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Valentino Has New Fragrance Partner

Valentino has left the embrace of Procter & Gamble Co. and found a new fragrance partner in Puig.

MILAN — Valentino has left the embrace of Procter & Gamble Co. and found a new fragrance partner.

Mirroring the Roman luxury goods house’s new course and growth plans, chief executive officer Stefano Sassi has signed a long-term licensing agreement with Puig Beauty and Fashion Group for its fragrances.

With the new deal, effective Feb. 1, the high fashion house bids adieu to its fragrance licensee, P&G. A spokeswoman for P&G Prestige Products, the Geneva-based fine fragrance division of P&G, said Valentino’s fragrance license was up for review and both sides mutually decided not to renew. For the last several years, P&G has amassed a huge fine fragrance business by focusing on a fewer number of bigger brands.

Valentino’s Sassi, who described the Barcelona-based, family-owned firm as a strategic fit, said he chose Puig for three main reasons: the quality of its products and their respect of the brand; its size (Puig’s 2009 sales stood at about $1.4 billion), and the slow-but-sure success of its existing lineup.

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Puig owns fashion brands Carolina Herrera, Nina Ricci and Paco Rabanne, and retains beauty licenses with Prada, Comme des Garçons and Zara, among others.

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“Although we’re talking about a large-scale product, we feel Puig is strongly committed toward the development of the product, favoring intuition and creativity over marketing,” Sassi told WWD in an exclusive interview. This culture, he noted, is closer to the reality of a fashion house like Valentino.

A mutual liking between the two executives further kindled the new undertaking.

“We immediately spoke the same language,” said Marc Puig, chairman and ceo of the namesake firm, during a phone interview. “Valentino is one of the few brands that consumers mention spontaneously when they talk about luxury and femininity.”

Puig sees tremendous potential in turning the dreamy and feminine Valentino heritage into a fragrance. “This association helps us in our idea to focus on fewer yet stronger brands, build those businesses on a long-term basis and continue in our aim of becoming a growing and relevant player in the beauty business,” he said.

A first women’s fragrance is expected to bow early next year. “It will be very studied because it will constitute the backbone of this new project,” said Sassi.

He noted that for a house like Valentino, which is in the process of redefining itself both creatively and structurally, the advantages linked to a new fragrance are fundamental. “Coming out with a perfume with a strong commercial and communicative value is a key to our strategy,” he contended.

Both Puig and Sassi concurred it was premature to discuss details, specific plans and whether certain fragrances would be destocked or discontinued.

It goes without saying that the new fragrance will mirror the post-Valentino Garavani epoch, spearheaded by design duo Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli. Formerly the accessories designers for the storied house, the duo, after a shaky start, gained plaudits for shaping a bold and contemporary vision that coddles younger customers while maintaining the houses’ iconic elements.

“We found Puig to be very open-minded when it came to understanding our vision for the brand,” said Piccioli. Chiuri added, “Their culture will definitely allow us reach our objectives of a feminine, fragile and unexpected fragrance.”

The first fragrance called Valentino Red was launched in 1979. Valentino has three main perfumes — Valentino, Rock’n Dreams and Rock’n Rose Collection. None of the companies would break out numbers, but industry sources estimate that Valentino’s fragrance business amounted to less than $30 million wholesale on a worldwide basis.