NEWEST PEARL IN PATOU’S CROWN
Byline: Pete Born
NEW YORK — Jean Patou Inc. is returning to its roots with Nacre, a fragrance that executives are billing as the house’s first truly couture scent.
According to Alan Beck, president and chief operating officer, this is the first time in the nearly 80-year history of the company that the in-house nose has created a fragrance under the Patou name that was designed for a very exclusive distribution.
Nacre will be launched in mid-April in 32 doors, consisting of Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. The name Nacre, meaning pearly or mother of pearl in French, refers to the lustrous sheen on the outer shell of a pearl. It was inspired by a highly polished art deco dress, aptly named Fleur de Nacre, in Patou’s spring collection of 1922.
The resulting fragrance, developed by Patou perfumer Jean-Michel Duriez, is a floral amber. The fragrance line consists of only three items. A 1.7-oz. eau de parfum is priced at $150; a solid perfume and a 6.8-oz. body creme, each priced at $90.
The eau de parfum has an unusually high concentration of juice — about 30 percent, approaching that of a perfume. The body creme is designed to provide antiaging and moisturizing benefits.
This is Patou’s fourth major women’s fragrance. The line began with Joy in 1930, which, according to the corporate legend, was invented by Patou and Elsa Maxwell as a gift for the designer’s cash-strapped couture customers following the stock market crash of 1929. “It wasn’t meant to be sold at first,” said Beck. “It was the first couture fragrance because it was given away with the sale of a dress.”
Joy, which still generates the majority of the brand’s volume, was followed by 1000 de Jean Patou in 1972 and Sublime in 1992.
Beck has a twofold business objective with Nacre. First he hopes the fragrance will solidify Patou’s ranking as a top-five fragrance resource. His ambitions are aided by the fact that Patou is the distributor for Houbigant’s Quelques Fleurs, a perennial top seller at Neiman’s.
The second purpose of the launch is simply to add an edge of newness to the franchise. Beck takes a targeted approach to marketing. He sees Nacre as a couture addition, living comfortably as a luxury product in a tiny exclusive distribution.
Beck says he has made no future plans to expand Nacre’s distribution, such as to Saks Fifth Avenue, which would be a natural step. Neither would Beck discuss volume projections. But industry sources estimate that a high-end niche player like Nacre could do about $2.5 million at retail, with a distribution at Bergdorf’s, Neiman’s and Saks.