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Napoleon Out to Grow U.S. Business

Napoleon is adding new territory to his realm. Napoleon Perdis the makeup artist, that is.

NEW YORK — Napoleon is adding new territory to his realm. Napoleon Perdis the makeup artist, that is.

During a recent interview, Perdis speaks at a breakneck pace about his widely varied interests — he is learning French, he has a glass fish collection and he wears two watches reflecting his multicultural heritage (Greek and Australian). The timepiece on his left wrist, a Paneria Luiminoir GMT, is set to New York and Sydney times; the Louis Vuitton watch on his right wrist reflects Athens time.

But Perdis has a singular focus when it comes to his beauty brand: expanding its reach globally. “I want to be everywhere,” said Perdis, who aims to next expand his reach in the U.S., where he launched this past spring in eight Saks Fifth Avenue doors. By yearend, the products are slated to be in about 12 Saks doors, and sources estimate that his U.S. retail sales could top $4.5 million in the first year. Globally, it could do $32 million at retail in the same time frame.

Perdis also is eyeing retail spaces for the first two of what he hopes will be a string of U.S. freestanding stores: a West Hollywood unit is set for a February opening, and a Manhattan location is slated for a July launch. And he has his family firmly behind him on the adventure: brother Emmanuel Perdis is his business partner; his wife, Soula-Marie Perdis, is the firm’s financial controller, and his father, Yanni Perdis, is the company’s warehouse manager. In fact, it was Napoleon Perdis’ mother, Liana, who was his inspiration for the line.

“My mother was my first muse,” he said. It was his mother’s Greek skin tones that help inspire the line. “When I started, few lines catered to ethnic skin, at least in Australia,” he said. “My mother had difficulty finding makeup for her coloring.” His wife and four daughters also provide plenty of ongoing inspiration for the brand, Perdis said.

Perdis, who also runs an eponymous makeup school in his native Australia, founded his line in his hometown of Sydney in 1993. Originally intended as a professional range of products, the assortment has expanded to include retail consumers and makeup artists alike, said Perdis. The line, which ranges in price from $5 for a makeup pencil sharpener to $400 for a silver cosmetics case, is in upward of 500 retail doors in Australia and New Zealand, including Australian department store David Jones; 28 stand-alone Napoleon Perdis stores in Australia, and two stand-alone stores in New Zealand.

This story first appeared in the August 19, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The privately held brand includes color cosmetics, skin care and makeup brushes. About 450 stockkeeping units of the 780-sku line are now being sold at Saks, including the retailer’s New York flagship and its doors in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Color, and plenty of it, comprises a significant portion of the line — “I am absolutely not a minimalist!” he said, visibly shuddering at the thought.

However, Perdis’ next launch is the canvas for that color, so to speak. Based on Auto Pilot, an existing foundation primer, the Auto Pilot Complexion Perfecting Series will come to the U.S. in March. Perdis also is eyeing the men’s cosmetics and grooming market, although a date has not yet been set for these launches.

At the core, however, Perdis is firmly committed to creating color for real women.

“You can have 10 million celebrities endorsing you, but if you don’t make the customer feel special and give her that treatment, she isn’t going to buy,” he said, adding that extremely detailed application instructions and tips are packaged with his products. “Makeup is a mood. You want to feel sexy and empowered, and that’s what I want to give.”