- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2006

PARIS

A skin-deep brush with fame is just a spritz away. You can douse yourself with eau de Britney, Paris or J.Lo as stars jump on the lucrative fragrance bandwagon by creating their signature scents.

With even romance novelist Danielle Steel and shock rocker Marilyn Manson brewing their own concoctions, celebrity fragrances are the fastest-growing segment of the $2.9 billion perfume market, according to market researcher NPD Group. Also, established brands such as Chanel and Guerlain are turning to Hollywood stars to pitch their flagship scents.

However, some experts warn the market is heading for saturation as increasingly unlikely celebrities latch onto the trend.

“There is a kind of exacerbation of the phenomenon right now which makes me think we are not far from the breaking point,” says Marie-Claude Sicard, a Paris-based expert in brand analysis and strategy.

The craze for celebrity scents is credited with reviving a dormant fragrance industry and bringing a whole new customer base of under-40s to perfume counters.

Celebrity and celebrity-endorsed brands represented 23 percent of the top 100 women’s fragrances in the United States in 2005, up from 10 percent in 2003, according to NPD Group data.

Offerings in the pipeline include scents from New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, teen queen Hilary Duff and singer Mariah Carey.

Elizabeth Taylor was the first to capitalize on her brand status with a perfume line. Despite her absence from movie screens, Miss Taylor’s fragrance White Diamonds remains a top seller.

That success was considered an exception until 2002, when Jennifer Lopez jump-started the category with her first scent, Glow, on the back of a red-hot movie and music career.

Now, even prestigious brands are falling over themselves to sign high-profile talent. Guerlain has secured Hilary Swank to promote its new fragrance, Insolence.

“Hilary Swank is magical, intriguing and breathtaking,” the French firm said in a breathless communique announcing its collaboration with the Academy Award-winning actress. “Her selection of difficult risk-taking roles and the genuine quality of her personality, far from the sparkle of Hollywood, were factors that made her an obvious choice.”

Brands are becoming more demanding as the perfume sector flirts with celebrity overkill.

In a sign of the times, Chanel declined to renew its contract with supermodel Kate Moss after she was photographed apparently taking drugs. It has replaced her with “Pirates of the Caribbean” star Keira Knightley as the face of Coco Mademoiselle perfume.

Meanwhile, the life span of new offerings is shrinking steadily, so industry experts see the celebrity perfume trend hitting a cyclical peak.

“It will never stop, but it will slow down certainly from the rate that it is at now,” says Rochelle Bloom, president of the Fragrance Foundation, a New York-based industry group.

Those that survive will need a combination of talent and strong product, as most scents do not turn a profit until their second or third year.

“I don’t care how popular they are, if they don’t have a good juice, it’s never going to succeed,” Ms. Bloom says.

“It costs a lot of money to launch a fragrance today, whether it has a celebrity name on it or it doesn’t, and so therefore you want it to be successful. You don’t want it to be a hit-and-run,” she says.

Robin Krug, editor of the fragrance blog NowSmellThis (https://nowsmellthis.blogharbor.com/), says that although celebrity perfumes pass the quality test, consumers just face too much product.

“A common complaint on the fragrance blogs and forums is that everything smells the same and, of course, with that many releases, it is inevitable that many fragrances do smell quite similar,” Ms. Krug says. “When it comes to celebrity perfumes, it is doubly hard not to be cynical. One wonders how many times the industry simply churns out a minor variation on an existing big seller and then attaches a celebrity name after the fact.”

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