Byline: Alev Aktar

NEW YORK — Michael Kors was once a self-described “teenage fragrance victim,” dousing himself with every new launch. Now he maniacally spritzes his new women’s scent on anyone who will lend a body part, whether it’s his front row or unsuspecting ladies in the elevator.
Kors has a feel for fragrance, a sort of olfactory knack. “Do I think I’ll be moving to Grasse anytime soon?” jested the happy-go-lucky designer, referring to the center of the perfume industry. “No.”
“But I think I have a really good gut reaction, and I know what has some emotion to it. And I did not spray the entire front row, contrary to what some people have said. Only half of it.”
Kors has tried to bring that emotion — and wit — to his first women’s scent, Michael. The scent is marketed by fragrance licensee Parfums Givenchy Inc., the North American subsidiary of the Paris-based Parfums Givenchy, a division of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
“Nothing is as personal as fragrance,” noted Kors. “My fragrance really does interpret differently on different women. It’s like the best black dress: It looks different on 20 different women.”
The introduction is important because it reflects LVMH’s new strategy of acquiring — or starting up — American brands. “This is the opening salvo of an American brand business unit,” said Camille McDonald, president and chief executive officer of Parfums Givenchy Inc. “It’s the first time LVMH has established such a unit to create American brands from scratch that will be marketed to the world.”
McDonald has also been put in charge of the upcoming Marc Jacobs fragrance.
Michael will debut in a tight specialty store distribution of some 300 doors in the third week of September, during the fashion shows. Retail accounts for the fragrance are expected to include Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Dayton’s, Hudson’s, Marshall Field’s and Jacobson’s.
“We want it to be accessible, but not too accessible,” explained John Orchulli, co-chairman and chief executive officer of Michael Kors.
Around the same time the fragrance hits stores, the new Michael Kors flagship will open at 974 Madison Avenue at 76th Street here.
Parfums Givenchy executives declined to talk numbers, but sources estimate that the scent could generate more than $10 million at retail in 2000. McDonald said she is aiming for the top rank in the doors where the fragrance is sold.
The challenge with Michael, said the designer, was to translate his style philosophy into fragrance. “Glamorous but simple, indulgent but practical,” explained Kors. “And chic. That’s the word I’m going for no matter what we do.”
The fragrance is targeted to women aged 25 to 49, according to McDonald. Kors has a different way of defining the market: “It’s for everyone from Claire Danes to Helen Gurley Brown.”
The fragrance is an explosive white floral with a tuberose signature. Created by perfumers at Mane USA, it has freesia and Moroccan incense in the top notes; tuberose, blue orris and white peony in the heart notes, and cashmere woods, musk and vetiver bourbon in the dry-down.
McDonald said the fragrance has a very high concentration of natural ingredients — over 90 percent — making it the most expensive juice she’s ever introduced. “We’re investing in this product,” she said. “This is the first statement from a new company. It’s important that we set a tone.”
She said that the fragrance will retail for about 20 percent more than those priced in the middle of the prestige market. A 1.7-oz. eau de parfum spray will go for $58, while a 3.4-oz. size will retail for $78. The most expensive item in the line is perfume, which is priced at $300 for a 1-oz. bottle. “If it’s right, you want it,” said Kors; “$300 — it’s like a tank top!”
In time for Christmas, the company will also introduce a limited-edition signed and numbered perfume bottle in a sterling silver and Lucite case. That will retail for a whopping $1,500. All profits will go to a charity to be named shortly, said McDonald.
No gift-with-purchase promotions are planned for the line, which will be animated instead with frequent new product introductions and sampling.
The packaging was created by Kors along with an in-house designer. The shapes are architectural, and the finishes are tactile. “I’m an urban boy,” pointed out the designer, who was dressed in the New York uniform of khakis and a black sweater.
The eau de parfum bottles have a signature twist: An “M” is faceted in the glass, and turned on its side, it reads “K.” The cap is sleek platinum. The box, meanwhile, is platinum and sueded camel-color paper, for a hot-and-cold effect.
Kors’s famous sense of humor is reflected in the naming of the bath products. The cream is labeled “An Expensive Body Creme” (it retails for $75). The lotion is called “A Fabulous Body Lotion” and the shower gel is dubbed “A Sexy Body Shower.”
“We’ve not calling anything heather mist so I never know what it is,” said Kors. “We’re really cutting to the chase. I like the fact that even though this is very elegant, there’s an honesty and a sense of humor about it.”
The fragrance will be backed with print advertising developed by Baron & Baron. The images will hit magazines at the same time the new campaigns for the Michael Kors and Kors fashion collections break. “We’ll launch the whole thing at once, and the fragrance will benefit from ready-to-wear,” said Orchulli.
The company is also planning a 1-800 media teaser campaign and advance sampling to create buzz, said McDonald.
The fragrance will be heavily sampled with innovative items such as sueded slap bracelets that release the fragrance when they hit the wrist, as well as vial-on-cards and packets of body products. Kors will also be making public appearances in stores.
Kors makes no secret of the fact that a men’s scent will follow Michael, although right now, he’s fragrance free. “All I wear is too much or too little Bain de Soleil,” he grinned. Judging by his Saint-Tropez tan, it’s too little.

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