"I don't work with trend companies. They only do 'now,' and for me 'now' is over. I want the future," says Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, president of Estée Lauder's designer-fragrance division. For French-born Gabai-Pinsky, who has developed hits like Be Delicious for Donna Karan and Dreaming for Tommy Hilfiger, getting to the essence of a designer's psyche is the juicy part of her job. And she has climbed to the top of the industry by speaking an unusual, creative language that resonates with fashion designers.
"What we are looking for in a fragrance is basically a continuum of the brand's DNA crossed with the consumer's demand at that moment," she explains. "We are a generation living with a multitude of changescareer, emotional, institutional. So you really have to hit the consumer over the head. If you have to explain to the consumer, then you are dead."
Gabai-Pinsky, 42, begins the creative process by doing a "deep dive" with the designer. After much research, her team will come up with what she calls the Ten Commandments of a brand. For Karan, those commandments evolved out of an immediate synergy that Gabai-Pinsky felt "in her gut" with the designer's values. For the Missoni family, she captured the generosity of life and the family's celebratory spirit. For Tommy Hilfiger, it was the American Dream that Gabai-Pinsky seized on. And for Michael Kors, the jet-set lifestyle is what resonated.
But it was the process of creating Be Delicious for DKNY in 2004 that is most typical of Gabai-Pinsky's working style. "In order to capture the emotion of New York, the one idea we kept coming back to was the apple," she says. "As soon as we said 'apple,' that was it. The idea of 'take a bite out of life' was stronger, more universal than even 'New York.'"
At the time, there was no note of apple in any fragrance on the market because it is so difficult to extract. For Gabai-Pinsky, it wasn't just the unusual scent or the stylized round bottle that clicked with consumers, it was also the richness and simplicity of the idea. "Some ideas are so obvious, but they have to be well executed to really reach people," she says with a smile. Kate Betts