By  on December 29, 2005

LONDON - There's no stopping Jemma Kidd, who started out as a makeup artist, opened a trade school and is set to launch her new cosmetics line at Bergdorf Goodman in New York.

"The market is totally saturated with makeup artist lines, and I could have easily done a license and slapped my name on it," said Kidd, 31, during an interview at her Notting Hill home. "But I have this huge educational background, and a school behind me, and there's not another line like this out there."

Her new masstige line, which includes color cosmetics and a tool kit collection, is called Jemma Kidd Make Up School, and will be launched at Bergdorf's and Canada's Holt Renfrew in March.

Kidd, a session makeup artist who's worked with photographers Peter Lindberg, Paolo Roversi and David Bailey, wanted the collection to be practical and well organized. That's why each product - even the most basic, like blush or concealer - comes with a small information sheet featuring diagrams and step-by-step instructions for applying.

"In the days of Elizabeth Arden, there used to be a lot of education about cosmetics. Women were actually taught how to apply makeup," said Kidd over a pot of tea at her kitchen table. "I think that's what's needed now."

Kidd is adamant that the products perform multiple tasks: The lipstick cases are double-ended, with color at one end and lip balm at the other; the brushes are made for blending and highlighting, and the eye shadows are packaged in color families for day and night.

She also created slim compacts and cases that are meant to take up as little room as possible in a makeup bag. "It's a line meant for women with busy lives," she said.

There are 51 stockkeeping units in the color cosmetics line and 15 in the tool kit. Prices range from 9 pounds, or $15.55 at current exchange, for Define: Stay-put eyeliner to 16 pounds, or $27.65, for Soft touch: Crème foundation.

The line was launched in the U.K. in October, and it is carried at Selfridges in London, Manchester and Leeds. As of January, it will be in 65 premium Boots the Chemist stores. (Although Boots is a mass market chain, the premium Boots stores carry brands such as Chanel, YSL and Clinique.)Christine Benson, buying manager for contemporary cosmetics, lifestyle and living beauty at Selfridges, said the new line is already a top performer. "It's currently ranking 22nd out of 76 suppliers [in the Living Beauty area], whose sales are based on a full year," she said, adding that sales during launch week far exceeded the store's expectations.

For fall, there are plans to take the line to four or five new U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Kidd and her managing director, Grace Fodor, whose background is in branding, plan to build Jemma Kidd Make Up slowly. Their goal is cultivating mass appeal - and longevity.

"This project is about calculated, managed growth," said Fodor in a telephone interview. The distribution strategy is to appeal to a variety of consumers. "We didn't want to alienate anyone, and that determined our strategy: We are a top-level line at Boots and an entry-level brand at Selfridges," Fodor said.

Although Fodor declined to discuss sales, industry sources say they are so far estimated at 1 million pounds, or $1.73 million, at retail.

Kidd said she wants to be the new, modern Arden, a cosmetics entrepreneur who does more than just come up with products and market them. "That's one reason I plan to expand the school and bring it to the U.S.," said Kidd.

Kidd's school, which she launched in 2002, is in the basement of her home, and she holds six-week sessions there twice a year. Each season, 10 to 14 students hoping to become makeup artists pay 8,500 pounds, or nearly $14,700, for the intensive course. Kidd said her graduates have been faring well so far, getting agents and session work with MTV and Mavala.

Fodor added that Jemma Kidd Make Up School would eventually launch "natural brand extensions," including fragrance and skin care. The next product that will be launched, in the first half of 2006, is Nourishing Silk Tinted Luminous Veil, which contains an SPF of 30 and can be used as a primer, a sunblock or even as an illuminator.

"There isn't anything else on the market like it right now," said Fodor. "That's one reason we've called it a veil."Jemma Kidd Make Up Ltd. is privately owned and funded through a group of U.S. and U.K. investors, including Kidd and her new husband, Arthur, Earl of Mornington.

Fodor stresses she and Kidd were never going to take the license-driven, celebrity route à la Jennifer Lopez, Sara Jessica Parker or Elizabeth Taylor. "This is not a personality brand. There are no pictures of Jemma anywhere. It's about teaching and education," said Fodor. "Jemma adds so much to the brand, but she is not the brand."

There are no plans for big, glossy ad campaigns featuring Jemma's creamy complexion and statuesque figure. "It's not what we're about," said Fodor. "It's better to grow through word of mouth."

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