NEW YORK — Coty Inc. left no doubt Wednesday about its newest celebrity fragrance diva: Gwen Stefani has signed a global licensing deal with the beauty powerhouse to develop and market a line of fragrances for her fashion and accessories brand, L.A.M.B.
The first project, an as-yet-unnamed women’s scent, is planned for fall 2007.
The announcement confirms a WWD report on Oct. 9.
Stefani, who emerged from Orange County, Calif., to become a very high-profile singer, is no one-note wonder. In addition to her music career — she has just released her second solo album, “The Sweet Escape,” and continues to be a member of No Doubt — Stefani designs clothing for her L.A.M.B. brand and recently released her first L.A.M.B. handbag line. In three days in 20 Nordstrom doors, the bags have already reached a 37 percent sell-through rate, said Tim Schifter, chairman and chief executive officer of Schifter + Partners, which is producing the line with Stefani. The usual sell-through is 5 percent to 6 percent a week.
Stefani is also designing watches and sneakers and has appeared in several films, including “The Aviator” with Leonardo DiCaprio in 2004.
But Stefani has honest roots in the beauty industry. Before No Doubt hit it big, she worked as a salesperson in Plaza Sportswear at the Broadway in the Anaheim Plaza Mall, which Stefani admits basically consisted of selling polyester ensembles to older ladies, and longed to be in the cosmetics department. “My fantasy was to move over to the makeup counter, because those girls looked so perfect. I hated them — and I wanted to be hated,” she said during an interview before Wednesday’s press conference at the Hotel Gansevoort here.
Eventually, Stefani ended up selling Princess Marcella Borghese and Ultima II, although not to the audience their marketers intended. “Basically, transvestites would come in and want makeovers,” she said, laughing.
While she didn’t sell fragrances, she managed to score some anyway. “If you signed up enough credit cards, you’d get a tester bottle — half empty,” she said. “I never thought in a million years, being in the stockroom with tons of bottles of Eternity, making sure I’d spray 10 sprays before I went home, that I’d have my own fragrance and my own bottles, lined up in my bathroom to waste.”
She is determined her first fragrance will be classic. “Each thing I come out with — the first bags, the first shoes, the first fragrance — has to have the classic, timeless kind of broad thing that you’re going to always want to go back to,” said Stefani. “That’s what I wanted this one to be, and hopefully there will be more.”
Stefani admits that when she had the first meeting with Coty in October 2005, “it felt a little early for me [to be doing a scent]” because she was trying to get the L.A.M.B. collection together. “[Now] I have the handbags, I have the shoes, I have the outfits, and now I have to have the pshht-pshht,” she said, pantomiming spraying a fragrance into the air. “It feels right at this moment.”
Her fashion empire has taken off quickly. “Each collection, I feel like I’ve grown so, so much — and it’s grown so fast compared with my music career, which has been a long, gradual climb. With each collection, I’m blown away by how much better it gets.
“As a musician, I would never do a fragrance — it doesn’t have anything to do with what I do [in music],” added Stefani. “But as a designer, it’s really exciting…. Isn’t that part of the whole thing of being a designer?”
Stefani has a packed professional calendar — and a baby. She and her husband, Gavin Rossdale, welcomed their first child, son Kingston James McGregor Rossdale, on May 26. She’s enjoying being a mom — and will include onesies and bibs in her next Harajuku Lovers line — but Stefani doesn’t think her son is a big fan of her fragrance. “I spray it, and he’s like, ‘Phew, Mom, enough! I’ve got to breathe! I want to eat! I don’t want to smell that while I’m eating!'” she joked. But having him around will likely lead to further forays into infant fashion. “Now that I have a baby, I’m like, ‘Can we do more? Can we do more?'” Stefani has custom-designed a wardrobe for her son, but adds, “To be honest, he looks best in his birthday suit.”
The Stefani signing not only fits neatly into Coty Inc. chief executive Bernd Beetz’s expressed goal of doubling the beauty company’s size by 2010, it covers two of his three stated growth pillars: celebrity and designer (the third is lifestyle). When Beetz arrived from Parfums Christian Dior in 2001, Coty had sales of $1.4 billion and a portfolio of 24 brands. Today, Coty boasts revenues of $2.9 billion and upward of 40 brands.
But Beetz has grander goals: He has often stated that he aspires to pilot one of the world’s top five players, and he sees his celebrity fragrance strategy as one way of getting there.
“Gwen’s the muse of the unconventional,” said Michele Scannavini, president of Coty Prestige Worldwide. “She has a style that is unmistakable, different, so unique that she can really create trends in the world. We are impressed by how global she is.”
Details of the fragrance are few, but Catherine Walsh, senior vice president, American Fragrances for Coty Prestige, noted that it will be distributed in prestige department and specialty store doors. In the U.S., that will likely mean about 1,800 doors, she said.
Long term, Scannavini sees prospects beyond fragrance for the license. “Absolutely, yes,” he said. “[Stefani] is so into style for so many things — her fashion accessories, this kind of stuff — so I think the latitude of her name is huge. So the fragrance, for me, is just the beginning.”