Byline: Pete Born

NEW YORK — For her newest fragrance, Donna Karan has reached out for what defines her.
In her mind, that is cashmere — hence the name of the scent, Black Cashmere. “This one reflects everything I’m about,” Karan said in a statement this week made from her New York hospital room, where she was recovering from a skiing injury. “It’s the thing closest to me. Cashmere is very identifiable; it couldn’t be anybody else.”
The sense of opulent luxury — the warmth of the hand — typifies her fashion persona. Sensuality plays a large role, a fact underscored by the organic shape of the bottle. Designed by her late husband, sculptor Stephan Weiss, it is an artful interpretation of a river rock, a smooth sumptuous object designed to feel good in the hand.
Although Karan has an eight-year-old fragrance called Cashmere Mist, this new version is being positioned as the destination scent. “This is the collection fragrance,” said Jane Hertzmark, senior vice president and general manager of Donna Karan Cosmetics, a division of The Estee Lauder Cos. “It is her signature.”
The fragrance will be launched in the U.S. in September and rolled out to the rest of the world next year. John B. Karp, who is in charge of the Karan brand as the president of Lauder’s Aramis and Designer Fragrance Division, noted that the Cashmere Mist continues to generate sales increases of 15 percent a year. With Black Cashmere, he plans to build a core of strength around the brands.
One of his strategies is to take a cue from the Cashmere Mist experience, in which ancillary products proved to be much more important — registering about 30 percent of sales — than is the typical industry case.
Karp also intends to heavily sample a 1-oz. travel-sized version of the Black Cashmere body lotion. He noted that the team will stage a multitude of in-store events, such as The Journey, which traces the origin of the fragrance’s ingredients from around the world.
The line is comprised of six items, with an 1.7-oz. eau de parfum spray priced at $52. A body exfoliator, a deodorant and a perfume will be added next spring.
Hertzmark described the formula, developed by Quest International, as a “woven oriental,” reflecting the complex structure. “Donna wanted to make the scent feel natural on the skin like an oil,” Hertzmark said. “She didn’t want something that smelled like a traditional floral fragrance.”
Ingredients include saffron, Masala spices, white pepper CO2, clove, nutmeg, pimento berries, Mediterranean Broom Flower, patchouli Singapour, red Merechal rose and Ethiopian Guggul incense. At the heart of the fragrance is Wengue wood from Africa, Bois de Miel and Maltese Labdanum drops from Malta.
Carol Russo, vice president of sales and marketing for the U.S., said distribution will be selective, amounting to 750 doors by the end of the fall season. The distribution will be handpicked from the first-, second- or third-ranking doors of the 1,600-door distribution of Cashmere Mist.
Although executives did not discuss numbers, sources estimate that Black Cashmere could do nearly $20 million at retail the first year in the U.S. alone, a high number considering the tightness of distribution. The global total is expected to hit $50 million at retail.
The advertising and promotional budget is estimated at $4 million to $5 million, with a national magazine campaign carried in a narrowly picked list of publications, complete with 20 million scented impressions. The ads, scheduled to break in September books, were photographed by Mikael Janssen and feature Annie Morton.
The DKNY men’s and women’s masterbrand, which is sold mostly overseas, will get a boost from two summer fragrances, called DKNY Energy.

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