The market: Ahh, the smell of Brit

Vivienne Westwood is the living embodiment of her ex-boyfriend Malcolm McLaren's favourite saying - Cash From Chaos. Peer beneath the good lady's own underwear choices and general cocky attitude and you'll find a business mind that's 20 times more astute than most British cloth cutters. Symbolic of this is the announcement that she intends to be the first British designer to launch a scent.

Okay, some Savile Row tailors have gentlemen's scents, but Westwood is planning to compete with Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, Chanel and Givenchy. No other British designer has dared to take on these giants in the unseemly brawl that is the perfume shelf. Katherine Hamnett has been toying with the idea of a fragrance for a long time, but hasn't got anything she feels is exactly right. After all, if you are going to put your name to the most memorable of sense stimulators, you want to make sure it delights not offends. Even so, the dearth of British designer scents is striking.

"The problem is that in the UK fashion colleges they just aren't taught about marketing," says Michael Oliviera-Salac, editor of on-line fashion 'zine Blow and GLR's fashion correspondent. "In France, all the designers have fragrances and it comes perfectly naturally to them. They do it because a Givenchy suit costs pounds 500 minimum, but you can get a bottle of scent for pounds 30. That means you're buying into the designer. It looks good in your handbag and you can drop the name around without paying through the nose. The British designers could and should do that. Alexander McQueen could make a killing with a fragrance."

Of course, the other problem is cash. If Ralph Lauren or Yves St Laurent plan to put out a fragrance they put aside a cool pounds 10 million for advertising, marketing and promotions. British designers just don't have that sort of wedge to throw around. Westwood is not known for advertising and hasn't said how much she will spend on pushing the scent. Industry observers believe she will rely on her name and her stunts to sell it. Once a scent is out there, however, the cash can really start rolling in.

British designers are also crippled by their lack of expansion in other ways. Very few, for example, have diffusion ranges in the spirit of Junior Gaultier or Versace's Vs. In part, this is a function of the British obsession with street fashion. On the continent, they don't have catwalk-to-high- street interpreters such as Top Shop or even Bhs. With a bit of imagination and a bit of shopping around, you can put together a pretty deft looking ensemble without spending much at all. So, it might only last three washes, but what the hell? It shows that most Brits want to look funky. Even in small villages.

In France or Italy that isn't an issue, so there's no demand for chain stores. In the US, of course, the 'flyovers' are such a bunch of lardy slobs that they couldn't give a toss if it was available or not. That's why you have diffusion lines like D&G, Junior Gaultier or DKNY, so that the select few who love fashion but cannot afford the big-boy prices can attach the name to their chest. Westwood is one of the few Brits to start pushing a diffusion range (her Red Label), so the scent fits nicely into her continental thinking.

These scents are rapidly becoming the front line of the designer war. In fact, CK1 has freaked out so many people with its phenomenal success that Hugo Boss is already conducting research among London's hip community to find out how best to fight back. At the moment, the jury is out, but getting Kate Moss involved is the only constant suggestion.

"I think it has a pretty good chance of success," says Claudia Croft, fashion writer at industry business magazine Drapers Record. "She has a strong enough cult following to sell the scent without too much advertising and marketing. It will be very good for her, especially in Japan where she is huge even though she's slightly gone off the boil in the UK. I don't really think it matters what it smells like as long as the packaging is right and the shape of the bottle looks cool. It can smell like anything she wants." See what I mean? Cash from chaos.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

    Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

    £15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

    Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

    Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links