Turns to Star 'Image Maker' to Add Luster to Flagship Brand

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NEW YORK ( -- In a bid to boost its flagship Estee Lauder brand, Estee Lauder Cos. today announced that it has signed an alliance with fashion designer Tom Ford to create both an exclusive line of fragrances and related products for the Lauder brand as well as a stand-alone Tom Ford beauty brand.
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Estee Lauder has retained star fashion designer Tom Ford.

The partnership with the former creative director of Gucci marks the first time the Estee Lauder brand has collaborated with an outside fashion designer, a measure that is being taken to "chart a new course," said John Demsey, global brand president of Estee Lauder.

Mr. Demsey assumed the top position at the brand in January in an effort to direct that new course, and since his arrival has named a new president, Thia Breen, as well as a new chief marketing officer, Andrea Robinson.

Changing perceptions
“We have a laser focus on creating beauty history and now we will write a new chapter in that history,” Mr. Demsey said, offering that the partnership with MR. Ford "will change the way the brand is perceived.”

The namesake Estee Lauder brand has in recent years lost some of its luster as newer, younger-skewing prestige fragrances have come fast and furiously from new competitors such as L’Oreal and Procter & Gamble Co.

Borrowing from designers has been one of the best-selling tactics for fragrance companies in recent years, among them Unilever’s Calvin Klein and L’Oreal’s Ralph Lauren, said Carrie Bonner, industry manager of consumer products at Kline & Co.

Well-known image maker
Mr. Ford, who departed abruptly from Gucci Group after it sale last year, has been credited with driving sales of the fashion house from $230 million to almost $3 billion during his tenure. Aerin Lauder, senior vice president for global creative directions for Estee Lauder called him “the best-known image maker with a global following.” It is just that following the company certainly hopes to tap to build the brand.

During the first phase of the collaboration, Mr. Ford will create Tom Ford for Estee Lauder. A limited range of products will launch in specialty stores for the holiday season, followed by a more extensive collection for broader distribution for spring 2006. The second phase will feature a separate Tom Ford beauty brand to create and market fragrances and other related products.

Estee Lauder's ad agency is WPP Group's JWT.

Mr. Ford earlier today announced he would form a separate company with former Gucci Group CEO Domenico De Sole to market and promote the Tom Ford brand. In addition to the Estee Lauder alliance, Mr. Ford also said he will partner with the Marcolin Group to develop a line of eyewear for the fall.

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