Twenty years after launching its first fragrance, the cosmetics arm of Liz Claiborne Inc. continues to evolve.

The first fragrance to be introduced, the eponymous Liz Claiborne, bowed in 1986, 10 years after the apparel brand came into being. Since then, the cosmetics division of the company has steadily been building franchises that include beauty as well as apparel — like its Lucky Brand Jeans and fragrances, its Curve men’s and women’s apparel and fragrances and its Liz women’s apparel and fragrance.

Annual volume for Claiborne cosmetics and fragrances is estimated at $210 million.

“Over the years, we have evolved from being a very promotional, department store-only beauty brand to a more diversified beauty company,” said Art Spiro, president of Liz Claiborne Cosmetics. “This movement will continue. Over the next two years, we are planning to diversify our beauty distribution and add upscale brands that will be appropriate for high-end specialty stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. Everyone is looking to be a little more upscale, and we have the brands in our portfolio to make that happen.”

While Spiro didn’t elaborate on the upscale beauty brands that will be added to the mix, Liz Claiborne Inc.’s apparel portfolio includes such labels as Dana Buchman, Juicy Couture and C&C California.

The company’s strongest beauty doors in the U.S. have historically been department stores, including Macy’s, Lord & Taylor and other May Co. stores. The company distributes its scents in about 1,500 American department store doors. Specialty store doors will be added as the brands like Juicy are introduced over the next 24 months.

The latest Claiborne-owned fragrance brand to build on an existing apparel property is Ellen Tracy. Cosmopolitan Cosmetics (now Procter & Gamble Prestige Beauty) had held the beauty license since 1998, when Ellen Tracy’s former majority stockholders, Herb Gallen and Linda Allard, had granted it to them. Claiborne acquired the Ellen Tracy apparel brand in September 2002, and P&G and Claiborne came to an agreement in July 2004 that gave the license to Liz Claiborne Cosmetics.

All of the old Ellen Tracy beauty stock from its P&G days has been liquidated, and Liz Claiborne Cosmetics is rebuilding the fragrance brand from scratch with Tracy by Ellen Tracy, a new fragrance that’s due to begin shipping next month.

This story first appeared in the March 27, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“It was apparent to us after George Collins Sharp [Ellen Tracy’s new designer] was brought on board that there was a real opportunity for a modern Ellen Tracy fragrance,” said Spiro. “George has created a youthful, elegant collection, and we wanted to work with him to bring that same sensibility to the Ellen Tracy fragrance brand as we took it back under our control.”

Tracy is characterized as a creamy, soft floral, noted Sue Hochman, vice president of sales for Liz Claiborne Cosmetics, who will retire in May. The scent’s top notes are of cassis, peony and plum blossom; its heart is of rose essence, violet woods and iris flower, and its drydown is of almond milk, vanilla, white amber and sandalwood. The scent was developed by Firmenich’s Jean-Claude Delville and Richard Herpin. The Tracy fragrance lineup will include eaux de parfum in two sizes, 1.3 oz. for $50 and 2.5 oz. for $65, and two ancillaries, a 6.7-oz. body lotion for $38 and a 6.7-oz. shower gel for $30.

The Tracy by Ellen Tracy advertising campaign comes from an Ellen Tracy apparel shoot; both the apparel and fragrance ads feature model Erin O’Connor.

Spiro is loath to assign a specific age range to the Tracy by Ellen Tracy scent, although he conceded that its strongest customer base will likely come from women in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

Spiro is proud of Claiborne’s ability to build lasting beauty brands, which is due in part to a constant evolution and subtle updating of the fragrances it offers. For instance, the company’s Curve master brand was launched in 1996 and continues to be sold today; over the years, it has added flankers and one-off projects that keep the brand fresh in consumers’ eyes. When Curve made its debut, it was aimed at an 18- to 24-year-old age group, noted Spiro. The last introduction in the franchise, Soul by Curve, was launched last fall and aimed at consumers in the 25- to 35-year-old age bracket. A new Curve duo, Curve Chill for Her and Curve Chill for Him, will launch in June and hits similar age targets.

Liz Claiborne Cosmetics has no fear about reinventing existing franchises if they aren’t right for today’s consumer. The company introduced its Realities fragrance master brand in 1990. Due to declining sales, it was discontinued domestically in 1998. Rather than dispose of the name recognition the original brand had built, executives decided to overhaul the fragrance. The result? A women’s scent, launched in fall 2004, that shared only a name with its older sibling: The bottles, scents and advertising were all completely revamped for Realities’ second run at the market.

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