THE SCENT OF MATRIMONY
Byline: Julie Naughton
NEW YORK — After a year-plus engagement with Unilever Prestige, Vera Wang’s headed to the altar.
Of fragrance retailing, that is.
And Wang — whose fragrance collection will launch at Saks Fifth Avenue on, appropriately enough, Valentine’s Day — isn’t the least bit hesitant about walking down the aisle. “Over the past six years, we’ve had many offers to do fragrances,” she said. “For me, it was about finding the right partner, which we’ve done with Unilever Prestige.” Laura Lee Miller, president of Unilever Prestige, is equally enthusiastic: “Vera was such a natural choice as a fragrance partner,” she said, alluding to Wang’s consumer name recognition, as well as her knowledge of and presence in the bridal and eveningwear categories. “It’s the perfect match. In fact, Vera’s so prepared and in tune with us, that she could even tell us how she wanted men to react to the juice. And the scent’s for women.”
Chet Hazzard, president and chief operating officer of Vera Wang, noted that the time is perfect for the scent launch: “We wanted the momentum of the fragrance to match the momentum of our business,” he said, noting that the fashion house — which produces eveningwear and ready-to-wear, in addition to its famous bridal line — is coming off of a record October.
Wang, a longtime aficionado of classic scents by Guerlain and Chanel, wanted a “classic, yet modern juice. I wanted it to be very sensual, but not overpowering.” The result: a rich, floral tool of seduction. Even the accords are inspired by love: The team calls the top note, which includes Bulgarian rose, calla lily, and mandarin flower, “the inspiration”; the middle note, of gardenia, lotus, iris and white stephanotis, “the kiss”; and the drydown, of sheer musks, white woods and precious floral nectar, “the embrace.” The juice is by Firmenich.
The lineup includes a 1-oz. parfum, $300; a 0.5-oz parfum, $150; a 1.7-oz. eau de parfum spray, $60, and a 3.4-oz. eau de parfum spray, $85. As well, there’s a full complement of ancillaries that Wang calls “lingerie for the skin”: a 6.7-oz. body creme, $85; a 6.7-oz. bath and shower creme, $40; a 3.5-oz. body powder with subtle shimmer, $45; and a 5.2-oz. soap, $20. The fragrance bottle was another key point for Wang, a one-time art history major who wanted “a work of art” for her scent.
The fragrance appears to float in a pyramid-shaped glass, topped by a platinum-hued collar and a faceted glass stopper. “Like the scent itself, the bottle isn’t unisex or sporty,” said Wang. “They’re both completely feminine. But it’s not a prissy, uptight feminity. It’s about a modern, sensuous, elegant feminity.” The ancillaries are packaged in unbreakable, frosted bottles with platinum collars which mirror the design of the fragrance bottle. The bottles were were a joint effort between Wang and Ateliers Dinand in Paris.
The attention to detail is carried through the outer packaging — a square box of white textured paper with the deep brown brand signature subtly centered. The box is lined in lavender.
After its exclusive engagement in Saks Fifth Avenue from February to April, the fragrance will roll out to select department and specialty stores in April. By yearend 2002, the fragrance will be in about 500 doors, said Miller.
The advertising, which will break in March 2002 fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines, is being kept veiled at the moment; Wang will simply say “it’s still in development,” although she noted that it is being shot in Paris by Paolo Roversi, the same photographer who shot much of her recent wedding book. Miller said that an intensive sampling campaign is planned, including 1.5 million deluxe miniatures in both the beauty and fashion areas of department and specialty stores, as well as sampling at Wang’s retail stores and trunk shows. Additionally, more than 25 million scented strips are expected to be included with the advertising campaign, plus 10 million scented strips in store catalogs.
Based on Wang’s name recognition, industry sources expect the sales of the line to be brisk. While Miller, Wang and Hazzard declined to comment on projections, industry sources estimated that the line could do $20 million at retail in its first year. Sources also estimated that Unilever would spend upward of $14 million in 2002 on advertising and promotion for the brand.
Wang — who reportedly sells about 10,000 of her pricy bridal dresses a year — is also enthusiastic about bringing her vision to a wider audience. “This scent is not only for the brides that I dress, but for the brides that I won’t get a chance to dress,” she said. But Wang is quick to emphasize that brides aren’t the only ones that will wear it, a point that Miller confirms.
“We’re often asked if this is a bridal scent,” said Miller, noting that the scent’s key demographic is 25-to-35-year-old women. “While we hope to entice the brides — after all, our research shows that 67 percent of brides stick with their wedding-day fragrance after the ceremony — there’s an incredible opportunity with this scent for women of all ages, married or not.”
Above all, Wang hopes that her scent will have the staying power — and emotional import — of her favorite classic scents. “Fragrance has such a power — I can smell the scent I wore on my first date, and it’s like I’m yanked right back into that moment,” she said. That scent, for the record, was L’Air du Temps. “I want my scent to do the same thing.”