Ben Bennett, founder of Los Angeles-based brand incubator The Center, is introducing his latest venture: Saltair.
It’s a personal care brand created in collaboration with Iskra Lawrence, the U.S.-based British model and influencer with 4.9 million Instagram followers.
“The Center is an evolution of what I’ve done in my past life,” said Bennett, an industry veteran who cofounded Hatchbeauty Brands (before selling his stake), with stints at Bath & Body Works, L Brands and overseeing cosmetics at Gap Inc.
“The beauty of age is that you realize what you’re good at and what you’re not good at,” he continued. “I think that what The Center is now is it’s really an evolution of what I know. I’m good at identifying opportunities and creating a spark. For me to continue to enjoy what I’m doing, I always have to operate in that beginning stage. So my team, the team that I built who are very much like me, and myself, we’re really good at the early stage of a business. But, in order to bring something to life, I need somebody who is an entrepreneur, who has larger wings than I have, and who really wants to be the leader of what we create. I look at myself in The Center as really a support system to entrepreneurs that I really believe in.”
With Lawrence, whom he met through a mutual friend, Bennett is tapping into an existing community, an audience she’s gradually built who connect with the model’s message of body positivity.
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“The kind of combination of my career has been enabling to create community based around self-empowerment and people really appreciating their body for more than just its size or the way it looks,” said Lawrence.
“She’s been the champion of this, especially for this younger generation, and within seconds of meeting each other we realized this feels very right,” Bennett said of collaborating on the brand, offering body care products at a masstige price point.
A body wash, in colorful and sleek packaging, is out today via direct-to-consumer in six scents and a fragrance-free option, each priced at $12. Next, they’ll launch a body lotion in February, followed by a deodorant in May.
“When I thought about the dream product, it would be a product that would help people who maybe don’t feel like they’re enough or aren’t making enough time for themselves to look after themselves,” explained Lawrence. “What does that look like? I’m a new mom. The five minutes that I have a day sometimes, when I’m on my own and it’s a moment for me, is in the shower. And body care has always been something that felt ritualistic to me, very important to prioritize. I appreciate every single part of my body, so I want to nourish it.”
She and Bennett aim to bring luxury self care (when it comes to the quality of the packaging and ingredients) at an accessible price.
“It’s really this synergy of merging really proven skin care ingredients like niacinamide and retinol and alpha hydroxy acids or glycolic acids with gorgeous, exotic ingredients like kukui, nut oil, coconut oil,” said Bennett.
Why focus on masstige now?
“I think that the whole industry is looking at mass or masstige, that space in between, for a couple of reasons,” he continued. “One, consumers, especially the younger generations who are being very vocal on social media, are really demanding more from brands. They are very vocal when they feel like they’re being ripped off, when they feel like something is more expensive than it needs to be.”
In addition, COVID-19 “accelerated self-care moments…so there’s been even more of a need for a really smart price-point product,” Bennett said. “Retailers are looking at what personal care means beyond the traditional body and deodorant aisles, as we’ve all seen. That’s now extending into oral care, feminine care, sexual health, sexual care and supplementation. So the idea of what personal care means is different today than it was even five years ago. And for that reason, it’s the fastest growing category for those large retailers. That’s something that we’re aware of.”
Founded in 2020, The Center (which owns Naturium, Phlur and Make Beauty), received a $15 million minority investment from Prelude Growth Partners last year (which backs Westman Atelier and DpHue), as reported by WWD.