Magic by Viktor & Rolf

Six is the magic number for Viktor & Rolf.

Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren of Viktor & Rolf might have retired from ready-to-wear (they still design couture and bridal collections), but the duo is upping the ante of their fragrance business. They are turning the focus almost exclusively to beauty, starting with Magic, a collection of six eaux de parfum.

“We thought about a magic box,” Horsting said while visiting New York earlier this month with Rolf Snoeren to preview the scents, which they likened to “potions,” which were designed by mixing precious, natural ingredients with unexpected synthetic accords. The combination provides a twist. “Magic is a great name because in it lies transformation, and transformation has always been an important concept in everything we do. That’s how we started.”

Magic deviates from the fragrances the two have done in fragrance to date — olfactively and from a marketing standpoint. The collection will operate on a different business model than previous endeavors, favoring theatricality and elaborate in-store experiences over blockbuster distribution. The range will get a very limited release to start, entering two Saks Fifth Avenue doors in February — in New York City and Las Vegas — as well as saks.com. Distribution for the first year will be capped at 10 doors, with the remaining eight yet to be finalized.

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And while Horsting and Snoeren acknowledge it’s new fragrance territory for them — each $220 scent is unisex and it’s a collection versus a singular release — magic as a theme has been a constant since the pair released their blockbuster Flowerbomb 11 years ago and successful follow-ups of Spicebomb in 2011 and Bonbon in 2014.

Horsting maintained the duo has “always played with the idea of magic, imagination, fantasy [and] creation.”

And to convey this at point of sale, he and Snoeren plan to incorporate theater in a way that’s elaborate – even for them. Think in-store “magic ateliers” with levitating bottles and a station of beakers that lets shoppers smell each scent with the press of a button. Or blotters that have secret ink that only becomes visible to the consumer when a fragrance is sprayed onto the card.

Corresponding magic cards from the fragrances in Viktor & Rolf's Magic collection.

Corresponding magic cards from the fragrances in Viktor & Rolf’s Magic collection. 

 

“Like with fashion collections or perfume, we always start with language,” Snoeren explained. “We wanted to give every fragrance its own artwork where the name becomes a surreal, little artwork [in itself]. It’s a word, but it’s all an illustration. It’s an image of the trick.”

Each fragrance, designed to be a different magic trick, is packaged inside a bottle reminiscent of an early-20th-century apothecary bottle, uneven glass and all. They are named things like “Liquid Diamonds,” “Dirty Trick,” “Lavender Illusion,” “Sage Spell,” “Sparking Secret” and “Dancing Roses.”

Created in partnership with four all-female perfumers from Firmenich, Givaudan and International Flavors & Fragrances, the formulas were, indeed, out of the ordinary. Dirty Trick has an ink accord in it that the two call the most unexpected ingredient in the range, while Sage Spell combines absinthe with classic sage.

“Dirty trick smells like ink — and no one has ever dared to use those molecules in a scent. And customers will appreciate that,” said Alexandre Choueiri, president of international designer fragrances at L’Oréal. “No one has ever had a fragrance that smells like absinthe or a precious stone — and still mixed with beautiful natural raw materials. We have never done a clash like this.”

Alexis Pinet, Viktor & Rolf international marketing director, said the company went so far as to contact people who worked on the set of the Harry Potter films to help produce a “magic element” in a retail setting.

“They’ve been working with us to develop a magic box and the technicality of that merchandising,” Pinet said, stressing that more retail square footage (at least one back wall and one case line) is necessary to convey the narrative of magic through the point of sale.

But how many stores can handle a business and installation like this?

Not too many, which is why the launch will occur step-by-step over the course of three years. The plan is to enter 10 doors in the first year, increase this to 25 in 2018 and in 2019, double this to 50 points of global distribution.

“It’s very special, it’s a different business model,” Pinet said.

Industry sources put retail sales estimates for the collection at 10 million euros, or about $11 million, by 2019. Viktor & Rolf’s fragrance business is said to do about $70 million in global retail sales, with about a third of this coming from the U.S.

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