Byline: Kerry Diamond

NEW YORK — Fragrance retailers have had a rough go of things lately, but one of the bright spots has been the first fragrance from Michael Kors. Launched in September, it quickly found a following among those attracted to the rich tuberose scent and eager for an affordable piece of Kors’s luxe universe. For $80, they too could be a Park Avenue Princess.
The Park Avenue Princes will have their scent this fall when Kors introduces Michael for Men. According to industry sources, the fragrance is expected to do $8 million at retail by yearend and $20 million in 2002. Distribution will mimic that of the original Michael, which is found in 213 doors.
The kinetic Kors paused briefly last week for an interview in his light-filled garment district office. The topics covered? Mitchum deodorant, $22 toothpaste, Melanie Griffith’s birthday and New Balance sneakers. He also threw in a dead-on impersonation of Bloomingdale’s Kal Ruttenstein. And then he talked about his fragrance.
“There is such a sameness in men’s now of everything being citrusy and sort of innocuous,” he said. “We definitely wanted something that was a statement. I wanted something memorable, special. I like something that causes a reaction, but I’m not looking to clear an elevator here.”
The fragrance, which is still in the works, has notes of patchouli, smoke and leather. It’s a combination that Kors feels is modern and classic at the same time. “You want the best of the past, but you want to leave what’s old-fashioned,” he explained.
Having one fragrance behind him didn’t make the Michael for Men process any easier. “You know why?” he asked. “Honestly, it’s me. I can have 30 fittings on one cashmere sweater. It’s the subtlest little thing that makes me love it or not love it.”
But what he did learn from the process of creating his women’s fragrance is that “you don’t have to compromise. You can have something that is special.”
Kors approached the project not just as a designer but as a serious fan of fragrance. He’s been wearing one fragrance or another since he was a teenager splashing on Halston’s Z-14. “I even went to the Opium launch party when I was 17,” he recalled. “There I was on the Chinese junk and I think I got the little bottle and I wore that for a while and I thought I was indulgent. Then I realized it wasn’t a men’s fragrance!”
Although Kors doesn’t have any public appearances planned for the introduction, it will still be a significant launch, promised Camille McDonald, president and chief executive officer of Parfums Givenchy Inc., Kors’s licensee. Kors is part of Givenchy’s American Designer Fragrance division, which also includes Marc Jacobs and Kenneth Cole.
Attracting a customer for Michael for Men could prove to be a greater challenge than it was for the women’s fragrance. After all, Kors is an established and celebrated name in women’s fashion, but not in men’s. He produces a limited men’s wear collection exclusively for his Madison Avenue store, although he plans to expand more seriously into men’s at a later time. “It’s definitely a priority,” he said. “I won’t dip my toe into the water. When we do it, it will be full throttle.”
McDonald isn’t concerned about the lack of a men’s fashion connection since retailer reaction to Michael for Men has been positive. “The fact that the women’s fragrance has been the phenomenon that it has been helped,” she said. “The growing success has made the presentation of the men’s line so anticipated and so enthusiastically received. The credibility is there.”
The five stockkeeping units include a 2.5-oz. eau de toilette spray that will retail for $50; a 4.2-oz. eau de toilette spray, $60; a 4.2-oz aftershave splash for $45; a 5.1-oz. aftershave balm, $45, and a deodorant, $20. The products come packaged in heavy glass bottles, manufactured by Luigi Bormioli of Italy, with black faux horn caps and chrome accents.
The advertising campaign will be shot by photographer Steven Klein. A model has yet to be chosen. “Actually, it’s me,” said Kors. “I’m getting lipo as we speak.”