By  on November 10, 2006

LONDON — Stella McCartney is branching into treatment this spring, with a line called Care, and she's doing it organically — naturally.

The move by McCartney, who grew up on an organic farm and is a longtime campaigner for animal rights, is billed to be the first time a luxury fashion label has taken the organic route with skin care.

"This launch is a big deal for this industry," maintained McCartney, who, with her beauty license holder, YSL Beauté, is gearing up to introduce the eight-unit treatment line starting in spring 2007.

"Big people are waiting to see how this is reacted to," she added. "If Stella McCartney can't succeed, I don't think anyone is going to bother."

That being said, YSL Beauté isn't the only major beauty player taking interest in the natural beauty market — and organic products, in particular. In October, beauty giant L'Oréal announced its acquisition of Laboratoire Sanoflore, an organic beauty manufacturer, and, also in October, Groupe Clarins announced plans to take a stake in the Kibio natural brand, with which it will collaborate on an organic cosmetics line.

Indeed, the nascent organic beauty market isn't without its attractions. Sales of organic personal care products are estimated to have reached $282 million in the U.S. last year, representing 28 percent year-on-year growth, according to the Nutrition Business Journal's research with the Organic Trade Association. While still representing a mere 0.5 percent of global personal care sales, it is a segment with promise, according to executives.

Amarjit Sahota, director of London-based Organic Monitor, a business-research firm, said McCartney's move into the organic beauty market likely will raise the segment's profile. "It will be definitely beneficial for the industry," he said. "It will broaden the market and open it to demand from customers who otherwise wouldn't buy [organic products]."

McCartney and Chantal Roos, YSL Beauté's president and managing director, insist, however, Care is not part of a fashion fad. "We've been in development for three years; we're not jumping on a trend," said McCartney. "I'm doing this for genuine reasons."

"She lives like this," said Roos, alluding to McCartney's organic lifestyle. "She's very sincere."Care will bow in the U.S. in early February.

As well as taking an alternative approach to designer beauty, YSL Beauté is taking a new tack with its distribution. Roos said she plans to add select spas and health food stores to Care's lineup of prestige doors. "That's where we'll really pop out, where we'll really look strong," said McCartney, adding Internet selling also will be key for Care.

"Distributing through health food stores is quite innovative," said George Wallace, chief executive officer of London-based retail consultants Management Horizons Europe, adding he predicts consumers will be unfazed by seeing a designer brand in the channel.

While Care will potentially be sold near goji berries and sesame seeds in some doors, McCartney eschewed granola-like textures and homely packaging in favor of a decidedly designer approach for the line. Care items are packaged in airless pump bottles, which are housed in cylindrical silver-colored outer cartons.

In the U.S., Care will be launched in 25 Sephora doors, plus on Maggie Ciafardini, ceo and managing director of YSL Beauté in the U.S., indicated that the goal is brand building, not volume generation. She noted that Sephora is being given a year's exclusive, in part because it is the strongest McCartney account with the fragrance brand ranking in the top five and strong consumer identification. "They are good at building brands," she said, pointing to Sephora's success with Nicholas Perricone. Ciafardini added that as part of the exclusive arrangement, after three months YSL will explore the possibility of merchandising Care in a Whole Foods door and in a suitable spa.

YSL executives in both Paris and New York were apparently unable to make sales projections, due to the unusual nature of the project, where there are few benchmarks.

And while Care advertising may feature a countryside location and a heartwarming critter, it was also conceived to have a fashion feel, albeit without any clothes. Shot by Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin with art direction by M/M, single- and double-page ads feature model Bette naked and holding a lamb against the backdrop of a field.

Also taking inspiration from her fashion background, McCartney said she hopes customers will react to Care products in a way similar to how they receive her accessories."I love when people go to my shops and say they love the shoes and then find out they're not made of leather," said McCartney, adding she anticipates customers likewise will be drawn to Care because of the efficacy of the line rather than just because it's organic. Care, which is suitable for men and women, focuses on preventing the signs of aging.

Within the Moisturise & Protect category, there is 5 Benefits Moisturising Cream, which is said to moisturize, protect and firm the skin while improving radiance. The moisturizer, which also comes in fluid form, features grape seed oil, white mallow extract, linseed oil, musk rose oil, green tea extract, soybean oil and sweet orange extract.

Other categories include Cleanse & Tone, which features two cleansers and Toning Floral Water, plus Rescue & Revive, comprising a trio of elixirs. Care products range in price in the U.K. from 21 pounds, or $40 at current exchange, for a 125-ml. Toning Floral Water spray, to 46 pounds, or $88, for a 50-ml. pump bottle of 5 Benefits Moisturising cream or lotion.

All items in Care, which carries the Ecocert organic certification label, respect an ethical charter, which forgoes the use of animal testing, endangered plant species, petrochemicals, silicones, chemical preservatives and animal-derived ingredients. In addition, all products are certified organic and ecological, plus contain 100 percent organic active ingredients.

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