No one selfies like Sheikh Majed Al Sabah.
The man behind perfume brand The Fragrance Kitchen put his selfie pose (squat so his tall frame was closer to his fans, arm stretched as far upwards as possible to capture large groups of people, occasional spins for videos) to good use at Bergdorf Goodman on Wednesday afternoon, posing with fans as he unveiled his latest exclusive with the retailer. The crowd rewarded him by singing him a belated rendition of Happy Birthday.
As of Wednesday morning, Bergdorf’s was carrying about 300 bottles of a new fragrance that Al Sabah created for Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani of Qatar. Al Sabah, a social media star with an estimated 1.6 million Snapchat followers and 300,000 Instagram followers, attracted yet another crowd to Bergdorf’s beauty floor.
The last time he made an appearance, in April, the crowd also flooded the retailer’s first floor and the sidewalk outside, as fans waited for their chance to take photos with the Sheikh. The crowd Wednesday was smaller, but just as lively. Al Sabah meandered through, passing out tickets to his birthday party at Lavo and making sure every person — from a toddler to the 12-year-old girl whose broken leg bound her to a wheelchair — got the selfie they came for. Industry sources estimated the brand did about $45,000 in sales during the appearance.
For Sheikh Hamad, a collector of Indian jewelry whose pieces have traveled through museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in Kyoto, Al Sabah crafted 1,000 bottles of fragrance with notes of rose, oud and amber from the Middle East, he said. They’re housed in white bottles, priced at $495.
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“The typography is done by a local artist in Dubai and he created this monogram and his [Sheikh Hamad’s] name as a calligraphy and you can see it, tone on tone, across the bottle,” Al Sabah said.
“We saw it and we loved it — we smelled it and we thought our customers would respond really well to it,” said Pat Saxby, vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Bergdorf Goodman. “We got a limited supply of it. I hope it lasts through the holidays, but I can’t say beyond that.”
“We wanted to give something special to…New York City,” Al Sabah said, detailing a story of when he started his career as a retailer in Kuwait and many European brands wouldn’t work with him. “In November of 1991, I came to New York City and New York City embraced me,” he said. “And Seventh Avenue was my home for seven years, where I had launched for the first time in the Middle East all the top brands from back then, from Donna Karan to Geoffrey Beene and Todd Oldham and all the guys back in the early Nineties that were hot and cool, and my business started in New York City.”
His fragrance business, however, didn’t officially start until 2010, though he dabbled in mixing up his own juice well before then.
“[In] 2005 when Tom Ford left Gucci, we had lunch together in London and we decided to develop a fragrance for the Middle East, which I called Arabian Wood, and he picked up the scent, which I blended…John Demsey [executive group president at Estée Lauder, which owns Tom Ford] called me after months and he said, ‘it’s ranked in the top three best-selling fragrances worldwide,’ and that really switched me on, and I said, ‘OK, it’s about time to do something myself.’”
Then The Fragrance Kitchen was born, he said. When the brand moved into Bergdorf’s in April, it was with an exclusive fragrance — something Al Sabah crafts for every new city The Fragrance Kitchen enters — called a Rose With a View, which has not been easy to keep in stock, he said. The Fragrance Kitchen also contains 65 core fragrances, which are edited as new ones come out, plus exclusive scents for other locales.
In the U.S., Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills is the only other point of distribution, and a shop-in-shop is planned there for March, Al Sabah said. Also in March, The Fragrance Kitchen is launching a collection of six scents under its Avery Perfume Gallery line. The new fragrances are: Stardust, composed of orange blossom, nutmeg, orange, raspberry, cinnamon, tonka bean, labdanum, amber cedarwood, vanilla and musk; Skylight, with notes of black pepper, cumin, bergamot, lemon, cinnamon, nutmeg, labdanum, vetiver, incense, oud, sandalwood, patchouli, musk, and amber; Orion, featuring notes of amber, raspberry, saffron, ciste, labdanum, rose, cedarwood, vanilla and sandalwood; Midnight, with notes of rose, ciste, labdanum, oud, amber, vanilla, musk and patchouli; Cosmos, with green notes, black pepper, grapefruit, bergamot, rose, marine notes, mint, pineapple, moss, sandalwood and musk; Blue Eyes, with rose, bergamot, black pepper, ciste, geranium, cloves, buds, labdanum, leather, vanilla and incense.
New distribution is also slated for next year, with Germany and Printemps in Paris signed on to carry the brand. Industry sources have pegged the brand’s sales at around $22 million.
For holiday, Al Sabah has created a three-layered candle as a gift, and is working on something “weird” for next year, he hinted.
“We are similar to Supreme, [a skater fashion brand],” he said. “We come in and out with different sorts of weird products. We did the chocolates, next year we have something quite a little bit weird…something a little big more crazy. Hopefully we can do it in the U.S. We’re definitely going to touch the technology area and the fashion area and beauty and the home areas, so we just need to come in with something a little bit more edgy.”