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Steve Rohr and John Avolio Shift into Studio Gear

NEW YORK -- The former distributors of MAC, which made a splash as a line aimed at professional makeup artists, have launched their own professional brand, Studio Gear.<BR><BR>The new line, which consists of 28 brushes as well as a range of color...

NEW YORK — The former distributors of MAC, which made a splash as a line aimed at professional makeup artists, have launched their own professional brand, Studio Gear.

The new line, which consists of 28 brushes as well as a range of color products, went on sale March 5 in a 240-square-foot space in the Bloomingdale’s flagship here.

While it is intended to service the needs of makeup artists, Studio Gear has so far been popular with other consumers as well, according to Steve Rohr, who teamed with John Avolio 18 months ago to form SG Cosmetics, the parent company.

“It’s important for us to generate a buzz in the industry, but we’ve also been attracting a lot of the store traffic here,” Rohr said. “We’ve already had a few return sales.”

He said that Studio Gear should see sales of $25,000 per month in each department store it enters, and that the Bloomingdale’s counter would likely generate “five or six times that.”

“We won’t enter a store unless we’re definitely looking at $250,000 to $300,000 a year,” added Avolio.

The partners said they would like Studio Gear to be in up to 100 department store and boutique doors within three years, although the line will likely be in only six or eight by the end of this year. It will be introduced April 1 at If Boutique, in New York’s SoHo district.

“We’ve also been talking with stores in L.A. and San Francisco,” said Rohr, who noted that the professional makeup industry is concentrated in New York, Miami and Los Angeles. “We do plan to have an exclusive arrangement in every market we go into.”

The Studio Gear line will carry price points “on a par with Clinique,” according to Rohr. “They’ll be about the lowest on the floor.”

Typical prices for color items range from $12 for a lipstick or a mascara to $20 for a 1.7-oz. foundation.

Brushes range from $9 for a sponge tip applicator to $14 for a miniature shading brush to $35 for a large powder brush.

“This is a brush-applied line,” said Rohr. “It’s based on input we got from makeup artists, who are working in different lighting and different conditions. They need different textures and shades than a typical consumer line.”

Rohr said Studio Gear makeup contains greater concentrations of pigment, a necessity with brush application, and carries an unusually wide palette. The lipsticks, for example, are available in 85 shades.

The packaging is minimalistic, using primarily a matte black.

“We like to think that form followed function,” said Rohr. “We don’t want customers to think they’re paying extra for packaging.”

While SG has no advertising plans for the new line and won’t use gift-with-purchase promotions, it will hold in-store seminars at least twice a year. During the events, interested customers will attend a two-hour demonstration and will receive a complimentary makeover.

A direct mail campaign in May will target Bloomingdale’s customers, while SG will also send letters to members of IATSE, the makeup artists’ union.

Rohr and Avolio have experience in the professional makeup market. They also run National Prestige Products, which was the U.S. distributor for MAC during its first three years in this country. The company lost the distribution around two years ago. MAC has continued to receive widespread attention in the industry, reportedly nearing $40 million at retail last year.

“There are other professional lines with exclusive arrangements in New York,” said Rohr, citing Bobbi Brown at Bergdorf Goodman and MAC at Henri Bendel. “But we actually consider our competition to be the rest of the lines here on the Bloomingdale’s floor.”