LONDON — Stella McCartney took a trip back in time to her childhood country home — with its ripened roses and her mother’s collection of antique bottles — to create her first fragrance, Stella.
“I grew up in the country around gardens and flowers and cannot walk past a rose without smelling it,” said McCartney over a glass of champagne in the top-floor VIP room of her Bruton Street store here.
“I have all these memories of flowers from my mum’s garden, of tuberose, lily of the valley, gardenia and carnation. I wanted to capture the fragility of the high summer rose when the petals are just about to fall off. It’s not about skipping around the country in a frilly skirt on a summer day,” added McCartney, who spent her youth on a farm near Rye, in East Sussex.
McCartney’s fragrance, produced by YSL Beauté, will launch worldwide on September 13 — her 32nd birthday.
YSL executives refused to discuss figures, but industry sources estimate that the fragrance could do $30 million in sales worldwide the first year.
In the U.S., sources estimate that her fragrance will do anywhere from $8 million to $12 million at retail in its first year on counter, where it will be available in 287 doors, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and selected Bloomingdale’s doors.
“Being English, I have a love for petal-y roses,” said McCartney who, when the project began, handed Firmenich perfumer Jacques Cavallier and his team an Edward Steichen photo of a rose in full bloom as inspiration.
“That rose is about life and death, and I work with opposites in my ready-to-wear collection,” she said. “I wanted to capture all sides of a woman — feminine, fragile, pretty and sexy. I also wanted to make something that could be feminine and masculine, and be worn day and night.”
McCartney, who tested out sample juices on her girlfriends, said — put simply — she also wanted something she could wear and get compliments on.
Stella’s top note of rose essence has been fused with peony flower and mandarin essence, while the heart note is based on rose absolute. The base notes of woody ambers inject a sexiness into the mix.
Chantal Roos, president and chief executive of YSL Beauté, a division of Gucci Group, said that building the fragrance was not easy: “It was very hard to find the balance between the feminine and the sexy. In fact, some of the perfumers abandoned the project because they thought it was too hard.” She added that Stella is the first fragrance she’s ever developed with a woman.
Later, at the New York launch party —?held at McCartney’s West Village boutique Monday evening — the designer said ruefully, “They didn’t tell me until after they had developed the scent how difficult that particular rose essence was to duplicate. I’m happy, though, that I started with the most difficult scent first!”
In the U.S., a 0.25-oz. perfume is priced at $95, while the eau de parfum sprays retail for $75 for 3.3 oz. and $58 for 1.6 oz., respectively. Two ancillaries also will be available at launch: a 6.6-oz. body lotion — McCartney said that in the past she has always preferred body lotion to fragrance — for $35, and a 6.6-oz. bath and shower gel priced at $30.
McCartney calls Stella a “classy” fragrance. “This is not a cheap, one-off hit, and the last thing I wanted to do was condescend to my clients. My goal is to create memories — like the ones I have of my country garden.”
She designed the packaging herself, sketching the parfum bottle — which is shaped like amethyst crystal — with her pencils. “I wanted the bottle to be something that would last and keep forever, something precious and jewel-like. I really wanted to fight against the whole disposable culture of the Eighties and Nineties.”
McCartney said the bottle also should debunk misconceptions about her personal style. “I think maybe people out there were expecting something ‘rock chick’ or ‘girly girly’ or ‘London London.’ They may not have imagined this.”
The eau de parfum bottle, manufactured by Saint Gobain, was made from hand-polished and hand-faceted heavy glass tinged in a plum shade. It sits in a silky satin padded box, shaped like a jewelry box. The fragrance itself is petal pink.
McCartney said she’s also excited about the stem-like applicator under the eau de parfum’s glass cap. “I love those things,” said McCartney, referring to the applicator. “There’s something a little bit dangerous about putting on perfume with that thing. And there is nothing sexier than a man lifting up a woman’s hair and applying perfume to her neck that way.”
Ever the environmentalist, McCartney has created body products with 95 percent natural ingredients that contain no animal content, no artificial preservatives and no use of raw material in ecological danger. “I think this is the only product in the luxury goods market that can say that,” she said.
The ad campaign has been shot by Craig McDean and will run over single- and double-page spreads in major U.S. and European fashion and lifestyle magazines. In the U.S., advertising will begin running in September issues of Vogue, W, Lucky and Allure. McDean shot the images through crystals, McCartney said, to capture the spirit of Stella. While neither Roos nor McCartney would comment on projected advertising and promotional spending, sources estimated that U.S. spending would top $3 million.
And McCartney isn’t stopping with just one fragrance. “This feels like the beginning,” she said in London. “I hope I have a lot of perfumes in me.” In fact, at her New York launch party, McCartney told WWD that she hopes this scent will be the first step in a Stella McCartney beauty collection, which could include additional fragrances and perhaps even a color cosmetics collection at some point in the future. She hastens to add, however, that the next project has not yet been started. 0
“[Beauty] really turns me on, and the beauty team has been great to work with,” said McCartney in New York. “I’m really excited about going in this direction.” But she’s determined not to simply be a name on a bottle: “With this fragrance, I had to make something that I wanted to wear myself.”