Byline: Julie L. Belcove

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NEW YORK — The Saks streak continues.
Jean Paul Gaultier’s first women’s scent, the latest in a string of powerful exclusive introductions at Saks Fifth Avenue, broke the store’s launch record last week.
The scent reportedly did more than $300,000 in retail sales its first full week. Parfums Chopard’s Casmir, the previous record holder, took about two weeks to hit that total after it was launched in March.
The store’s hot streak began
last October with L’Eau d’Issey from Issey Miyake, which reportedly did $1.5 million in the fall season. Yves Saint Laurent’s Champagne rang up $1 million from its June launch through early September.
“Saks is a strong partner in every sense of the word when it comes to launching a prestige brand,” said Richard Kohut, senior vice president of Mode et Parfums, the U.S. distributor of both the Gaultier and Miyake scents. “They have the know-how to get behind the business and make it happen. This is evidenced by their support with regard to space and location, open-to-buy and visual impact.”
Executives from Saks and Mode et Parfums declined to discuss dollar figures, but industry sources say the store is planning for chainwide sales of Gaultier to hit $3 million this fall.
Steve Bock, senior vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Saks, said he expects Gaultier to snag a spot in the top three.
“We have very aggressive plans,” Bock said. “We’re on those plan numbers.”
Gaultier broke the launch record, Bock noted, without the aid of the Beverly Hills and San Francisco stores. Typically key Saks stores for fragrance launches, both of those California units are introducing the scent this week.
Saks has an exclusive on the fragrance through the holiday season. It will roll out to about 270 doors in 1995, according to Kohut.
An appearance by Gaultier gave the Saks launch a boost. The flagship sold over $15,000 of the fragrance that afternoon.
Hundreds of people lined up on the main floor to meet the designer, who was outfitted in fatigues, a blue and white striped shirt and a black leather vest. Gaultier extended his scheduled half-hour to almost two hours, signing customers’ newly purchased bottles, which are shaped like women’s corseted torsos and come packaged in aluminum cans.
In an interview at the Royalton Hotel prior to his store visit, Gaultier said his instincts told him the American reaction to his first fragrance would be positive.
“Normally, I think they should like it and love it because they are always open to new ideas. Also, it’s American culture — the can,” he said, but then added, “Maybe it’s too American.
“I tried for balance. The outside is a symbol of industry and repetition — a can. You can see it as a beautiful object,” Gaultier continued. “Inside, it’s very feminine. The contradiction makes a harmony.”
The fragrance fits his fashion image, Gaultier said, noting that both are “soft and feminine and also sometimes aggressive and strong.”
As evidenced by the young women with fuchsia hair, tattoos and body-piercing jewelry standing in line with the Upper East Side matrons during his Saks appearance, the offbeat designer enticed a new customer into Saks.
“It’s a fragrance that appeals to the traditional fragrance customer, and it appeals to the collector of fragrance bottles and to the avant-garde,” Bock said.
Saks went all out with the visual display, devoting the Fifth Avenue windows to Gaultier’s sometimes wacky fashions and his unusual fragrance. Inside, a carousel of giant bottles revolved over shoppers’ heads.
“Half of the appeal [of the fragrance] is visual,” said Joshua Smirin, president of Mode et Parfums.
Some form of the visual display is being replicated in every branch, Bock said.
Gaultier is at work on a men’s scent to be launched in 1995. The designer said he’d like the juice to smell a little like skin and to contain traditional men’s fragrance elements as well as some unexpected notes. His women’s scent also has some unusual ingredients, namely the burst of a note that Gaultier says smells like nail polish remover, a fond association from childhood days at his grandmother’s house.
Chantal Roos, president of Beauté Prestige International, the designer’s Paris-based fragrance licensee, took some convincing when it came to the nail-polish remover, Gaultier said, adding, “I am obstinate when I am truly, truly, truly, truly certain.”
The designer said he plans to use the aluminum can again for the outer packaging of the men’s fragrance, along with a bottle that’s “in the same spirit” as the women’s version.
“It has to be related to the men’s collection I’m doing,” he said. “Like I propose men in skirts — not ashamed to show men can be fragile, too.”
Once the men’s fragrance is completed, Gaultier said he wants to get started on a unisex scent, a project in which he’s been interested for years.
“Even my first fragrance I wanted to be like that,” Gaultier said, but he noted that the demands of business dictated he make his mark in the key women’s arena first.
Eventually, Gaultier said, he might consider a makeup collection — for men as well as for women. He added that men need to discover their own way of using makeup, instead of mimicking women.
“What I don’t find interesting is men’s makeup worn like women’s,” Gaultier noted.
For now, though, Gaultier’s mind is focused on his spring ready-to-wear collection, which he is scheduled to show in Paris this month.
“Eighty percent of my collection will be dresses, which is a big, change for me,” he said. “Normally 80 percent of my collection is jackets.”
He said he will show all lengths of dresses that are glamorous and feminine.
“It’s like you are nude and you are dressed — very light,” he said.
After arriving in New York on Sept. 17, Gaultier completed preparations for his launch party two days later that transformed the West Village studio Industria into a French marketplace.
Gaultier also amused himself by visiting a flea market, where he bought an old American flag, some ceramic statuettes and a plastic wallet from the Seventies. He passed on a pair of cotton and leather shoes from the turn of the century because, at $140, he deemed them “too expensive.”