By  on February 1, 2002

NEW YORK -- Jo Malone, who made her mark mixing exotic combinations of fragrances, is applying her knack for product layering to the category that gave the English entrepreneur her start: skin care.

She has expanded a handful of products into a full treatment line that will be launched in the U.K. in March and in the U.S. in April. "I've gone back to my first love," she said this week in her store in the Flatiron building.

The treatment line echoes Malone's approach in fragrance. For instance, there are six cleansers, offering different flavors and characteristics, including avocado, camphor, eucalyptus and mint, rosemary and lavender and juniper. A total of six specialty products feature different ingredient cocktails and specific solutions: Vitamin E Gel, Protein Skin Serum, Face Refining Serum, Protective Lotion Daily SPF 15, Eucalyptus Oil Control Solution and Blemish Control Solution. These are topped off by five moisturizers, including Jojoba day lotion, Ginseng day cream, apricot and aloe eye gel, a green tea and honey version and an orange and geranium night cream. Prices range from $20 for 100-ml. cleansing tonics to $100 for the 30-ml. Protein Skin Serum, which contains proteins and antioxidants like vitamin E, took three years to perfect, according to Malone.

The products are not geared to skin type but were designed to tackle skin problems, especially when mixed together. For example, Malone noted that if the blemish control solution is added to the Eucalyptus & Mint Frothing Cleansing Cream, the result is a blemish control cleanser. Likewise, a cleansing cream can be mixed with a little vitamin E gel.

"You have access to different characteristics, if you want to layer and mix," Malone said, adding that her intention was to pare the line down to make it simple and easy to deal with, particularly when traveling. "I tried to look at all skin care needs," she said. The ability to mix and match products to arrive at solutions to one's specific problem Malone likened to "going up and down a piano keyboard. It's a bit like fragrance layering."

Malone said the ability to produce a full-blown skin care line was one of the reasons for selling the brand to The Estee Lauder Cos. in 1999. She recalled: "Forty-eight hours later, I was into the [research and development] lab. I knew what I wanted to do."The brand largely is driven by fragrance, which does about half the business, plus home and gift items along with skin care. Her top-selling scent is a heady mixture of lime, basil and mandarin.

"It brings me back to skin care," Malone said, adding that treatment had become "a poor cousin" in share of sales. She declined to give sales specifics, but industry sources estimate that the new line could bring skin care's share of the Malone brand up from 3 to 9 percent, with an anticipated first-year volume of $500,000. The volume figure is a mixture of retail and wholesale, since it includes the Flatiron shop and a distribution network of in-store shops of 21 stores, including Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Holt Renfrew in Canada.

Malone's 1,200-square-foot Flatiron store was opened in New York last April. It is her first U.S. flagship, and despite the calamity of Sept. 11, the shop managed to do about $1.5 million in first-year sales, according to industry estimates. It is Malone's fifth freestanding store.

Malone's headquarters is the original shop in London's Sloane Street. There are two other London stores and a unit in Edinburgh.

The skin care launch will be promoted with ample demonstration and heavy sampling, according to Cathy O'Brien, vice president of marketing.

Malone, who described having a developed skin care business to complement the fragrances as a "double-edged sword," said that being in both businesses is like having two children with diverging personalities. "Fragrance is fun," she said. "Skin care is the more reflective child who sits and reads a book."

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