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NEW YORK — After LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton sold two of the most talked-about upstart brands of the late Nineties — Hard Candy and Urban Decay — in December, Wende Zomnir was charged with a unusual opportunity: to redefine the images of both.
This story first appeared in the May 9, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Under former corporate parent LVMH, the brands —?seemingly incompatible from the house’s other beauty brands, most of which have a luxury bent — had reportedly lost something of the edge that made them so appealing to celebrities and consumers in the late Nineties.
Zomnir, now creative director for both brands, is determined to bring back that buzz by shaking up the mix —emphasizing the different positioning of the brands, lowering pricing on Hard Candy and unleashing a bevy of new products.
And she’s starting now.
The job is a natural for Zomnir, who now reports to the brands’ new owner, Leon Falic, head of the Florida-based Falic Group — chiefly known for its strength in duty-free channels. After all, Zomnir founded Urban Decay with Sandy Lerner in January 1996 and ran the company before selling it to LVMH in February 2000, and has remained a part of the brand since selling it.
First on the agenda: refining the corporate vision for the brands. Despite the fact that the two are often lumped together as Southern California indie brands —?and continue to be based in Costa Mesa, Calif. — Zomnir sees them as having distinct edges, and she’s planning to play those differences up. The positioning: Urban Decay as an edgy, sophisticated brand with a dangerous side, with Hard Candy a more accessible, slightly lower-priced, fun line.
“To me, Urban Decay has always been about beauty with an edge — everything has to be dangerous, feminine and fun,” said Zomnir. “It’s not for everyone. Hard Candy has more of a broad appeal.”
And it’s a broad appeal that hasn’t been capitalized on since Hard Candy founder Dineh Mohejar left the company three years ago. “I really admire what Dineh did when she started — she really had a vision, and that’s been lost over the last few years without her at the helm,” said Zomnir. “With her, it was cultish and youthful. I want to bring that kookiness back, those days when Alicia Silverstone was on David Letterman talking about what color toenail polish she was wearing.”
Leon Falic, principal of the Falic Group —?and Zomnir’s new boss — agreed. “The market recognition, edge and quality of these brands really made them irresistible to me,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface of what we can do with Hard Candy and Urban Decay. We’re thinking in many different directions.”
For instance, Falic noted, pricing will be lowered on much of Hard Candy’s line. Zomnir agreed, noting, “My philosophy is that the Hard Candy customer has a distinct price threshold. For instance, one of the quads [four-color compacts] retails for $35 right now, and after the repricing it will be $25. We’ll also be doing some stocking-stuffer holiday items for the first time. However, we’re still looking at prestige prices, and frankly, some of our items are priced perfectly right now and will stay the same. We’ll still maintain our quality standards.” That’s something Falic immediately seconds: “I am not going to cut the cost of goods if it affects quality,” he said firmly. “I’d rather save money somewhere else.”
New pricing will take effect with the brands’ fall launches, which start breaking in August. New counter imagery is also on tap for the fall.
Falic and Zomnir are also examining distribution for both brands. “With both brands, we are opening and closing new doors every day,” said Zomnir. “We’re looking at opportunities for both brands.” Key partners include Sephora and Nordstrom; the brands’ door counts are currently about 167 for Urban Decay and 141 for Hard Candy.
None of the executives would comment on sales volume, although sources estimate that the brands together do about $30 million at retail yearly.
Once the brands’ U.S. and U.K. businesses are running optimally, both executives say they would like to expand globally. Falic said he is hoping to grow the brands 30 to 50 percent in the next three years.
Falic also noted he is planning to acquire additional beauty brands, with the next acquisition likely to take place within the next three months. “By next year,” he said, “I plan to buy even more brands. This is a serious business for me. I want to be one of the major beauty players.”