PARIS — For its Belle d’Opium women’s fragrance due out this fall, Yves Saint Laurent Parfums went to the house’s roots.
This story first appeared in the June 25, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Belle d’Opium is a next-generation, younger version of Opium, the blockbuster scent YSL introduced in 1977 that remains a strong seller in numerous markets, such as Europe. In France, it’s a bestseller.
“The idea is to reinvent the concept of addiction for younger generations today,” said Renaud de Lesquen, president of YSL Beauté, the L’Oréal division overseeing Yves Saint Laurent Parfums among other brands. He explained that with Opium the story is about a woman addicted to her fragrance, whereas with Belle d’Opium, the woman is herself addictive.
“The addiction has changed; we are the source of our own addiction,” said Nathalie Durán, YSL Beauté’s deputy managing director.
The name Belle d’Opium is full of cultural references — such as the movie “Belle de Jour” and the novel “Belle du Seigneur.”
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“The idea of Belle d’Opium is a contrast between the word belle [the French word for beautiful that has a sense of purity], while opium is of course more of a mystery and danger,” said de Lesquen.
Cast to star in Belle d’Opium’s advertisements is French actress Mélanie Thierry. “Since she expresses such a multiplicity of facets, any woman can relate to her,” said de Lesquen.
In Belle d’Opium’s video ad clip, which will come in 30- and 20-second spots among other formats destined for TV, movie theaters and Internet, Thierry performs a dance inspired by the Dance of Salomé that Akram Khan choreographed specifically for the project. “We wanted to come back to this archetype as a source of inspiration,” said Durán.
Romain Gavras directed Thierry in the film that’s set to music by Nitin Sawhney. Meanwhile, Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott photographed Thierry for the single- and double-page print campaign. In the ads, she wears creations especially made by YSL designer Stefano Pilati, who also was involved in many other aspects of the project, including choosing the flacon’s midnight blue (very YSL) color.
Like Opium, Belle d’Opium is an oriental fragrance but with less of an amber-like effect. Mixed by Firmenich’s Honorine Blanc and Alberto Morillas, it contains — among others — notes of Casablanca lily, sandalwood, gardenia, white pepper, jasmine absolute and a narguile accord.
Belle d’Opium’s launch begins in France at the end of August, and other countries are due to get the scent through the end of October.
“This is a critical launch for the U.S.,” said Marc Rey, chief executive officer and managing director of YSL Beauté for the U.S., who recalled the massive party for Opium’s introduction in New York in 1978 that was held on a ship docked in New York’s East River. In the U.S., Opium was among the top 50 sellers until it was reintroduced last April and climbed up to the 25th slot.
For Belle d’Opium’s upcoming September launch in the U.S., there will be an exclusive with Nordstrom countrywide and Bloomingdale’s on 59th Street in New York through the beginning of 2011. Rey said a substantial media investment is earmarked for digital media, including blogs and Facebook. In the U.S., the push will mark YSL’s largest and most innovative digital campaign to date, he said. Artists will be involved in the Belle d’Opium’s online component, among other projects.
YSL executives wouldn’t discuss sales projections, but industry sources estimate Belle d’Opium will make $70 million in wholesale revenues during its first year worldwide. In the U.S., 30-, 50- and 90-ml. eau de parfum sprays will retail for $45, $70 and $90, respectively.