Saturday, September 24, 2005

Imagined prestige extends to the pits.

For those who want posh pits, $30 deodorant is nothing to sniff at.

Tanika White
The Baltimore Sun
694 words
21 September 2005
The Seattle Times
© 2005 Seattle Times.

In this luxury era, consumers will put TVs in cars, carry Louis Vuitton diaper bags and shell out $200 for a pair of jeans -- anything that identifies them as a shot-caller or overall VIP.

It's gotten so that we don't even blink when we hear what someone was willing to pay for the latest, must-have item.

But luxury has now made its way to the most unlikely of places. Your armpits.

High-end beauty and fragrance brands have recently begun launching luxury deodorants. For anywhere from $12 to $30, these deodorants for men and women sell the consumer on the idea that you may be miserable and sweaty but at least your underarms will not stink in style.

Dolce & Gabbana sells a deodorant stick at Nordstrom for $18. Acqua di Parma is marketing a spray for $27. Cartier's got a $25 bottle. Darphin, a French beauty company, offers a deodorant that "relaxes and soothes" your armpits for $30.

Now, I'm all for luxury. I've got some Seven jeans and a couple Louis Vuitton bags myself. But $30 for a stick of deodorant? Has the whole world gone mad?

Apparently not. It seems that the luxury-mongers have done their jobs convincing us that more is more. Some of my friends actually said they might fork over dinner-and-drinks money to keep pit odor at bay.

"With the right kind of marketing, I'd fall for it," says one friend whose idea of luxury is bubble bath from National Wholesale Liquidators. "What kind? The kind of marketing that makes you think it's OK to pay $4 for a cup of hot chocolate at Starbucks. Who wants to be smelly?"

It was just a matter of time before luxury brands tackled uncharted territory such as your underarms, says Janet Wagner, associate chairman of marketing at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business. Especially as of late, consumers, like me, have shown that they really respond to "Hedonic brands" -- designer or status brands that indulge the buyer, bring pleasure and announce a particular lifestyle. In fact, shoppers respond to status brands to the tune of millions of dollars a year. So why not see if society's newfound pampering jones extends even to one's underarms?

Really, it's just smart business.

"Although a deodorant is basically something that we buy in private," Wagner says. "It's a necessity in this culture. Buying a bottle of Arrid doesn't really bring you any pleasure."

But buying a 3-ounce bottle of Acqua di Parma eau de toilette for about $120 might. And if you like the light, flowery designer fragrance on your neck and wrists, you might also like it to come wafting out from your arms.

Most of the experts I spoke to say that designer deodorant, with its fancy packaging, will look good in your medicine cabinet, or make you feel more sophisticated. But it won't really fight your B.O. any better than basic brands.

"It's not so much that you're getting twice the sweat-fighting power," says Kristin Perrotta, beauty director at Allure magazine. "The one thing I consistently hear from women who use these is that they're using them as a fragrance. It's not so much that they're trying to impress anybody, because at the end of the day, who really cares what you're sticking under your armpits?"

More people should care, said John Gallo, director of product education for Anthony Logistics for Men, which sells a $12 bottle of deodorant at stores such as Nordstrom and Barneys. He said the ingredients in many upscale deodorants outshine those found in cheaper brands.

Anthony Logistics' deodorant, for example, contains no alcohol or aluminum. Its citrus scent comes from all natural oils and fruit extracts, such as basil oil, bay leaf, lemon peel, roses, oranges and grapefruit. (Not "powder fresh," or "shower scent," like my own Lady Mitchum brand).

"These are class products," Gallo said.


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