By  on February 25, 2005

NEW YORK — In March, makeup artist brand Jeni Lee is getting a second chance — following earlier difficulties — thanks to Lucent Cosmetics Inc.

“We had been looking for entrepreneurial women who had built a company on a concept and were ready to take it to the next step,” said Peter Aurigemma, president of Lucent Cosmetics, a holding company that acquired the brand in April 2004. Aurigemma said that he expects the brand to bring in up to $2 million in first-year sales in the U.S.

Originally started by Hollywood makeup artist Jeni Lee Dinkel, the Jeni Lee line launched in Henri Bendel in the fall of 2000, and then expanded into Nordstrom. While the brand enjoyed significant industry buzz in its initial months after its launch, it pulled out of both retailers in 2001 due to changes in distribution strategy, but remained in small boutiques, according to the company.

Featuring a range of color cosmetics, from brow pencils to cream foundation, Lee built her line on two principles. First, a makeup line should span multiple cultures: “If you’re a person of color, you can easily find a color [in my line] that works for you,” Dinkel said. The second principle is that cosmetics don’t last forever. Packaging for the original line featured expiration dates, so consumers would know when it was time to throw out old products. “I wanted to protect the customer and educate them at the same time,” she said.

Aurigemma and his partner, Carl Liu, a television and media expert, discovered the struggling brand in March of 2004 and had a vision for the line: taking it from a “standard makeup artist brand” to a lifestyle brand, he said. Dinkel hopes the concept of a lifestyle brand will help to differentiate Jeni Lee from other makeup artist offerings on the market. “At the end of the day, I want to be the Martha Stewart of cosmetics,” she said. “I want to be recognized not only as a Hollywood makeup artist, but as a woman who put her own money on the line with an idea and a group of investors and just went for it.” Included in the lifestyle brand plan is both an expansion of the line’s product offerings, from bath and body to skin care to fine fragrance, and a commitment to open a series of freestanding Jeni Lee stores, both domestically and abroad.

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