Opulent blocks to armpit odor

Commentary

July 28, 2005|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

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 anymore when we hear what someone was willing to pay for the latest, must-have bling-bling 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 - just in time for this unbearable heat wave.

For anywhere from $12 to $30, these new deodorants for men and women sell the consumer on the idea that, you may be miserable, sweaty and beat from the heat, 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 Neiman Marcus shoppers 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 underarm 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 and 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 Arid 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 sleeveless Gucci tank top. Especially in the summer months, when wearing heavy perfume seems oppressive.

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 department stores such as Nordstrom and Barney's. He said the ingredients in many upscale deodorants outshine those found in cheaper drugstore brands.

Anthony Logistics' deodorant, for example, contains no alcohol and no pore-clogging 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 cheap Lady Mitchum brand).

"These are class products," Gallo said.

Still, the beauty folks at Allure have a point. At the end of the day - unless you're stinky - who really cares whether your deodorant is made by Secret or Ban, Clarins or Cartier?

That's why, regardless of how hot it gets outside, most consumers probably will stick with their $3 roll-on, and save their luxury money for purchases that really mean something.

Like lip gloss.

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