Mikhail Baryshnikov taps the fragrance and fashion markets

SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS

September 20, 1990|By Robin Givhan | Robin Givhan,Knight-Ridder News Service

Aspiring ballerinas dream of dancing a pas de deux with him. Theater critics praised his Broadway performance in "Metamorphosis," saying he made an engaging bug. Educated noses have said that his fragrance, Misha, is one of the most refreshing in a glut of celebrity perfumes.

Mikhail Baryshnikov was in Detroit recently to talk about Misha, to promote it and to sell it. But, no matter what the topic of conversation, Mr. Baryshnikov always speaks of grace and elegance in the way he sits relaxed on a sofa or reaches for a cup of coffee -- cream and one sugar.

It is his charm that draws the crowds and, in many ways, helps sell his fragrance for women.

It took about seven months to come up with the combination of ingredients that make up Misha. Mr. Baryshnikov says that although he worked with a fragrance expert, he spent a lot of time sniffing scents and seeking opinions.

"I wanted to like it myself. Ultimately I asked opinions of my friends and colleagues," Mr. Baryshnikov said. "With any fragrance, it would be terrible if everybody would like it, because there would be no character."

The scent of Misha falls in the chypres category of fragrances, which are heavy, dramatic and reminiscent of oak moss and lavender.

Promoters of the fragrance say Misha has enough character to stand alone -- to shed the famous nickname. But, in this first year, the fragrance depends on the allure of its namesake. It is not the typical appeal of a television celebrity, but rather the sensuality and grace of a celebrated dancer. But the bottom line is that the name is selling the product, and Mr. Baryshnikov knows how to be a persuasive promoter.

He is at ease talking about fashion and about his own style, which he describes as conservative.

"I jump from jeans to Armani suits. I like very simple clothes," Mr. Baryshnikov said.

Although he is directing more of his energy toward his fashion endeavors, including a line of bodywear, he recently finished filming a political thriller in Europe with Gene Hackman. It's scheduled for a spring 1991 release. And, he's rehearsing a new dance troupe, the White Oak Dance Project, in northern Florida.

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