Saturday, October 20, 2007

Comme des Garçons Builds Niche Perfume Empire

What do Daphne Guinness and Stephen Jones have in common - apart from their English eccentric style? They are both launching first fragrances under the auspices of Adrian Joffe, who heads up the company of his partner Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons and has developed for her a fragrance empire.
The idea of Joffe as the beauty industry's new prince of perfume sounds unlikely. But, as Joffe says, there is an increasing demand for niche marketing in this area where big does not always seem so beautiful.
The proof is in the steady development of Comme des Garçons fragrances since the early beginnings in 1993. When its Eau de Parfum was launched around the swimming pool at the Ritz, it seemed more like a medicinal congress than a beauty event, as bags of yellow liquid were the decoration of choice.
Instead of the standard $50,000 launch parties that reverberated through the 1990s, Comme des Garçons brought out a different concept each year, with the 1999 series of "Leaves" a hit with customers.
But Comme des Garçons Parfum has remained an individualist and a family affair.
Jones explains that he worked closely with Kawakubo herself on his concept, saying "she's not a perfume person," but that "she is a very good editor."
While Kawakubo has always been labeled an iconoclast, Joffe has broken the mold in a more nuanced way. The Dover Street Market, set up as a London multi-brand store, was dismissed as an aberration in the era of brand retail flagships. But now, with its mix of cool and traditional fashion and accessories - not least from Comme des Garçons' own labels, the store is looking increasingly visionary.
The financial side is also moving ahead, with wholesale figures up 32 percent to $3.5 million for year end to May 2007 and profits rising by 50 percent. The new phase of development will see Comme des Garçons managing its independent names and paying them a royalty. "Our role is like a producer in a movie," says Joffe. "And like a producer, we have to be satisfied with the plot and the text."

Text by Suzy Menkes

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