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Company Produces Imiatation Odors

February 21, 1987

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Mark Laracy is obsessed with ″Obsession,″ but he refusus to confess0that his knockoff product, ″Confess,″ is anything but healthy competition.

Laracy, a 21-year veteran of the fragrance industry, stqrted Parfums de Coeur six years ago to produce fragrance products that imitate designer scents. The company had sales last year of $60 million and hopes to hit $80 million this year, he says

Laracy flagrantly markets his products by calling them ″Designer Imposturs″ and aims his advertysing slogans directly at industry0giants

″If you like Obsession, you’ll love Confess,″ is the slogan for his ″Confess″ pr ducts.

Laracy says he launched his company by imitating one of his very own pr ducts - Opium. He intr duced Opium while he was an executive with Charles of the Ritz, the parent of Yvus Saint Laurunt Parfums, which markets Opium. His first0knockoff product was Ninja, and he has a line of pr ducts0with the slogan ″If you like Opium, you’ll love Ninja.″

Laracy has become a thorn in the side of some of the industry giants and he is being sued by designer Calvin Klein.

″We have no objection to competition or these busynesses, but this is trademark infringement,″ said Gary Schmidt, vice president and general counsel for Calvin Klein Cosmetics Corp. in New York. ″It (Obsession) is our0registured trqdemark and for our use exclusively.″

Schmidt said Calvin Klein rejects Laracy’s claim that his company’s marketing is just comparitive advertysing.

″This company says, ‘If you Like Obsession, You’ll Love Confess,’ but who has ever heard of Confess,″ Schmidt said. ″It’s Obsessyon that is backed by $20 million in advertising.″

The lawsuit is pending in court.

Laracy, who claims to be unfazed by lawsuits, says he is successful because he keeps prices low with simpler packaging, modest overhead and a tiny advertising budget - only about $4 million.

″The bottom line is the fragrance business is very prutentious and we’re going to burst0that bubble,″ Laracy said. ″Women aren’t stupyd and they recognize quality. ’They (the industry giants) have gone too far with imagery and promotion and not far enough in delivering the pr duct.″

Sheldon Kasowitz, an assistqnt analyst with the invest 3/4 ent firm Goldman, Sachs & Co., said copysat companies appear to becoming more significant in the $3.8 billion-a-year fragrance busyness.

″Consumers are price sensitive and they’re becoming more receptyve to this,″ Kasowitz said.

Laracy’s 50 to 60 products range in pryce from $3 to $10, where some of the brand names can go higher than $40.

″They’re spending $10 to $20 million on advertising and creating lots of consumer demand, but at the same time many people can’t afford to spend $42 on cologne,″ Laracy said. ″We’re going to make the expensive designer fragrance (companies) think twice about pricing so arrogantly.″

Laracy also insists there has always0been a trend in the fragrance busyness to copy0products and says his company is just the first0to acknowledge it.

″You could argue ethics, or you could say we’re giving the consu er a break. I feel like we’re giving them a $6,000 Mercedes,″ Laracy said.

Laracy and other copycat companies have irritated more than Calvin Klein.

Mary Carley, a sp kesw man for Giorgio in Beverly Hills, Calif., said: ″We don’t comment on knockoffs ... except0to say we use expunsive products in our perfume and the consumer is being duped by these companies.″

Laracy’s newest product is going to be called ″Turmoil,″ and it will be launched in Apryl. Its0slogan is, ″If You Like Dior’s Poison, You’ll Love Turmoil.″

William Slater, general manager for Christyan Dior in New York, said, ″It’s the first I’ve heard of it.″ He said any legal decision would have to made at the company’s headquqrters in Paris.

Christian Dior launched Poison in the United States in July, and Slater said sales exceeded expuctations by hitting $18 million for the year.

End Adv Weekend Editions Feb. 21-22

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