NEW YORK — Close to a year after the death of its founder, the principals at Kevyn Aucoin Beauty are gearing up to launch the makeup artist’s much-anticipated color cosmetics collection.

Aucoin, who died last May at the age of 40, had introduced his first beauty stockkeeping units — high-end makeup brushes, mascaras and eyelash curlers — on his Web site,, in November 2001. They entered retail distribution in Henri Bendel that December. A few other products — including a newly introduced concealer and a skin luminizer called Liquid Shimmer — have also joined the lineup recently.

But the big push will come beginning in April, when the first color cosmetics sku’s — 10 lipsticks retailing for $22 each and three lip glosses retailing for $25 each — hit the counter at Bendel’s, which will join Neiman Marcus in rolling out the entire 196-sku color cosmetics collection over the course of this year, including foundations, blushes, eye shadows and additional lipsticks planned for the fall.

"Kevyn completed everything on the line — including a 10-year business plan — before his death," said Eric Sakas, who had joined Aucoin’s firm as creative director at its inception. He is now heading up the brand as ceo. The plan, said Sakas, includes everything from color cosmetics to bath products, skin care, home items and fragrance. "We worked together closely on everything relating to the line, and we also have a team of about 12 artists that worked closely with Kevyn over the years," added Sakas.

Aucoin’s line comes from a wealth of experience, gleaned from working on a number of the most influential developments in modern cosmetics. Aucoin announced plans for his own line in the fall of 2000, but the well-known perfectionist wanted to "take his time" in formulating a line. "Part of the reason it took so long to finish was because Kevyn wasn’t satisfied with the quality of a lot of things the first time around," said one insider.

Not that people pointing that out bothered him. As Aucoin himself said in one of his last interviews with WWD:"If you’re not going to come out with a line that has the quality of a major brand and then some — as well as be innovative — why bother?" he asked. "You’re then just another person that’s hogging the market and capitalizing on your name."The natural question might be: Can a line based on a personality as charismatic as Aucoin’s survive without its namesake at the helm? Indications seem to be yes. "We’re writing orders for hundreds of pieces and doing reorders once a week already," said Ed Burstell, vice president and general manager of Henri Bendel. "I don’t expect that to slow down as we introduce more of the line. In fact, I think it’s only going to pick up. Every time we’ve introduced one of his products —?both when he was alive and after he left us — we’ve ended up with hundreds of names on waiting lists." In fact, to promote the upcoming lipsticks, Burstell is planning to devote a window to the line during the week of April 13, and will install additional locations for the line in-store. A team of Aucoin-trained makeup artists will also be making appearances in the store.

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