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MAC: In the Bag

NEW YORK — MAC’s got a whole new makeup bag. <br><br>The brand will launch a line this fall that is designed to take it out of the traditional cosmetics-bag arena and into full-scale fashion accessories territory.<br><br>"MAC has had a...

NEW YORK — MAC’s got a whole new makeup bag.

The brand will launch a line this fall that is designed to take it out of the traditional cosmetics-bag arena and into full-scale fashion accessories territory.

“MAC has had a heritage since its very beginning as being the first professional makeup artist brand to really have accessories,” noted John Demsey, president of MAC. “Our cases and brush rolls have been part of the vocabulary of the brand since the beginning. But with the continued evolution of MAC from a color and fashion perspective, we felt that now was the right time to step up our cosmetics accessories. This is part of the evolution of the upgrading.”

Added James Gager, senior vice president and creative director for MAC Cosmetics, “We felt we had an opportunity to do something special. Since we are known as a fashion brand, we decided to do a line that stepped out of being ‘just a makeup bag’ and moved into the realm of a fashion bag.”

Demsey and Gager tapped Matt Murphy, head of Matt Murphy Design, whose clients include Lagerfeld Gallery and various makeup packaging, lighting and accessory packaging firms, to design the collection. Murphy, who has designed bags since 1993, aimed for a collection that was not only fashionable, but functional. “My background is in architecture, and this project worked well in terms of shapes and sensibilities,” noted Murphy. “I wanted these bags to be completely useful to makeup artists and consumers, so I designed them around the sizes and shapes of cosmetics and brushes.” Everything, down to the zipper pulls and fabric used inside the bags, was custom-designed for MAC, he added.

Murphy and Gager also turned to makeup artists to fine-tune the bags. “They’re the lifeblood of our brand,” said Gager. “If they’re not functional to makeup artists, it doesn’t matter how good they look.”

Or, as Demsey puts it: “I want to be equally relevant in Saks Fifth Avenue, a photo studio and a mall in Bergen County.”

While the bags will be available both at department store counters —?which currently number 292 in the U.S. for MAC — and MAC stores (there are currently 40 in the U.S.), Gager’s aim is to “give consumers a little something different” when they visit MAC stores. To that end, certain colors and shapes will be available only in MAC stores — a strategy the brand already employs with certain cosmetics stockkeeping units. Black bags will be available both in department stores and MAC stores, but red, white and beige will be exclusive to MAC stores. “We know black sells well, and MAC is about black, but MAC is also famous for colors,” said Gager. As well, shapes and colors will evolve with the collection, which could mean new colors once or twice a year, he added.

The initial collection of vinyl bags will roll out in three phases, beginning in October. The bags will roll out to MAC’s global doors at roughly the same time.

The first bags, a small clutch bag retailing for $20 and a pencil/brush zip pouch, also $20, hit department and MAC store counters on Oct. 21. On Nov. 18, a small product zip pouch for $15 and a medium clutch bag for $28 hit department store and MAC store counters and a toiletry case, $50, launches in MAC stores. In the final phase, tentatively slated for late December-early January, small square clutches that are sold separately and fit into a larger carrying case, as well as a brush roll and a tool belt, will be rolled out. Like many high-fashion bags, each item will be tucked into a sleeper bag with a MAC logo.

While none of the executives would comment on projected first-year sales, industry sources estimated that the bags would do upward of $3 million at retail in the U.S. in their first year on-counter.

National advertising is not currently planned for the bags. The bags are, in fact, the first phase in a plan by the brand to update its ancillary items. Also in the works: an update of the brand’s travel cases. While he’s keeping mum on most of the details, Gager revealed that the company is currently working with a luggage company to conceptualize new travel cases, which are tentatively slated to be released within the next year.