By  on May 20, 1994

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."

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