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Armani’s Big Bet on Regé-Jean Page

The Italian luxury brand is betting the rising star — currently the favourite to be the next James Bond — and a new parfum will catapult its Armani Code cologne into the category’s top tier.
Armani tapped Regé-Jean Page to be the face of its Armani Code cologne.
Armani tapped Regé-Jean Page to be the face of its Armani Code cologne. (Armani)

Armani Beauty is betting that Regé-Jean Page can do for its fragrance division what Johnny Depp did for Dior (minus the controversy).

The Italian luxury brand tapped the star, best known for his role as the Duke of Hastings in Netflix’s Bridgerton and a rumoured frontrunner to be the next James Bond, to be the face of its Armani Code cologne in June. His first campaign debuts next month, soon after the launch of Armani Code Parfum, a more concentrated fragrance that goes on sale Aug. 15. Initially available on Armani’s e-commerce site and at Macy’s, a global rollout to tens of thousands of distribution points is scheduled for Sept. 1.

Armani is following a well-worn playbook in the advertising-driven fragrance world, where an internationally famous face can turn a scent into a blockbuster. Dior is the master of this strategy. Charlize Theron has served as the face of J’Adore Dior for two decades, Natalie Portman has played a similar role for Miss Dior since 2011 and Johnny Depp has been instrumental to the success of Dior Sauvage from its 2015 launch.

Page isn’t quite as well known as those stars. But he has been on the cusp of A-list fame ever since his romantic heartthrob role on Bridgerton in 2020. He recently appeared as a villain in Netflix’s The Gray Man, the streaming platform’s most expensive movie to date. He stars in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, scheduled to hit US theatres in March. And of course, there are those Bond rumours.

“We wanted to place this new bet and we chose to use somebody not as known,” said Véronique Gautier, global president of Armani Beauty at L’Oréal, the brand’s licensee. “Cultural relevance … plays a very strong role. It’s our new choice and we wanted this new energy.”

Is a new face enough to turn Armani Code — which has slipped in the global sales rankings in recent years — into a blockbuster franchise?

In the men’s fragrance market, Sauvage has a lock on the top spot. Armani’s Acqua Di Giò, one of the most iconic fragrances of all time, ranked as the fourth-best selling men’s scent in the world last year. Armani Code ranks just outside the top 10, down from seventh as recently as 2017. All rankings come from the brands, which cite data compiled by The NPD Group.

The brand’s goal is for the cologne to eventually join Acqua Di Giò in the top five.

Before judging Armani’s odds of success, a little history: Armani Code, originally named “Black Code” when it came out in 2004, was inspired by Hollywood and black-tie dressing. The brand dropped the “Black” from the name in 2005, amid an influx of men’s fragrances with the word black in them, including Ralph Lauren Polo Black. The name also mirrored the “Code Noir,” a 1685 decree by King Louis XIV that detailed a set of laws to regulate slavery in the French colonies.

In 2006, Armani tried to extend the fragrance to women, but the scent never took off (Armani Code for Women is no longer distributed in the US and Gautier said the brand is “focusing on the masculine facet”). Neither did Armani Code Absolu, which debuted in 2019 with Ryan Reynolds as the face. The scent The scent will be discontinued at the end of the year, and Armani Beauty has since parted ways with Reynolds.

Along with Page and a parfum will also come a tie-in with Fortnite, Gautier said, and the introduction of refills for the Armani Code family. Already, My Way and Acqua Di Giò offer refills. Armani Beauty hopes that refills will soon comprise 20 percent of all fragrance sales.

The clear model is Dior Sauvage. The LVMH-owned brand re-introduced Sauvage, an update on the 1960s-era Dior Eau Sauvage, in 2015 with Depp as the face. It was wildly popular from the start, thanks in large part to an enormous marketing push out of the gate, centred on Depp. The occasional controversy — a 2019 ad that featured Native American-inspired imagery was pulled after complaints — didn’t slow the fragrance’s rise. Nor has the scandal swirling around Depp, who won a defamation suit against ex-wife Amber Heard earlier this year.

Page may or may not have a similar impact at Armani. The company’s decision to launch Armani Code Parfum may prove just as consequential.

Consumers are gravitating towards eau de parfums and parfums — stronger scents with higher percentages of fragrance oil — because they seem more niche than the sort of designer perfumes stocked by department stores, without the price tag of a true luxury independent brand. Sauvage has its one-year-old Elixir, which Ulta Beauty’s vice president of merchandising, Penny Coy, told BoF is a standout for the retailer.

In an economic downturn, shoppers are likely to buy even more of these sort of affordable luxuries, Larissa Jensen, vice president at The NPD Group, wrote in a blog post.

The newest iteration of Armani Code will cost $135 for a 75 milliliter bottle, roughly 2.5 ounces. Armani Code’s existing eau de parfum costs $99 for a two-ounce bottle. Sauvage and Sauvage Elixir are priced slightly higher. Both are a bargain compared to more niche rivals; Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Baccarat Rouge 540 retails at $325 for a 2.4 ounce bottle.

As a rising star, Page is still something of a risk for Armani. Dungeons & Dragons might flop, and Tom Hardy or Idris Elba could pull off an upset and take the Bond role. But Armani has a big opportunity with Armani Code: a new scent to appeal to consumers with elevated olfactory tastes and a movie star on the rise. The allegiance with Page, which if he is in fact the next James Bond, could be just the thing the brand needs to bump Armani Code back into the top 10.

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