PARIS — Guerlain is growing its high-end treatment portfolio with a new skin care cream, Orchidée Impériale Soin Complet D’Exception Crème (Imperial Orchid Exceptional Complete Care Cream, in English), which will begin rolling out in January to both Europe and the U.S.

The product, with a core target expected to be the 35-plus set, is said to increase skin’s firmness within one month of use. Its primary aim is “to position Guerlain at the top of the skin care market,” according to Thierry LeVallois, managing director of Guerlain France.

“Guerlain started life as a skin care brand, and its heritage is in skin care,” said Pamela Baxter, president and chief executive officer of LVMH Perfumes & Cosmetics, North America. “This is a very significant launch for us.”

And it carries a significant price tag as well. With the debut, the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned brand will introduce its most expensive treatment to date. At 300 euros, or $362 at current exchange rates, it is priced 250 percent higher than Guerlain’s Substantific Essence, until now the brand’s priciest skin care item, weighing in at 130 euros, or $157. In the U.S., Orchidée Impériale will retail for $350.

The cream also launches Guerlain into the category of products boasting rare ingredients.

Said Sonia Voskoboinikoff, marketing director at Guerlain skin care, the cream “is based on the rarest primary ingredients.” That is to say, orchids.

The company’s researchers spent seven years developing the cream with orchid specialist Philippe Lecoufle. The team experimented with 80 species of the flower before selecting four different types for use in the final product. Lecoufle highlighted an orchid’s exceptional durability, noting it can survive extreme temperatures and thrive on hostile terrains while remaining in bloom.

“The secret to the length of time the orchid is in bloom is hidden in the molecules in its roots,” explained Frederic Bonte, LVMH’s research manager for Guerlain, adding such molecules are key ingredients in the Orchidée Impériale cream. “The orchid extract protects and stimulates the skin’s cell membrane and increases the production of proteins protecting the skin’s DNA.”

At the same time, the cream is said to limit the skin’s production of proteins attracting tissue-damaging enzymes while stimulating the development of anti-inflammatory proteins. It purportedly regenerates the skin’s membrane while plumping and firming.

This story first appeared in the October 28, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Orchidée Impériale is designed for both day and night use and comes in a heavy glass jar topped with a gold-colored lid engraved with the product’s name and Guerlain’s logo, noted Linda Maiocco, vice president of marketing in the U.S. for Guerlain and Parfums Givenchy.

The new cream will bow in France and the U.S. in January. It will then be introduced to the rest of the world from February through March. Its launch is to be supported by single- and double-page advertising featuring an image of the cream and an orchid. A teaser version of the ad will show a page highlighting a single orchid followed by a page showing the product.

Guerlain executives declined to discuss sales forecasts. However, industry sources estimate the cream will generate up to $18 million at retail globally in its first year on counter worldwide. In the U.S., it is expected to do at least $3 million in retail sales in the 75 high-end specialty stores in which it will be present.

Guerlain plans to expand the Orchidée Impériale banner with a second product slated for June 2006.

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