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LOS ANGELES — Harry Haralambus is a rare name, but it is popping up pretty often these days in the Southern California beauty industry.
In the last two years, Haralambus’ investment firm, Lambus Partners, quietly acquired Los Angeles area cosmetics brands DuWop Cosmetics and Lola Cosmetics, skin care brand Leaf & Rusher and manufacturer All About Beauty Cosmetics Inc. for undisclosed sums. ImaStar Corp., a company under Lambus Partners, also secured the license to produce makeup affiliated with the “Twilight” series of movies and is piggybacking on Marc Jacobs’ fragrance business by allowing Coty Inc., the fragrance licensee for Lola Cosmetics, to use the moniker Lola for Jacobs’ newest perfume.
This story first appeared in the August 21, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
At a meeting earlier this month at Haralambus’ Sunset Boulevard offices here, the South Africa native of Greek descent spoke for the first time publicly about his move from international cosmetics distribution, which he has handled over the years for the likes of Stila and Fusion Brands, to beauty brand building. He gathered executives from the various Lambus and ImaStar properties to discuss brand expansion strategies and the broader objectives of his budding portfolio.
“We’re now making the statement that this company is a serious cosmetic company that is doing very well,” said Kimberly Clark, who founded All About Beauty with Esmy Mancia. “If you look at the West Coast, what we’re known for is innovation — the brands [such as] Hard Candy and Too Faced….Harry understands the entrepreneurialism that brands are built upon and the wonderful success of creativity, and what he brings is the business side.”
Haralambus’ business acumen is being tested with Twilight. Although hesitant to jump on the beauty license bandwagon, he decided to get on board with Twilight because he believed its cachet could sustain cosmetics after the run of the movies and its appeal extended beyond teenagers. “If I walked into a store, I feel like I would buy it without affiliation,” said Jaega Haralambus, Harry’s daughter and Twilight project coordinator. “You will find with fans of ‘Twilight,’ that it’s not just teenyboppers, the moms have all started reading the books and watching the movies.”
The Twilight beauty franchise has been separated into two lines. Volturi Twilight, named for a ruling vampire clan in the “Twilight” series, is aimed largely at teens and is launching the middle of next month at Hot Topic, Torrid and Ulta. Luna Twilight, a play on the moon themes in “Twilight,” is targeting older girls and teenagers’ mothers and is launching in the middle of next month at Nordstrom and Dillard’s. DuWop is also a part of the Twilight initiative and has introduced the lip stain Twilight Venom for $16 on Sephora.com. Prices for Volturi’s 21 stockkeeping units run from $9 to $19, and prices for Luna’s 35 sku’s are $18 to $34.
Haralambus’ initial beauty brand acquisition, DuWop, has undergone a thorough evaluation of its lineup. A brand known for innovation epitomized by its Venom plumping products, he explained DuWop doesn’t want to stop innovation, but is attempting to build a following for its basic products — the $38 Foundation of Youth antiaging foundation, for instance — and widen its demographics beyond young shoppers. “You are going to find that we are not going to try to be cutting edge across the board,” said Haralambus. Added Cristina Bartolucci, DuWop co-founder and chief creative officer, “The goal of DuWop is to become an antidemographic line.”
DuWop is in 500-plus domestic doors, including Sephora and QVC, and has 104 sku’s priced from $11 to $40. The brand recently launched at Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada and will roll out to 50 Dillard’s stores next month. Haralambus projected it will grow 20 to 30 percent this year, but wouldn’t disclose exact revenue figures. “Our business was spread out over too many sku’s,” said Haralambus. “We are trying to meet our expectations with doing more of our business on fewer sku’s.”
Lola Cosmetics, operated under the entity Beauty Partners Inc., a partnership of Lambus Partners and Lola founder Victoria Jackson, is getting a packaging revamp scheduled for a holiday launch. Its assortment is being reduced from some 190 sku’s to around 70, with prices ranging from $14 to $45. The brand’s signature color, red, is being retained in foil to accent predominantly black packaging. Lola will emphasize translating runway trends into wearable makeup with kits. “Lola has enormous potential because I think nobody conveys sexiness and sophistication,” said Clark. “The [Lola customer] goes to the Chanel counter and walks into a Victoria’s Secret.”
Before Haralambus’ involvement, Lola had exited Sephora and gone into Ulta, and Clark conjectured it lost its footing somewhere along the way. (The brand is currently not carried by either chain.) Under Haralambus’ leadership, the brand has been picked up by Beauty 360, could enter another specialty beauty chain and is on track to be in 400 doors by the end of next year. It is in 150 now.
Lambus Partners’ only foray into skin care so far is Leaf & Rusher, a brand launched in 2003 by Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Norman Leaf and registered nurse Rand Rusher. Chief executive officer Curt Meeuwsen said the brand, currently in 80 doors, reached a height of 170 doors, with Bath & Body Works’ C.O. Bigelow being its largest retailer, and couldn’t support the distribution.“We needed to rethink what we were doing,” he said. Leaf & Rusher has around 20 sku’s, including bestseller Rapid Resurface, priced from $21 to $159.
In the future, Leaf & Rusher’s distribution is expected to be both through prestige retail and via television. A reality television show produced by Go Go Luckey, the production company behind MTV’s “Laguna Beach,” featuring the Leaf & Rusher medical clinic, is in development and plans call for Leaf & Rusher acne products, directed chiefly at adults, to be spotlighted in an infomercial. Haralambus said an upcoming repackaging of the brand would align the products with the divergent distribution points.
As a whole, Haralambus estimated his company’s business has skyrocketed 300 percent in the past several months, and he’s out to capture more growth. If appropriate opportunities arise, he said he could acquire one or two brands between now and the first quarter of next year. Brands with annual sales from $5 million to $10 million are the primary targets. Haralambus also anticipates obtaining outside capital by next year to aggressively pursue additional acquisitions.
When All About Beauty, which vies for manufacturing jobs for Lambus Partners-owned brands as well as brands not a part of the company, joined Lambus Partners, Clark said it was because she and Haralambus shared strong ambitions. “We wanted to be the Estée Lauder of the West Coast,” Clark asserted. Shuddering at the comparison, Haralambus cautioned, “We are just getting started.”