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Retail: Antin’s New Reality

The hairstylist, who counts Kate Bosworth and Leonardo DiCaprio among his star-studded clientele, chalks up his celebrity appeal to just being a "normal guy" who is still in the trenches, cutting hair at one of his two salons in West Hollywood and...

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NEW YORK — There are few things riskier than reality television and retail. Hollywood, Calif.-based hairstylist Jonathan Antin has ambitions of mastering both. Antin, best known for his headline role in Bravo’s reality TV series, “Blow Out,” will introduce his eponymous collection, Jonathan Product, to Sephora and QVC in June.

The hairstylist, who counts Kate Bosworth and Leonardo DiCaprio among his star-studded clientele, chalks up his celebrity appeal to just being a “normal guy” who is still in the trenches, cutting hair at one of his two salons in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. The impeccably groomed hairstylist confessed he knows what it’s like to have a bad hair day. As a child, Antin struggled to tame what he described as his uncooperative, thick Jewish hair.

Today, his Hollywood good looks play well on television. Despite his difficult-boss persona on “Blow Out” — a reality show that documented the opening of his Beverly Hills salon — Antin has signed on for a second season, which will premiere in June.

This time around, “Blow Out” will chronicle the making of Jonathan Product. Bravo’s Web site for “Blow Out” promises viewers, “more tears, more drama and more celebrity hair.”

QVC’s director of beauty merchandising Allen Burke acknowledged that initially he had some reservations about taking on Jonathan Product in light of the blowups on “Blow Out.” As Burke attests, on TV, the person selling the product is nearly as important as the product itself. Burke said his misgivings were quickly mitigated after meeting with Antin in person: “He’s a genuinely nice guy” who is passionate about his work. Burke also commented that he liked the Jonathan Product message of “simple hair and how to get there.” As for Antin’s reality-show ties, QVC will open its studio doors to the Bravo camera crew — as it did for Donald Trump and his “The Apprentice” pack — for Antin’s debut on the network.

Behind the bright lights, cameras and halo of celebrity, Jonathan Product is designed to deliver results, assures Antin. The four-tiered, color-coded collection consists of Shampoo (silver), Condition (gold) and Create and Finish (bronze) products. Each of the 15 items in the collection is designed to balance nature and technology. Formulas are based on the premise that water is the key element of great hair. The items are also free of sulfates (detergents commonly used in hair products and household cleansers to create a lather). Instead, the formula contains sugar-derived surfactants designed to clean — and create a rich lather — without stripping hair. Shampoo and conditioner bottles bare a striking resemblance to the sleek cylinder shape of Voss water. Product labels (in one of three metallic shades) run vertically down bottles and tubes. A quote from Antin explaining how he likes to use the product appears on each bottle. Underneath it, the company calls attention to natural ingredients, including essential water, protein, extracts and botanical blends, and lists their particular benefits. Items in the collection range from $18 for Redo, a mist that freshens hair and absorbs oils, to $26 for Create Curl serum. Shampoos and conditioners will sell for $20 and $22, respectively.

Antin encourages clients to mix products — for instance, a dab of Moisturizing Shampoo with a dollop of Volumizing Shampoo — to achieve their desired look. “The theory is to mix and match,” said Antin. “It’s like layering clothing.”

Ten years ago, Antin “cracked open the piggy bank” to create his first hair care collection, called A Jonathan Product. The star product of the line, Dirt — a texturizing paste designed to give squeaky-clean hair a sexy, day-after-washing look — has been reformulated and is found in the new collection, as well. “This time, I wanted to make the best hair care line possible,” said Antin.

That said, he recruited two industry virtuosos for the task: Tina Hedges, executive vice president of marketing and development, and Beth Ann Catalano, executive vice president of sales and education.

In four months time, the trio developed the Jonathan Product brand, created 15 products and shored up the line’s retail strategy, said Hedges, whose curriculum vitae includes a stretch at Parfums Christian Dior, various roles with Estée Lauder Cos. and a post within L’Oréal’s Global Research & Development Team.

Hedges emphasized that, despite the “obscenely bullet-fast” pace of product development, items in the line boast unique attributes — the most notable of which is essential water. Given the typical shampoo is made up of 80 percent water, the makers thought it paramount to infuse Jonathan Product with purified water enriched with botanical extracts, such as sage, basil, lemongrass and cucumber rose, explained Hedges.

This process will help yield a more predictable result regardless of the type of water — hard or soft — running through the showerhead. That said, the company has other products planned that will help control the water used to wash hair. Although she would not discuss details, Hedges declared, “We plan to own the water category.”

Catalano, who oversees the retail side of the business, anticipates the line will be available in 175 doors its first year. And while the company is entertaining the idea of international distribution (after all, “Blow Out” is seen in 55 countries), the plan is to contain Jonathan Product within 200 doors for the next several years, said Catalano, who built relationships with retailers during her years at Chanel, La Prairie and Lancôme.

Though Antin and his team would not comment on sales, industry source estimate Jonathan Product will reap $5 million in the first year of retail sales.

The key component for the company’s retail strategy rests squarely on the shoulders of beauty advisers, said Catalano. The company is working with Sephora’s “cast members” on ways to educate shoppers about sulfates and the role of essential waters.

“What’s most interesting is Jonathan’s innovative approach of fusing nature and technology,” commented Betsy Olum, senior vice president of marketing for Sephora. “The line is 100 percent sodium sulfate-free, vegan and incorporates four different types of botanical infused essential waters.” She added that Sephora views celebrity hairstylist-created hair care as a strong growth opportunity. Antin will flex his pseudocelebrity muscle by making a few personal appearances at Sephora, the first of which is scheduled to take place in late May at Sephora’s Fifth Avenue store.

As for Antin’s second season of “Blow Out,” Hedges acknowledged: “It’s a marketer’s dream.”

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