By  on March 11, 2005

NEW YORK — A new start-up beauty company called Graffiti Cosmetics plans to scrawl its mark in mass market beauty departments, legally of course. The company’s “tag” — graffiti artist slang for autograph — can already be spotted in a handful of Walgreens stores in Southern California.

The company, based in Studio City, Calif., was the brainchild of Tabitha Lafayette — a woman who has made her living getting ahead of color trends — and her former business associate, Michele Schatz. The co-founders met while working in the new home construction business for a firm called Vista Paint.

Prior to her seven years at Vista, Lafayette — who oversees the creative side of the small beauty firm — worked as a fashion “specialist” at both Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, outfitting the well-heeled in designer clothes.

“With me it’s always about color,” asserted Lafayette, who keeps close tabs on European trends to gauge the next “It” color. 

Two years ago, the pair dreamed up the idea of an edgy and affordable cosmetics collection for young women. Graffiti Cosmetics, billed as Urban Decay for drugstores, bowed in seven Walgreens doors in Southern California in November. The line is slated to roll out to 15 more Walgreens stores in California in April and is expected to begin a national rollout this summer. By the end of this month, the beauty company plans to begin selling its wares on the company Web site,

After browsing through European pharmacies, Lafayette said she realized the American mass market was missing a cosmetics line with a decidedly urban look.

Items in the line, housed in clear packaging decorated with overlapping “Mod-inspired” rings of color, range in price from a $4.99 eye shadow to $8 for foundation. Graffiti plays up its hip — almost too cool for drugstores — image with shade names such as Hell Bent, Rapture and Clairvoyant.

Lafayette and Schatz, who oversees the financial side of the business, began meeting with retailers in May. At the time, one national drugstore buyer said Graffiti was “too far ahead of the game.”  Despite the buyer’s initial resistance, Lafayette said she expects to sign a distribution deal with the drugstore chain shortly.Lafayette disclosed that the company has a first-year retail sales goal of $1.3 million, and hopes to be in 1,000 doors by year’s end (although she acknowledged that she and her partner would be happy with 500).

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