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WHEN COSMETICS COMPANY BPI approached David Skovron to design the July launch of L'eau Bleu D'Issey, a new men's fragrance from fashion label Issey Miyake, he knew he needed to catch the eye — and nose — of his audience. The president of New York-based DSA Productions notes that in the absence of a celebrity spokesperson, he and his team had to rely on the element of surprise, staging a reveal that would excite even the most jaded magazine editor. “It's always a challenge, especially here in Manhattan, to do something different via product launch because you're always given the daunting tasks of, A, having editors come to the launch and, B, showing them something they haven't seen before,” Skovron explains.

Impressing the 200 guests required “a very theatrical approach,” Skovron says. Playing off the Beaux-Arts architecture of the event venue, the Celeste Bartos Forum at the New York Public Library, DSA designed a “room within a room,” using white silk to create a three-walled kabuki drop. Custom-built white benches and muted lighting effects, including gobos that flashed fragrance-themed words such as “aromatic” and “intense” onto the walls, created a soothing scene before the big reveal. Skovron brought on New York-based audiovisual company Scharff Weisberg to create the smoke-and-mirrors effects that he envisioned. “I told them, ‘Make it illusionary and make the audience think that they saw something breathtaking,’” he notes. “To me, lights are a piece of the scenery — it's not just illumination, it's a tactile visual.”

The surprise came during the speech introducing the fragrance, when the kabuki walls dropped and the room's lighting changed to a deep blue to match the scent's name. On all sides of the audience, lighting illuminated dramatic displays of the fragrance bottles. “When the kabuki dropped and the light changed, people applauded,” Skovron says. “All of the reactions I wanted were there.”

While the reveal was a hit, it offered plenty of challenges. Before the event, the DSA team learned that they would receive two 5-foot replicas of the fragrance bottle, which they intended to display on two custom-built white cubes. On the morning of the launch the bottles arrived, but instead of measuring 5 feet tall, they stood a mere 18 inches. “You know that scene in [the movie] ‘This is Spinal Tap’ where the stage props of Stonehenge are delivered, and they're tiny?” Skovron asks. “This was my personal Stonehenge!” The team went ahead with the design, displaying the smaller bottles on the cubes and using dramatic lighting to highlight them. “We just said, ‘You know what? It's on purpose,’” he notes. “No one knew, and it was a big success.”

DSA Productions 117 E. 24th St., Suite 4A, New York, NY 10010; 212/674-2000;

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