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Sensually Scented Poison Makes a Killing

November 28, 1986|BETTY GOODWIN

Alarming numbers of women in Los Angeles are being Poisoned. Willfully. And they're paying for it.

Poison, of course, is the name of the newest fragrance from Christian Dior Perfumes, and it is the company's first women's fragrance that does not incorporate the Dior name (as in Miss Dior, Diorissimo, Dioressence and Diorella).

Even before the local advertising promotion began, Poison zoomed to the position of No. 1-selling fragrance at Bullock's and Bullocks Wilshire, where it was exclusively available in Southern California until October. It is now also available at Saks, Neiman-Marcus and Nordstrom.

Priced from $437.50 for 1.7 ounces of eau de toilette to $150 for 1.7 ounces of esprit de parfum, Poison has become the "strongest fragrance launch Bullock's has ever experienced," reports Patty Payne, cosmetic divisional merchandise manager.

Sales are more than twice that of Oscar de la Renta, which until now reportedly has been Bullock's top seller, she says, and adds that she expects Poison to rank among the stores' top three sellers throughout the fall season and continuing into Christmas.

Why?

Is it because of the elegant amethyst-color bottle and malachite-green box? Or is it the heady scent itself? Or could it be just the name . . . That name?

"Fragrance is, of course, the key factor of the success," insists Maurice Roger, the Paris-based president of Christian Dior Perfumes. "At the beginning, I'd say half of the impact comes from the name and packaging, but after that, it's two-thirds the ingredients themselves."

For two years, Roger explored about 800 combinations to come up with what he calls the "complicated harmony" of Poison. "If you compare it to music, you have simple instruments and you have concertos and symphonies. This is like a symphony with many more aspects or accents than usually found in a perfume."

What makes Poison so, well, symphonic is that it is both light and heavy at the same time. Most popular fragrances of the '70s were light and floral, and the trend now is for heavier, more sensual perfumes. Roger decided on a combination of the two by blending sweet-smelling jasmine, rose and tuberose with spicy musks and fruits. He believes this is what gives Poison its "ambiguity," much like its appellation.

"Our name," he said of his creation, "must catch the imagination."

Loewe--Although his Spanish ancestors didn't have far to look for a name for their leather-goods stores, Enrique Loewe frets that the name is being mispronounced today.

Call the Loewe Boutique, one of the newest arrivals on Rodeo Drive, elegant, extravagant, rich and sophisticated, but never call it "Low" or "Low-ee."

The correct pronunciation is "Lo-way-vay."

"We surely have a problem in English," sighed the urbane proprietor, who was visiting from his base in Madrid.

"We are thinking about concentrating on the pronounciation in our ads. We really feel it is a little barrier, no? It is a very sensitive point."

Founded in 1846 by Loewe's great-grandfather, a German immigrant, the shop became the leading leather concern in Madrid, receiving a royal appointment from King Alfonso XIII.

In the 1950s and '60s, the company expanded with shops throughout Spain, and in the '70s throughout Europe, the Far East and now the United States.

Loewe believes in fashion, not labels, and the team of designers makes a point of avoiding conspicuous brands on its soft, Napa leather clothing, handbags, luggage and ready-to-wear for men and women.

Rather than being known for an obvious logo, Enrique Loewe says, quality of the Loewe name--as long it can be pronounced--speaks for itself.

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