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FRAGRANCE

Rating celebrity perfumes: In Bloom, Siren, Queen and Malibu

Celebrity-branded perfumes continue to flow into the market. Are they worth more than a whiff?

November 29, 2009|By Melissa Magsaysay

The long lineup of celebrities with fragrance deals resembles the invitation list for the People's Choice Awards. There are film stars, TV personalities, pop singers and socialites, all with a marketable image and, presumably, a thirsty fan base that will lap up every last drop of what these public figures bottle and sell.

Linda Newman, who recently waited in line at Macy's in Lakewood to meet rapper 50 Cent and sample his new fragrance, Power by 50 Cent, announced to the crowd: "I already sprayed it on me." When asked if she would be giving her bottle of the men's fragrance to a husband, boyfriend or brother, she clutched it to her chest. "No. I'll put it on my shelf and spray it every now and then, and have a reminder of 50 Cent to be there all day." Newman, 33, also bought Christina Aguilera's Inspire, which she also proudly displays on a shelf at home. "I think she's an incredible person, very deep, very focused, very amazing."

The interest in celebrity-branded scents continues as consumers become more entranced with their favorite stars' lives, both in and out of the spotlight. In 2008, sales from celebrity fragrances totaled more than $170 million and represented about 6% of the prestige market, according to NPD Group market research.

"Consumers want to have a little piece of the lifestyle that they find so alluring," said packaging designer Chad Levigne, who has created bottles for celebrity scents, including Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely.

With the number of scent-seeking celebs on the rise, fragrance manufacturers have to home in on the most exciting and potentially profitable. "We look for a person who has a large following and success in what they've been doing for a number of years." said Neil J. Katz, chief executive and chairman of Parlux Fragrances, the company that manufactures Queen Latifah and Jessica Simpson fragrances and all six of Paris Hilton's scents. "We're also looking at their following to see that they're devoted with a feeling of attachment, wanting to identify with them, be like them or somehow even help them in some way." Parlux will add offerings from Rihanna and Jay-Z to its list of celebrity scents next year.

But what about the "juice" (industry-speak for the actual perfume)? With so much emphasis on the marketing and consumers getting caught up in the perfectly airbrushed image of their favorite star peering out at them from the shiny packaging, we often dismiss what the stuff really smells like. So, just in time for the holidays, the Image staff has sampled some of the recent celebrity offerings to see if there are any jewels or if it's all just hype.

In Bloom by Reese Witherspoon

What it evokes: A porch swing on a warm afternoon, swatting away mosquitoes with a newspaper while sipping an ice cold glass of lemonade. In a news release, Witherspoon said she was inspired by her childhood in Tennessee.

Whom it's for: Women who wear Marc Jacobs' or Michael Kors' first scents and maybe even a few people who adore J'adore by Christian Dior. The bottle and scent will appeal to college students and their mothers; its softness makes it suitable for an older woman, and the gardenia and white florals make it trendy for a younger wearer. The wide, round glass bottle with a large blooming flower on top is subtle and elegant.

What it smells like: The gardenia is prominent, but In Bloom manages to cut through the headiness that is typical of that flower for a more crystal and transparent result. There are top notes of Georgia peach and tea leaves, middle notes of star gardenia, magnolia and night blooming jasmine, and base notes including amber and cashmere wood.

Final verdict: It's really girlie without being annoying. Kind of like Witherspoon. Mission accomplished.

$34 for 1.7 ounces, available through Avon, www.avon.com or (800) FOR-AVON.

Siren by Paris Hilton

What it evokes: Smelling this made us want to eat tropical gummy lifesavers while nursing a Red Bull and vodka. It's fruity and juicy, mixed with tropical flowers.

Whom it's for: Teenagers who love every incarnation of Hilton, whether she's in sweats or a tutu. (In the promotional material for this perfume, she is photographed as a mermaid, topless with blond hair extensions.) It's light and nonoffensive but makes no major style statement. It's just there, and it lingers for a surprising amount of time.

What it smells like: Anything light and fruity, such as DKNY Be Delicious. After a few hours, it turns into something a little deeper and less fruity, like L'Eau d'Issey by Issey Miyake.

Final verdict: This is the sixth scent from the socialite and queen of licensing, who said in a news release: "I feel irresistible as a mermaid." While we're uncertain if you will feel like a mermaid, we can say the perfume is light, fruity and tropical, perfect for wearing while lying by a trendy hotel pool in a rhinestone-studded bikini.

$45 for 1.7 ounces, $55 for 3.4 ounces, available at Macy's.

Queen by Queen Latifah

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