Byline: Pete Born

NEW YORK — Calvin Klein, the arch minimalist, has traveled through so many psychic incarnations in concocting his various fragrances over the years that he has now arrived at the stripped-down truth.
And Truth Calvin Klein happens to be the name of the designer’s new women’s fragrance that will make its debut in August.
But this Truth is anything but simple. The 13-stockkeeping-unit fragrance line is diversified into items designed for use during everyday activities — taking a bath, going to sleep or just hanging out and enjoying the day. The ability to take time for yourself in a pressure-cooker world — that is the new definition of ultimate luxury.
“The luxury of time to treat yourself well,” Klein said. “To be true to yourself, true to your senses, true to your sensuality.”
The fragrance’s concept is hooked to two powerful trends: one, the use of fragrance in nontraditional products like home and bath scents, and the other, personalization. One of the most striking differences between Truth and Klein’s other fragrances is that this one was designed to allow the customer to blend different elements together. The various items — such as the bath products and a bedtime fragrance — emphasize different aspects of the scent, allowing consumers to either pick up on a different facet of the formula or mix and match elements, depending on mood.
“The fragrance doesn’t have to be one thing,” Klein said of the different items. “This is a family of elements that are all related. It becomes personal. It gives you more room to experience the beauty of what the scent’s about.”
This runs to the heart of an emerging trend in the market toward custom-blending of products, such as with the Creed fragrances. Klein’s Truth, however, represents an attempt to take what so far has been basically a niche phenomenon in fashion specialty stores and turn it into a broad-based commercial venture.
The fragrance, developed by Firmenich, is billed as embodying a new category — “lush sensual woody” — and has a nontraditional structure, according to Barbara Calcagni, vice president of fragrance development and marketing at Calvin Klein Cosmetics, a division of the recently formed Unilever Cosmetics International.
Instead of a pyramid, the architecture of the scent is supported by two accords intertwined like a double helix. The lush accord includes bamboo, patchouli, vetiver, wet woods, white peony, white clover and sapling. The sensual accord is composed of bio vanilla, white amber, silk tree flower, acacia flower, woods and musk.
In addition to the signature fragrance, the line is subdivided into products categorized as “luxuries,” as in body luxuries, bath luxuries and bedtime luxuries.
Klein said the composition of the line reflects the more modern notion of using scent in different forms to make everyday experience more pleasurable.
He also asserted that the concept, with the two accords, is very sensual. “When I think about sensuality,” he said, “I think about skin and I think about nature.”
That point will be driven home by the advertising, which will be a milestone for Klein since it is his first campaign in color. The photography consists of vibrant, sensual shots of a nude model and nature scenes of water. Both the print and TV advertising was directed and photographed by Mikael Jansson.
“Body and nature,” Klein said. “That is the true sensuality. It is the real thing, as opposed to something decorative and synthetic. Real honest. If I found one word that was connected to what the collection encompasses, it is ‘spiritual.’
“We personalized and broke down the elements,” he said. “It’s yours.”
The sensuality theme is reflected in the packaging. For instance, the clear glass bottle of the signature fragrance, designed by Fabien Baron, is flat on the front, but curved in the back to fit in the palm of one’s hand. “It feels good to hold the bottle,” Klein said. “It’s very abstract.” The perfume bottle, shaped as a slab of clear glass, lies in a Lucite cradle.
The signature fragrance comes in three sizes of eau de parfum spray, 1-oz, 1.7-oz. and 3.4-oz., priced at $26, $42 and $56, respectively. The 1/2-oz. perfume costs $150.
The 1-oz. bedtime fragrance is $30, and the accompanying products in that category are a trio of candles for $25 and a $20 incense kit.
The body luxuries include a 6.7-oz. body lotion for $28, a 5-oz. body oil spray for $25 and a collection of five 0.85-oz. vials of body oil essences — bamboo, sapling, citrus, lilac and vanilla — for $30.
A trio of bath luxuries consists of a 6.7-oz. shower gel for $24, a bag of bath grains for $25 and $12.50 soap.
Sheila Cutner, Calvin Klein Cosmetics president, noted that creating fragrance products that encourage people to take time out from daily pressures and enjoy themselves allows consumers to indulge. In the final analysis, she said, the line can be viewed as a backlash against technology.
The fragrance will be launched in the first U.S. stores in August and roll out to 1,500 doors. It also will make its debut in Great Britain with another 800 doors and be distributed in Australia and some Latin American countries, Cutner said, adding that the company is focusing on the department store markets this year.
While the company did not break out sales targets or ad budgets, industry sources estimate that the company will be shooting for a second-half U.S. sales target of $20 million wholesale. The launch will be backed with a $12 million promotional war chest, including co-op TV in 20 to 40 markets and roughly 40 million scented strips.
As in life, however, there seems to be more than one Truth. By coincidence, Larry F. Couey, a fragrance entrepreneur with his own Easton, Conn.-based company, is preparing to launch a mass market women’s scent, also called Truth, in August. (See story on page 8.)
Asked about the apparent conflict, Cutner said, “We carefully reviewed the trademark issue and we believe there is no issue in using the Truth Calvin Klein trademark.”