Byline: Kristi Ellis

LOS ANGELES — BCBG Max Azria and Unilever Cosmetics International announced Wednesday that they have signed a licensing deal for a collection of fragrance and beauty products.
While BCBG is launching the license as a brand-building tool, Unilever is attempting to boost its bottom line in the prestige beauty business by adding BCBG as the third spoke in its wheel of licensing arrangements.
The licensed collection, which will be managed by the Unilever Prestige business unit of Unilever Cosmetics in New York, will be launched in 2001, though the companies have not determined a date.
“Timing is very important from a marketing standpoint, and we felt like this was the right time to launch a beauty and fragrance line,” said Azria, president and designer of the company, who has been looking for a licensee for months. “Unilever’s knowledge of fragrance is one of the most extensive in the world and we share the same passion for creating luxurious products.”
BCBG has two other licensed categories, swimwear and eyewear.
“What we find very appealing and challenging about a partnership with Max Azria is that he is an extremely quick thinker and very innovative,” said Laura Lee Miller, senior vice president of Unilever Prestige, in an interview at BCBG’s factory in Vernon, Calif. “We think that he has built his success on being accessible to women in terms of style and price points and also giving women a lot of choices in his collections.”
The fragrance collection, not yet named, is expected to generate first-year sales of $35 million, or 10 percent of BCBG’s estimated wholesale volume of $350 million, according to industry sources.
Both companies noted that an important factor in selecting a partner was international distribution channels.
“That was a very important aspect of our agreement and partnership,” said Sophie Rietdijk, BCBG’s vice president of licensing. “As we are becoming more and more global, we are looking for someone who can support our growth and who we can team up with.”
In March, Unilever launched a new company — Unilever Cosmetics International — and split it into two divisions: Unilever Prestige, which develops licensed businesses, and Calvin Klein Cosmetics, which holds the Calvin Klein license.
BCBG is the third licensor in Unilever Prestige’s portfolio, which also includes Nautica and Vera Wang.
Miller stressed that Unilever is creating a diversified portfolio. She noted there were plans to add more lines, but she would not disclose names.
“In building our portfolio, we are looking for innovation, different distribution channels and designer properties that talk to different segments of the consumer market,” she said.
The companies are planning to put the line in all domestic and international BCBG stores, as well as department stores where the line is carried. BCBG operates 114 freestanding boutiques worldwide and plans to open 15 stores in the U.S. this year and 15 to 20 internationally.
“He has a retail empire that is growing every day,” said Miller. “It gives us new opportunities to sell directly within the retail environment of BCBG and it ultimately positions us to talk to the global woman with a fragrance line that is going to mirror the way that Max Azria creates his fashion collections.”