DONNA KARAN’S SCENT OF THE CITY
Byline: Alev Aktar
NEW YORK — Donna Karan is high-energy, capable of multi-tasking like a champion. But even her considerable resources were tested by the DKNY store opening, fashion show and upcoming fragrance launch, all in the same four weeks.
“I’ve been at the new store until 4 a.m. every night!” croaked Karan during a recent interview. “Where are my Hamptons?”
Her new fragrances, DKNY Women and DKNY Men, are meant to evoke that nonstop New York energy.
“It’s a synthesis of the city,” explained Karan, who was dressed like an urban nomad in white linen over black stretch separates. “I kept looking out my window, and that’s how it started.”
The women’s fragrance will make its debut at the new DKNY flagship store at 655 Madison Avenue and the Bloomingdale’s flagship on Sept. 17, the same day as the DKNY fashion show.
It will roll out to five more metro-area Bloomingdale’s stores in late October; then, in early December, distribution will be expanded to a total of 11 Manhattan doors. On Feb.14, the DKNY duo will be introduced in a distribution of 1,000 doors.
Sources say the scents could generate $100 million at retail in the first year after the rollout is completed.
The introduction marks Karan’s first major beauty move since the the company signed a fragrance and cosmetics licensing agreement with the Estee Lauder Cos. in late 1997.
The designer launched her controversial beauty business in 1992 with her husband, Stephan Weiss. She was determined to pursue her vision by introducing innovative lifestyle products in fashion packaging. But unlike most designers, she maintained ownership, thereby forgoing lucrative royalties.
Karan flouted traditional rules of marketing, introducing, for example, a signature scent with a bath line in a different fragrance. Another unconventional entry was Watermist, a collection of “nonfragrance fragrances” made by wringing scented water out of plants. Although several of the products achieved cult status, most did not have broad commercial appeal.
Karan’s beauty business drained at least $20 million from the fashion company from 1992 through 1995, and investors pushed the company to license or find financial partners. Finally, in June 1997, executives declared they would find a partner within 90 days, a promise they made good on.
At the time the deal was inked, Karan’s beauty company generated a wholesale volume of about $40 million and marketed 46 stockkeeping units, including two women’s fragrance brands, a men’s scent, Watermist, skin care and home fragrances.
Lauder executives quickly discontinued most of the line, leaving Cashmere Mist, Donna Karan Eau de Parfum and the bath and body collection.
In June 1999, Jane Hertzmark was named senior vice president and general manager of Donna Karan Cosmetics. Cashmere Mist, which started as the bath and body line of the signature fragrance, is showing strong gains at retail; there was a 30 percent jump in sales from February through July, according to executives.
“When we inherited the brand, there were a lot of products,” said Catherine Walsh, vice president of marketing and product development.
“We tested Cashmere Mist and found that it was a sleeping giant, so we cleaned up the packaging and made it a brand.”
The company is relaunching several of the Formula skin care products — All-in-One Cleanser and three shades of Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 — this fall in limited distribution. The products will be introduced in eight doors, at Bergdorf Goodman and select Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s stores, in mid-October, according to Deborah Davidson, vice president of national sales and training.
But the company’s most important beauty move this fall is the DKNY fragrance launch, which comes on the heels of the DKNY store opening on Madison Avenue on August 28. Like the store, the scents are meant to evoke New York.
The bottles look like skyscrapers and form a cityscape when grouped together. The women’s is partially frosted and partially clear, and the men’s has the same design, but is tinted pale blue. The box has a hologram finish that brings to mind reflections from glass buildings.
And the scents are meant to smell like a burst of energy. “The first submission was pure perfection,” said Karan. “I was in Milan and I was spraying it on everyone. The hard part was getting back to that. I kept saying, ‘Get me back to the original! Find me that bottle!’
“This scent is for people who don’t like fragrance. It’s about freshness and air and light and awakening. My job is not to make the city smell bad.”
Hertzmark added that the scent was “see-through,” which means it smells the same at the end of the day as it does in the first minutes.
The women’s fragrance, which was developed by International Flavors & Fragrances, is classified as an urban floral — a floral with crisp edges. It has an energizing blend of blood orange, chilled vodka and tomato leaf, with a floral bouquet composed of water lily, green coral orchid and daffodil. There’s also a sensual accord, redolent of white cotton T-shirts, wet cobblestones and white birch and tulip tree bark.
At press time, the finishing touches were being put on the men’s scent. It will have a citrusy freshness with crisp green tomato vine accents, as well as a masculine blend of spices, woods and moss.
The women’s entry will cost $38 for a 1.7-oz. eau de parfum spray and $55 for a 3.4-oz. size. The men’s will be $35 for a 1.7-oz. eau de toilette spray and $50 for a 3.4-oz. size.
The duo will be backed with a print campaign previewing in select magazines starting in October, and then breaking in national magazines in January. The print ad will run in more than 20 magazines along with scented strips. All in all, the company will disseminate 31 million dual-scented impressions next year.
Outdoor advertising is another key component in the promotional equation. Starting in New York in the fall, there will be DKNY fragrance billboards and buses.
In December, the company will project laser images of the visual on landmark buildings and hand out fragrance samples in the street. And the subway shuttle between Grand Central Terminal and Times Square will be dressed in DKNY fragrance visuals.
Sources say the company will invest more than $15 million in advertising for the launch.
The print ad was shot by Mikael Jansson and it features DKNY models Esther Canadas and Mark Vanderloo smooching in the rain. The couple met on a DKNY shoot two years ago and were married in the spring; Canadas wore a beaded dress designed by Karan.
“Everyone wants a love story like that — it’s real,” said Karan. “I said, ‘Throw water at them [on the shoot]; have fun!”‘
In fall 2000, the TV commercial shot by Stephane Sedanoui will air.
All the DKNY activity will set the stage for the introduction of DKNY color cosmetics in 2001. Karan’s makeup will compete against other new designer lines, such as Tommy Hilfiger’s collection, also marketed by Estee Lauder, and the upcoming Calvin Klein range.
As for Donna Karan collection, a new fragrance will be added to that franchise in fall 2000.
“It’s like pizza and caviar,” said Karan. “Collection is caviar and DKNY is universal.”