And conveying Mr. Gaultier's singular vision of maleness-that virility shines through even when men are clad in forbidden garb like kilts-fell to Veronique Niel, marketing manager, Parfums Jean-Paul Gaultier/BPI, a unit of Shiseido.
Through careful attention to the minutest detail in everything from packaging to shelf design, Ms. Niel, 39, helped mold the brand into the No. 3 men's fragrance in France in less than a year. Demand was so strong, in fact, that BPI had to increase capacity at its plants.
"If Le Mâle is so successful, it is because the mix of design, fragrance, packaging, communication and image fills a gap and meets consumer demand at a given time," said Ms. Niel.
All those elements were carefully mingled in the fragrance reflecting the man according to Gaultier, who since 1984 has showcased his men's collection with bare-chested men-as-objects. The fragrance was to crystallize his message that nothing in life is black or white, but rather a blend of people, genders, races and cultures, the chic and the popular, today and yesterday.
The male scent was to follow up BPI's 1993 splash of a Gaultier scent for women, which climbed to the No. 6 slot among perfumes in France and No. 10 worldwide within three years.
Like the women's brand that came before it, Mâle used a bottle cannily shaped like the human form. The arresting blue bottle resembles a man's lean torso in a form-fitting T-shirt, the symbol Mr. Gaultier made famous as his "uniform."
"You hesitate a moment before picking it up, before taking hold of its conspicuous shape, before touching it, as though it's somewhat indecent," Ms. Niel remarked of the bottle, a first in the industry. The plainly male bottle comes with a black, tassled atomizer and is encased in a metallic can. "The metallic can is another Jean-Paul Gaultier symbol," said Ms. Niel, noting that in his early career Mr. Gaultier created jewelry from tin cans. "It is not provocation. It is simply Gaultier."
Special attention was lavished on every detail: The glass bottle was the subject of much trial and error before achieving the Prussian blue shade and its frosted effect. The packaging recently won an "Oscar" in the prestige category of an awards competition sponsored by the Salon de l'Emballage.
Advertising, too, was pure Gaultier. In-store displays carried on a naval theme with a simulated porthole showing a bare-chested, tattoed man in a sailor cap arm wrestling with his mirror image in the ubiquitious T-shirt. The ad campaign, created in-house, employed sparing use of print and outdoor. One execution shows the same man in three poses in a shower. In each, he wears a different tattoo along with his sailor cap and is shown, nearly nude, showering and shaving.
Mâle's following isn't limited to France, however. The brand is in the top five among men's scents in Bloomingdale's and Saks Fifth Avenue stores in the U.S. while the top seller in the U.K.'s Harrods and the No. 1 men's fragrance overall in Germany.
Ms. Niel's job now is to continue to fan the fire of success for Mâle with new innovations such as collectible bottles designed for the holidays. "Our job today will be to build loyalty and transform a fashion fad into a lifelong story," she said.