NEW YORK — It’s celebration time for Tarte. The three-year-old brand has grown up and is unveiling its “beauty-bar” boutique at Henri Bendel — the brand’sinaugural launch door — and is gearing up for a series of product introductions.

The boutique, designed with a “stop ‘n’ shop” concept in mind, is an interactive area where customers are encouraged to experiment and play with products. Sales associates wear Tarte shirts and tool belts, which are decorated with purple polkadotted ribbons and filled with brushes and glosses. Ed Burstell, vice president and general manager at Henri Bendel, said the Tarte retail concept shows Bendel’s commitment to the growth of indie brands. “We want to give [them] a voice and presence if we’ve decided they have long-term potential by doing some extra identification in the store,” Burstell said.

Maureen Kelly, chief executive officer of Tarte Inc., has been working closely with Meredith Levy from M. Levy Inc., a full-service creative agency, and Walter Schoenborn, of display and fixture manufacturer Big Productions, to make the launch stand apart from other fall introductions.

“We’re hoping it’s going to be a huge success,” Kelly said.

But it seems the brand has been doing fine on its own. Since 2002, Tarte has doubled its distribution and is now sold in 35 doors. And plans are in place for Tarte to be sold in 50 doors by the end of 2004. Already, the brand is off to a good start. In June, Tarte entered 10 Sephora doors and will be in four more by October.

Industry sources estimate the brand will garner sales of $2.7 million for 2003 and should more than double that amount in 2004.

Tarte is not only busy working on expanding distribution. “For the past year, we have had our heads down, working on tightening up the line and revamping anything we felt wasn’t 110 percent,” said Kelly. The entire eye shadow collection, which consists of 30 shades for $17 each, has been reformulated. Three more colors will launch this spring and retail for $11 each. In September, Tarte plans to debut double-ended lip liners, which are available in five shades, priced at $18 each. The liners are based on the brand’s double-ended eyeliners, with a black liner on one side and color on the other. “The philosophy is that just as every woman needs a black eyeliner, she also needs a nude lip liner,” noted Kelly, “so all the liners will have a nude liner on one end, and a color on the other.” Also on the launch pad is a mini cheek stain set featuring a new shimmery shade called Puttin’ On the Glitz. The set will retail for $30 and will hit counters in November.The brand also is dabbling in philanthropy. In conjunction with Sephora, Tarte is hosting charity makeup events where it donates up to 10,000 eye shadows from its previous line to Dress for Success, a nonprofit organization that helps low-income women make transitions into the workforce. A portion of proceeds from Tarte’s new pink lip balm, Heart to Tarte, also will be donated to the charity.

It appears the brand will have plenty to celebrate next year, too. In February, Tarte plans to introduce its first foundation. A fragrance due out for Mother’s Day is also in the works, as well as a bath and body line for next fall.

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