NEW YORK -- "What makes a woman beautiful?" Norma Kamali asked a young mother who was holding her infant son on her lap. "How do you plan to influence him about that?"
"It's not as superficial as it seems to always be portrayed nowadays," said the woman, with a hint of Texas twang. "Even if there's a beautiful exterior, there has to be a beautiful interior as well. I want him to realize that a woman isn't just a sex object."
The conversation took place on the pristine white set here of the infomercial for the Norma Kamali Beauty line, which, ironically, is all about eliminating makeup, particularly foundation.
"This product is about taking everything off and being comfortable in your own skin," Kamali said.
Kamali's anti-makeup approach to cosmetics isn't the only way she plans to break ground. While most designers enter the beauty business with a fragrance, she is aiming straight for the heart of the industry with a line of treatment and makeup products. And rather than opting for a traditional retail introduction, Kamali is using the infomercial to launch the line, a joint venture between the designer and Infomercial Retail Management.
Roy Benjamin, who is a partner in IRM, said the company eventually will distribute the line to stores. It is launching the line with an infomercial so it can build an initial consumer base that understands the concept behind the products, he said.
The infomercial, produced by Crossroads Communications, is scheduled to be tested in 12 to 20 markets in June, Benjamin said. It will be rolled out nationally in September or October. The kit, which will come with an instructional video, will be tested at different price points, such as $99, $95 and $89.95.
Benjamin projected first-year sales of $20 million to $25 million.
He said he expects to go retail with the line in 1995, distributing to a few department stores and perfumeries and possibly to top hair salons, fitness centers and specialty stores that carry Kamali's apparel.
"We're probably talking about the infomercial having a life of six to nine months," he said. "We won't go retail until we are successful."The basis of the line is three treatment products: Day Moisturizer and Night Replenisher, both of which are oil-free and can be used around the eyes, and Self-Enhancer, a moisturizer for use two or three times a week that is designed to replace foundation by evening out skin tone and adding a glow.
The moisturizers contain Pentavitin, a naturally derived carbohydrate complex that the company says helps skin retain water. The other key ingredient is Apt, which is derived from Hawaiian red algae and is said to increase cell turnover, thus improving texture and elasticity while diminishing the appearance of fine lines without the irritation that alpha-hydroxy acids sometimes cause.
The infomercial will offer the skin care products in a kit with a few basic color cosmetics items: light powder in one of three shades; blush in one of two shades; clear mascara for eyelashes or eyebrows; brown mascara; dual-end eye pencil in two shades of brown; lip pencil in a neutral color; lip gloss, and lipsticks in Sheer Blush, Sheer Nude and Tinted Berry.
Future products could include a facial cleanser and various body items, Kamali said.
Kamali arrived at the concept from her personal experience. As a young woman, Kamali said, she loved wearing makeup and was something of a cosmetics junkie.
"I believe I started wearing makeup because I didn't feel as beautiful as the blue-eyed blondes I grew up with," she said.
The designer began to think about developing a cosmetics line about 10 years ago, when she was in her late 30s. She realized that years of wearing heavy foundation had enlarged her pores. The makeup, she said, made the lines in her face more visible and her complexion overall appear less healthy.
Kamali abandoned the layers of makeup for a treatment-oriented regimen.
"A lot of women are presenting this Barbie image and distracting everyone from who they really are," she said.
When the time came to produce the infomercial, Kamali said she decided on a format of women sharing their thoughts on beauty, makeup and men. Kamali, who co-directed the show with Tarquin Cardona, selected women of varying ages and ethnic backgrounds.The interviews were unscripted, and the 20 women wore almost no makeup while being taped. Kamali had given the women the skin care products to try for several days before the shoot, and a makeup artist was on hand to touch up their skin, apply a little blush or groom their hair.
Several of the interviews sounded like MTV-generation testaments about more than one ideal of beauty.
"I believe there is a stereotype of what's beautiful," Ariane, a model, told Kamali as the cameras rolled. "I'm Asian -- you can tell -- and I traveled to Japan, and what's beautiful there is blonde. I was just really shocked."
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