Mexico, Germany, Russia and Dubai. “We are going to open Beverly Hills in the second half and we are working with the Ralph Lauren fashion team to open the same kind of installation in their key stores, Ste. Germaine in Paris, the fashion store in Moscow and the fashion store in Dubai,” de Lesquen said. He said the strategy is to have in each country, “the most luxurious department store and the key Ralph Lauren fashion store.”
L’Oréal expects distribution to climb to 50 doors globally in 2017 and 80 doors worldwide in 2018.
The beauty company also is going to make extensive use of e-commerce and in-store technology. IPads will be available for beauty advisers to use a L’Oréal-created Compass iPad app as a selling tool and help customers learn about the scents. Glass jars will hold “scented pearl notes” — or fragrance impregnated beads — which will exude the smells of the individual accords and finished products.
Alex Choueiri, president of International Designer Collections of L’Oréal USA, talked up the distribution strategy “because it’s focusing on what’s working, which is flagship experience, theater in store and beautiful online experience. This is as pure as it gets.”