NEW YORK — Ultra-high-end, designer skin care for men may sound like an oxymoron — but John Varvatos is out to change that.

The designer will introduce a men’s skin care collection, called John Varvatos Skin, in October. Varvatos hopes the 12-item assortment will appeal to affluent 25- to 45-year-old men concerned about their looks, a demographic that’s been helping to drive sales in one of the beauty industry’s fastest-growing sectors.

During a recent interview at his Chelsea showroom here — where Varvatos was juggling preparations for his spring 2005 apparel collection and ideas for an eventual women’s fragrance — the veteran designer said that even before launching his first signature collection in 1999, skin care was on his mind. “I’ve just been thinking about the need for it,” he said. “I watch people all the time and when I’m in Duane Reade, I see guys looking at things over in the women’s skin [care] area. In department stores, a lot of guys are a little uncomfortable going to the women’s counter.”

Within the beauty industry, there’s no shortage of upscale brands catering to men, namely Aramis and Clinique from the Estée Lauder Cos. and Kiehl’s Since 1851 and Biotherm Homme from L’Oréal. In contrast, while a number of designers have men’s grooming ancillaries as extensions of their fragrances, few have attempted to enter the men’s grooming arena with a separate, core collection. At least one recent entry was Jean Paul Gaultier’s Tout Beau Tout Propre, a men’s cosmetics range marketed by Beauté Prestige International, a unit of Shiseido Co. Ltd. Still, that was officially attached to his Le Male fragrance.

“There’s a different customer who is going to buy our product than a Gaultier customer,” said Varvatos. “We stand for such different things that there’s definitely room out there for it.”

Positioned as anything but an ancillary collection, Skin includes seven “core” products: cleanser, scrub, eye serum, facial moisturizer, shaving cream, shaving gel and post-shave cooling gel. There are five more specialty products: Pore Refining Mattifier, Face Revitalizing Gel, Even Tone Skin Cream, Multi Vitamin Facial Serum and a concealer. The assortment will range in price from $26 to $75, making it more expensive than many upscale men’s grooming brands.

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