By and  on January 20, 2006

NEW YORK — When former salon executive Wendy Clark decided to develop her own luxury brand featuring a professional hair care line for salons and spas, she knew she had discovered an untapped market. Since then, Clark, founder and president of i-bella, has expanded her Aventura, Fla.-based hair care line, branching out to include a home and body collection, along with a line for children.

"Three years ago, no one was really focused on antiaging in the hair care category. When I looked around, there were [luxury] products in skin care and body, but not in specialty hair care," said Clark. "I saw the need for a luxury professional hair care line, and thought to myself, ‘Here's a beautiful niche.' I thought that all these things that affect your skin also affect your hair."

I-bella includes 16 hair care products, 10 home and body products and a children's line. The line is packaged as a lifestyle brand that's clean, simple and understated, yet elegant and stylish. And while many companies attempt a larger distribution approach, i-bella stays focused on supporting salon and spa owners.

"The salon and spa owners had very little to offer consumers who were looking for luxury or lifestyle brands," said Clark. "I-bella is also very focused on supporting the owners with merchandising and marketing tools that appeal to their customers."

Clark said she plans to keep the brand "small and boutique-y" while maintaining continuity by giving customers a chance to re-create a spa experience at home.

I-bella's age-defying formulas are infused with powerful antioxidants, olive leaf extracts and natural botanicals, along with vitamins A and C.

Four years ago, Clark, who previously launched Avon Salon & Spa and opened John Barrett Salon at Bergdorf Goodman, left her position as general manager at Avon to launch her company. After several months of planning and locating a distributor, Clark and her team released the line to 200 salons in Florida. The brand recently hooked up with Beauty Alliance and is now distributed in more than 1,000 doors.

Clark's research showed that many major competitors, such as Matrix, L'Oréal Professionnel, Sebastian and Redken, had matured and become too mass marketed. She soon discovered that luxury categories — not only in hair care, but also in the home and body categories — were growing rapidly in the salon and spa market.

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