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You Have a Perfume to Thank for the Return of Rochas

>> It was a surprise when Rochas reopened ready-to-wear for Fall 2009, just two years after unceremoniously closing down its fashion brand, leaving only a line of fragrances.  But it turns out those fragrances, moneymakers though they are, are part of the reason the clothes are back — without the fashion, a brand runs the risk of losing relevance.  "Fragrances have only a certain shelf life," says Robert Burke, an investment consultant and former Bergdorf Goodman executive, told The Wall Street Journal. "Fragrances are generally successful when they're connected to a living person."

So far, Marco Zanini's revival of the label has been well-received — Style.com's Nicole Phelps called his first collection for Fall 2009 "a promising start," and WWD ruled, "So far, so good."  But now is not the best time to restart a luxury brand — Christina Binkley of The Wall Street Journal noted that while she was in the Paris showroom for an hour during Fashion Week, she spotted only one buyer looking the collection over.  Ken Downing, fashion director at Neiman Marcus, says he picked up the collection, meanwhile, and named it as one of his favorites from Paris Fashion Week, because it "had great late-day and dinner dressing."

So will it succeed? »

In this new iteration, the brand has been totally repositioned — Zanini's boss, Gibo president Franco Pene asked for a collection of understatement, likened to Hermes or Bottega Veneta, without logos: "The logo business was killing the luxury business."  Rather than a logo, a signature Rochas ribbon runs through the inside seams, visible only to the woman wearing the clothes.

Prices are much lower than under former designer Olivier Theysken's helm, and everything is manufactured in Italy, with much of the work done by hand.  Cardigans and jackets have interior pockets, and sweaters are lined in silk.  So will it all add to success?  Style.com's Nicole Phelps thinks so: "It's an approach that has created a collection of pieces that feel quite right for this time."

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