Peter Suen, Gianluca Castagnetta, Giovanni Sgariboldi and Claudio Tenan.

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana broke with tradition, appearing at Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship for the launch of their new Sicily fragrance.

NEW YORK — Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana made a grand entrance on the cosmetics floor of Saks Fifth Avenue’s Manhattan flagship Thursday afternoon. They were there to mark the launch of their new fragrance, called Sicily, in the design duo’s first U.S. public appearance for a scent in 11 years of creating fragrances.

This story first appeared in the November 3, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

And while some may have thought hot anticipation of the event drew the fire department to the store, it was actually a faulty sprinkler head, one fireman said. In any event, a corps of cameras faced the designers, who were seated behind a table on the main floor — flanked by models — as bottle-wielding patrons shuffled past.

The appearance was expected to drive sales above $30,000 at retail for the three-day period through Saturday, according to industry sources.

There was no shortage of top executives on the list of attendees. Giovanni Sgariboldi, president and chief executive officer of licensee Euroitalia, was joined by export manager Claudio Tenan, Gianluca Castagnetta and the company’s Hong Kong distributor, Peter Suen.

R. Brad Martin, chairman and chief executive officer of Saks Inc., and senior beauty executives Deborah Walters and Kate Oldham were some of the retailers present. Connie Ruscio of Fragrances Exclusive, D&G’s distributor, was also present, as was Jean Hoehn Zimmerman, executive vice president of marketing and sales for parent Chanel.

When asked if he believed Sicily could become Dolce & Gabbana’s biggest fragrance, Sgariboldi replied, “It’s difficult to say now. It’s going to be one of the most important Dolce & Gabbana fragrances for sure,” he continued. “My first impression [is that] sales results are very satisfying. It’s a huge launch for Dolce and Gabbana and all of the elements of the brand — the fragrance, the product, the advertising — everything is at the highest level.”

Euroitalia executives cited the U.K. as one of the strongest markets so far, while also mentioning France and Italy. Sgariboldi added that the last decade has spawned at least four “international successes” for the design duo. He especially cited the 2001 entry, Light Blue, which he called a “huge success” internationally, particularly in Japan, Europe and the U.S.

Martin called the designers “icons” and acknowledged Dolce & Gabbana is a big brand with Saks. “[It’s] growing very rapidly, like wildfire,” he said at a lunch for the designers prior to their appearance. “They made me want to leave and head to Sicily,” he said of the store’s Dolce & Gabbana windows, but “my colleagues said I’ve got to stick around.”

“We always have high expectations when we have a launch like this,” said Walters, who is senior vice president and general merchandise manager for Saks. She added that Sicily could become one of the retailer’s top fragrances. “At least top five; that’s our expectation.”

Sicily is “doing very nicely” in three weeks of pre-sell, said Oldham, divisional merchandise manager for fragrances. She noted that, given high expectations, “it’s doing as well as we thought it would.”

U.S. plans call for Sicily to reach full distribution in 1,000 doors. Industry sources have projected that first-year retail sales here could reach $12 million.

A very optimistic Ruscio was cautious about predicting whether or not Sicily would be Dolce & Gabbana’s biggest scent. “It could be,” she acknowledged, “but it’s going to be hard to beat Light Blue.” She noted that cannibalization of Light Blue has not been seen and that its performance continues to be “fantastic.”

Looking ahead, Sgariboldi spoke of developing Sicily into a larger subbrand within the Dolce & Gabbana stable, with additional products that reflect a Mediterranean feel and “flavor of the land” of Sicily. “We’re going to do a full stream of things under the name Sicily,” he said. “[It is] a land very much liked by the designers and they really want to do something to expose that name.”

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