SAN FRANCISCO -- Bare Escentuals, a purveyor of natural-based beauty products, is charting a path of steady growth that is expected to culminate in an $8 million volume this year.
It wasn't always smooth sailing for the company, which was founded by entrepreneur Diane Richardson in 1978. A peddler of small clay pots from India that contained crushed minerals used as blush, Richardson realized early on that many women were allergic to major color cosmetics collections because of the many preservatives and chemicals they contained.
She soon filled that void and over the next decade added natural fragrances, bath gels, lotions, potpourri and aromatherapy oils to the line, which she sold out of a small shop in Los Gatos, Calif.
Bare Escentuals now also offers everything from Habit, its skin care line, to hair care, foot care, PABA-free sun care products, massage products and even men's toiletries under the Mesa for Men label.
Priced at 20 cents to $20 retail, everything is free of animal ingredients and animal testing. The products are also biodegradable, and the minimal packaging is made of recycled material.
About 25 percent of the company's sales are now done in the bath and body category, chiefly with the California Spa line. The collection ranges from Seamud Soap, priced at $6.75 for a 6.9-oz. bar, to Seaweed Bubble Bath, $11 for a 6-oz. bottle, to Seamud Body Mask, $20 for a 12-oz. container.
In addition, 70 different custom scents can be added by customer preference to the company's wide range of unscented items.
Terranomics, a group of venture capitalists here, bought the company in 1988 and set out to expand it. Terranomics opened four more company-owned stores, three franchised stores, launched a mail-order operation and hired chemists and a staff to manufacture products in-house.
Two years later, Bare Escentuals found itself financially overextended. In came Dolphin Associates -- an investment company here specializing in retailing and led by John Hansen -- to acquire the company and turn it around.
Although Richardson left the company at this point, Hansen's efforts soon paid off. In 1993, Bare Escentuals grossed $6 million, and Hansen, now the company's president, projected gross earnings of $8 to $10 million this year."When I came around in summer 1990, the company was having severe cash-flow problems," he recalled. "Still, people were coming in to the stores, trying to buy products. And the employees stayed even though their paychecks bounced every two weeks. I thought, 'There's something to this company."'
That year, to address its service-oriented customers, the company designed a new store concept, and the last two years have been spent refining that concept as well as expanding the product line, Hansen said.
Aside from core products -- including its hot-selling french vanilla lotion -- the company is constantly introducing new items to its 13 stores statewide, including its shop inside Macy's Union Square, which is staffed by four Bare Escentuals employees.
"We come out with something new every month," Hansen said. "It might be a new flavor or fragrance. It might be a major category like our men's line."
Next up on the company's plate is an enzyme peel mask with alpha-hydroxy acids for the Habit line, lipsticks and lip glazes free of animal fat, custom color, loose and pressed facial powders and a spray hair fixative.
The mail-order catalog business -- reintroduced last October -- now serves customers nationwide.
In addition, the company is expanding its retail arm. This month Bare Escentuals is unveiling a store in Reno, Nev. -- its first store outside of California -- as well as one in San Mateo, Calif.
By yearend, Hansen hopes to have 18 or 19 company-owned stores open.
In another positive sign, he is looking for 1,400- to 1,500-square-feet retail spaces, a notch up from the existing 1,000-square-foot ones.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast