ESCADA’S NEW PERSONA
Byline: Melissa Drier / Jennifer Weil
PARIS — There’s a new sentiment at Escada.
With Escada Sentiment, the German fashion house is not merely launching its first signature scent in a decade, it’s also kicking off a brand new corporate image that’s fresher, lighter, more streamlined and modern than yesteryear’s.
The scent is billed as an olfactory expression of the new Escada. “It is the first time our fragrance is in total harmony with the brand identity,” said Wolfgang Ley, Escada chief executive officer. When Escada Sentiment hits the shelves Sept. 21, it will be the first time that the public sees the new Escada typeface, new logo and new color code: red, not gold.
The serifs have been erased from the Escada name, replaced by a radically simplified block script. The double E logo typeface has taken on fluid, rounded contours, while the dark red of the Escada name is an expression of Escada’s new slogan: “Colour of Elegance.”
The floral oriental was conceived by Givaudan Roure’s Nathalie Gracia-Cetto. It contains top notes of iris from Verona, green mandarin, magnolia blossom and red currant; heart notes of May rose, Indian tuberose and white peach; and base notes of heliotrope, vanilla and rosewood produced through head space technology.
The iris from Verona is particularly important for its Romeo and Juliet “love story” connotations, said Claude Palatin, president of Escada Beaute. It was also a favorite of the house’s late founder Margaretha Ley.
Also with a romantic theme, the bottle — which resembles an angled column topped with a heart-shaped cap — was created by Serge Mansau. Hearts have long played an important role in Escada fragrance packaging: The company’s first signature scent, Margaretha Ley, and the company’s subsequent annual limited-edition summer and “couture” scents all take that shape.
Sentiment’s outer packaging was done in-house by Escada’s international marketing director Sophie Rouet and Escada head designer Brian Rennie. “It’s rare that fragrance and fashion are so closely related, but we work completely as a team,” Rouet remarked. The Sentiment box is made of a glossy pink hologram-coated cardboard, which the company claims is a first in fragrance packaging.
The advertisement, photographed by Hans Gissinger, features the Sentiment bottle tied in a pink bow. The campaign will break around the time of the launch, which will include exclusive introductions at Saks Fifth Avenue in the U.S. and at Harrods in the U.K. in September. In October, it is expected to hit Germany and France plus Hong Kong’s Seibu, Singapore’s C.K. Tang and Tokyo’s Isetan. Sentiment is slated to roll out to the Middle East in November, and to the rest of the world by yearend.
Distribution will be highly selective, with at least 300 doors in the U.S. and about 2,000 worldwide getting the scent by the end of December. That’s less than half of the 5,000 doors Escada is distributed in globally. And while Escada executives refused to divulge estimates, industry sources say the scent could ring up about $10 million at wholesale in the first 12 months.
The line includes a 30-ml. eau de toilette spray that will retail in France for $28, a 50-ml. version for $41 and a 75-ml. size for $53. There is also a 150-ml. bath gel for $24, a 150-ml. moisturizing lotion for $28 and a 40-ml. roll-on deodorant for $16. Dollar figures are calculated at current exchange rates.
In the U.S., two eau de parfum sizes will be sold — a 50-ml. size for $60 and a 75-ml. version for $80. “We did it because this is the fragrance form preferred in top U.S. specialty stores,” said Palatin.
At launch time, there will also be miniature sophisticates, Liquatouch samples, newly created Escada shopping bags and tissue paper, and Swarovsky crystal-studded bracelets. For Christmas, a coffret will be on offer, as well.
The beauty division has become a key image vehicle for Escada. “Escada Beaute is in many ways a very important contributor to our brand’s notoriety,” said Ley. “In fact, we’re selling around 4.9 million units of Escada perfume annually, and we’ve reached many women that can’t afford — or don’t want — Escada.” He added that a surprisingly high number of young women, aged 26-35, have become admirers of the brand through the fragrance and are now curious to know more about Escada.
Escada Sentiment is positioned as the first in a series of new image boosters for the fashion house. After 44 seasons, the well-known Escada catalog — almost the size of a telephone book and somewhat given to glitz — has been replaced by a chic new image book which combines runway shots with fashion photos by Jonty Davies, Robert Erdmann, Fabrizio Ferri, Wayne Maser, Blaise Ruetersward, Michael Thompson and Albert Watson.
A new generation of Escada shops is also in the works, and Ley said it will take about 1 1/2 years to refurbish Escada’s retail network. Worldwide, there are 124 company-owned Escada boutiques, 120 franchise boutiques and 96 franchise corners, of which 110 are Escada Sport shops or corners.
The new Escada Paris flagship on Avenue Montaigne will unveil the new retail look, though the grand opening has been pushed back from September to October as stylistic adjustments continue. The Escada Web site is also being redesigned, and if all goes as planned, Escada’s new brand image will be online in time for September’s fragrance launch.
As for fashion, the Escada spring/summer 2001 collection to be presented in Munich in July will be the first to reflect Escada’s new brand policy: no sub-brands. With the exception of Escada Sport, the company has gotten rid of all sub-lines such as Escada Weekend or Escada Couture, focusing instead on the pure brand name, Escada. Those attending the July show will also get a view of Escada’s first-ever freestanding accessories collection.
Based in Paris, Escada Beaute is a wholly owned subsidiary of Escada AG, Dornach/Munich, which is a publicly traded company. Founded in 1990, the beauty company is finally in the black with sales of $84.1 million, including Parfums Gres, for the fiscal year ended last Oct. 31. “This year, we’ll have our first nice profit and a nice cash flow,” Ley said.
But the going has not always been easy. Palatin explained that when the company launched its Escada Sport collection based on aromacology and the influence of colors in 1997, it may have moved “too fast, too soon.” Department stores were befuddled by the concept, he said, as were consumers.
Escada introduced its first signature scent in 1990. Like Sentiment, it is a floral oriental, but with heavier notes and more ornate, gold packaging. “It was the right illustration of the brand at the time,” said Palatin, “but right now is the time to evolve and issue a new, timeless fragrance. [Sentiment] is a modern product that will please a new consumer, enlarge the customer base and still reflect the image of Escada.”
That’s why the company is going into overdrive for the launch. It is earmarking a couple of million deutsche marks per major country for ads — far more than it spent on Lily Chic, the last seasonal fragrance, said Palatin.
It is also working double-time on in-store merchandising, which will be replete with testers that are blown-up replicas of the Sentiment bottle. Palatin said these and the window displays will get an extra push in Escada shops, which have historically not pulled in large fragrance sales. The highly visual concept is meant to “better explain the Escada strategy” he said.
The company’s overall growth strategy calls for Escada beauty brand sales to increase from the $77.9 million generated in fiscal 1998/99 to $101 million in 2002/2003. That, Palatin pointed out, will come from additions to the product range and not just fragrances. He said the company might concentrate on regional product rollouts that could take the guise of cosmetics, giving the brand a “local opportunity with specific market groups,” he said.
For example, last October, the company launched a 40-stockkeeping-unit treatment and 50-sku makeup collection for the Korean market that could be rolled out to China next year. At present, the Korean line brings in about $1 million monthly in wholesale volume.
“We sell it in selective cosmetics shops where you can reach more consumers,” Palatin said. Escada has also tried to tap into the local market by formulating products to regional tastes. The whiteners for Korea, for instance, contain garlic.
South America, the Middle East, Asia and India are also full of potential, he said, particularly with local joint venture partners. However, in more developed countries, Palatin said, it is harder to make a name outside of fragrance. “In the U.S., there is no specific distribution where we could be considered a plus — at least with this type of [treatment and makeup] products. But if we can define a niche product, we think it is an advantage in terms of distribution.”