NEW YORK — Hilary Duff’s entrepreneurial style certainly is not hands-off.
“I want to be a nose!” she said during an exclusive interview about her new fragrance, With Love Hilary Duff, coming this fall from Elizabeth Arden.
And, apparently, she meant it. During the development process, the 18-year-old entertainer-turned-budding-perfumer visited Quest’s New York laboratories, smelling more than 100 single notes before narrowing her choices down to 10, including amber. “I discovered that everything I really loved was [in] a warm Oriental,” she said.
That gave perfumers Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Stephen Nilsen a starting point for the juice. “I was doing a lot of this on tour, and they were sending me samples,” Duff remembered. “I would wear them, ask my sister and people on tour with me to wear them, and evaluate them — some didn’t last long enough, others didn’t have the right concentrations of notes. We ended up going through something like 115 changes before we settled on the final scent, but it was worth it. It’s just what I wanted.”
Top notes are of mangosteen fruit and spices; the scent’s heart is also of mangosteen blossom and cocobolo wood, and its drydown includes amber milk and amber musk.
For Arden, Duff’s appeal is obvious: She is expected to bring in the highly valued 15- to 24-year-old consumer, and indeed is seen by many in this age group — and their parents — as a role model. For Duff, the fragrance expands a growing portfolio of consumer goods that includes apparel, home decor and now beauty, putting her firmly on the road to a consumer products empire — the inception of which was announced on her 18th birthday last September.
But while she’s obviously hoping for a top-ranked scent, Duff purposely avoided extensive competitive fragrance testing during the development process. “Everyone asks me, ‘What do you think of so-and-so’s fragrance?’ I say, honestly, I haven’t smelled most of them. I try not to pay attention, because I don’t want to feel like I have to go into a certain direction. I did look at vintage bottles, though — when I was younger, my grandmother had all of these perfume bottles sitting on her dresser, and they looked so pretty sitting together. I was inspired by that and by an antique citrine ring I have. It doesn’t look like a grandma bottle, but it’s timeless, sort of earthy and modern at the same time.” The faceted glass bottle is topped with a citrine-hued stone, and the juice is tinted the same shade.
The box design was inspired by robin’s egg blue decorative panels, accented with plum, that hang by Duff’s bed. “My house is very Mediterranean/Mexican in feeling — there’s a lot of color. And I like to wear funky things.” Duff is so fond of the deep plum shade that she recently painted a wall in her sewing room that color, she said. And the box has another surprise: When the top is lifted, the inner box unfolds like a flower. “I can’t take credit for that,” said Duff, noting that her mother, Susan Duff, suggested it. “We thought it would be fun — it’s like, ‘Surprise!’ when you open it,” she said with a laugh.
With Love Hilary Duff is slated to enter 1,600 North American department and specialty stores doors in late September, noted Noreen Dodge, global vice president of marketing at Arden. Eaux de parfum in three sizes will be available: 1 oz. for $35, 1.7 oz. for $45 and 3.3 oz. for $55. A 0.13-oz. rollerball eau de parfum, priced $24, and a 5-oz. body lotion for $24 round out the Duff collection.
As with many fragrances targeting women in their teens and early twenties — With Love is designed to appeal chiefly to 15- to 24-year-old females — the scent’s marketing plan will include a large dose of Internet and cell phone ads. “We want to speak directly to our target consumers where they are, and they are on the Internet and using their cell phones,” said Dodge. Two separate Web ads are planned, a 15-second spot and a 30-second version, she said. Prime time TV ads are also planned for holiday. Duff even plans a handful of personal appearances: “I’m a little nervous — what if no one shows up?” she said.
While neither Duff nor Dodge would discuss sales projections or advertising spending, industry sources estimated that With Love Hilary Duff will do upwards of $30 million at retail in its first year on counter, and the advertising and promotional war chest is expected to top $10 million. That target would put Duff in the same volume territory as Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears.
Elsewhere in retail, Duff’s tween apparel line, Stuff by Hilary Duff, is being sold by a variety of retailers, including Wal-Mart, Target, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s and K-Mart. A designer teen line is launching this fall, a junior line is expected for fall 2007, and home decor items are bowing soon. “I think college students will really go for the decor stuff,” Duff said. “It’s an easy way to deck out a dorm room.” She’s also considering entering other beauty categories, such as color cosmetics and skin care, although not immediately. She said, “I am definitely interested. My bathroom is overflowing with products!”
For someone her age, it may seem unusual to hear how serious she is about philanthropy. “All this stuff isn’t real,” she said of her glittering lifestyle. “You see all of these people that struggle so much and work so hard and they still don’t get ahead. I am so lucky to have the experiences that I am having. I think it is important to give back.”
And that means giving of herself rather than just money, as she does with Kids With a Cause for underprivileged children and the Make a Wish foundation for seriously ill children. Duff has also been involved with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, and is planning a repeat visit to New Orleans in August. She also works with USA Harvest. “On my summer tour, we asked people who came to the concerts to bring canned food, and we got more than one million cans,” she said. “Mothers would come with their cars loaded. If you ask people to help, they do. I find that inspiring. A lot of people think you have to give a lot of money or be famous to make a difference. You don’t. Everyone can make a difference if they try.”
Her charity efforts extend to the animal kingdom as well: Duff, a major dog lover, has four dogs, three of them adopted from rescue organizations. “I have two Pomeranians and two Chihuahuas,” she said. “My boyfriend [Good Charlotte frontman Joel Madden] has a pit bull, and my sister [actress and singer Haylie Duff] has a dog, too. I have small dogs, because I want to be able to bring them with me when I travel.”
In support of the cause, Duff recently designed a doggie T-shirt for Target, with all proceeds donated to Los Angeles-based animal organizations. “It’s unreal how many dogs get put down every day,” she said. “I want to adopt all of them.”
And how does she find the energy for all of her assorted projects? “I sleep on airplanes!” And it’s a good thing. Duff is in preproduction on a film called “Outward Blonde,” and the Duff sisters will star together in two additional movies: “Material Girls,” slated for release on Aug. 25, and “Foodfight,” which is planned for spring 2007. Older sister Haylie is also currently starring in the Broadway production of “Hairspray.” Hilary will introduce a new single with the launch of “Material Girl,” and her next album is expected later this year.
So, with all this going on, does Hilary want to do more fragrances? “Are you kidding? I’m already saying things like, ‘I’m ready to do my white floral now!’”