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Josie Maran Expands, Eyes Backer

Josie Maran Cosmetics is being rolled out to an additional 80 doors this fall.

Josie Maran uses the invented term chic-ology to describe her namesake beauty brand’s blend of upscale and green positioning — and she hopes consumers will buy into the concept as Josie Maran Cosmetics spreads across the country and the globe.

After entering Sephora stores in October last year, Josie Maran Cosmetics is being rolled out to an additional 80 doors this fall for a total of 120 Sephora doors in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. The brand will also be seen on QVC again, probably in October, after three appearances in 2008, and is heading to select international markets, including Korea and Australia, in the fourth quarter of this year.

“Sephora has a great interest in Josie Maran’s success,” said Margarita Arriagada, Sephora’s senior vice president of merchandising. “Her products offer luxury and effectiveness in a natural brand, and given that her packaging is truly green, it speaks to the lifestyle benefit that our clients are looking for. Josie is an ambassador for natural ‘good for you’ products, and she is a strong partner with Sephora’s natural initiative.”

The former face of Maybelline New York, a Guess girl and “Glamour” magazine cover subject, model and actress Maran founded her cosmetics line because she said she dreamt of developing products that “were good enough for a makeup artist, but good for you as well.” The brand launched at Barneys New York in October 2007 and currently consists of 80 stockkeeping units priced from $12 to $52.

Maran stumbled upon Argan oil on a shoot in Southern France during which a radiant French woman told Maran the oil from Morocco was the secret to her flawless skin, spurring Maran to put it in products as a substitute for harsh petrochemicals. Unexpectedly, Argan oil became a key selling point of Josie Maran Cosmetics, and the brand’s 1.7-oz. Argan Oil for $48 is its bestseller. Bear Naked Wipes, priced at $12 for 30 wipes, and 1.7-oz. Tinted Moisturizer for $38 vie for the number-two and -three best-selling spots, while the .55-oz. Argan Oil Moisturizing Stick for $22 is the newest product.

The surprising success of Argan oil for Josie Maran Cosmetics led Maran, brand president Ali Alborzi and Sephora to reevaluate the product assortment and stress the ingredient. The Argan oil story is featured prominently in new displays, Argan oil icons have been placed on product packaging and the ingredient is being infused into products across the line, including the Bear Naked Wipes, powder and blush. “We want to own Argan oil,” asserted Maran, who has the words “Argan Oil” above the phrases “natural and organic” and “luxury with a conscience” painted on the walls of her Hollywood offices to emphasize what differentiates Josie Maran Cosmetics.

Makeup products are getting a color and price tune-up as well. Regular lip glosses are being excised from the line, and there will be five new plumping lip glosses, which have been lowered from $24 to $20, for spring/summer in vibrant colors such as a florescent pink. Five new shades — a burgundy black, orange and pink among them — are being added to $20 lipsticks, which are becoming longer-lasting. Eye shadow singles are going away in favor of palettes, and shadows will be given a dash of sparkle. “I want to be really a contender in makeup,” said Maran. “I want the line to be exciting and more visually popping.”

To fuel expansion, Josie Maran Cosmetics has been considering bringing on a financial partner and has fielded interest from private equity and venture capital firms. Alborzi is insistent that Maran retain majority ownership and not abdicate control of the board to an incoming partner. He estimated the brand’s present valuation at around $7 million and said it is on track to generate $2.5 million sales at wholesale this year. About 8 to 9 percent of sales this year could come from international sources.

“We have bigger plans for the whole Josie Maran brand,” said Maran. “Once this is at that $10 million to $20 million place, I have a whole lifestyle concept planned.”