John Paul selects, which was cofounded by John Paul DeJoria, has acquired a majority interest in Marula The Leakey Collection, a facial oil specialist that will be extended into hair care.

This story first appeared in the November 7, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

DeJoria discovered Marula by learning of its stellar sales performance via John Paul Selects, a digital retailer and distributor of sustainable brands. To understand what was driving the sales, DeJoria tried the product, and although he doesn’t tend to make acquisitions to secure ingredients and manufacturing processes, he concluded that the quality of oil made it worthwhile to buy the brand.

“It kept moisture in the hair and the skin even though it was a very light oil,” explained DeJoria, who declined to disclose the price John Paul Selects paid for its 51 percent stake in Marula The Leakey Collection.

In recent years, Moroccanoil and its many rivals, including Macadamia Natural Oil and Alterna’s Bamboo line with kendi oil, have generated buzz and sales in the hair-care industry. DeJoria had long considered launching oil hair-care products at John Paul Mitchell Systems, which he started with Paul Mitchell in 1980, but wasn’t comfortable with the oils he’d come across until now.

A shampoo and conditioner is being developed with Marula The Leakey Collection’s marula oil, and the hair-care products are scheduled to make their debut in the first quarter of next year. The new products will be distributed through the JPMS network of 60,000 salons globally. Marula The Leakey Collection is currently available in roughly 500 doors worldwide, including Sephora, Beauty Collection, Bliss and Planet Beauty. DeJoria said it has not yet hit $10 million in annual revenues, but will do so within a matter of months based on the orders that are coming in and intensified marketing.

The brand was founded by Philip Leakey, the son of paleontologists Louis and Mary Leakey, with his wife Katy to create opportunities for rural Kenyans. Plastic surgeon Ashton Kaidi met the Leakeys in 2009 and became interested in the marula oil. He tested it on traumatized skin, garnering results he described as impressive, and started selling it in the U.S. The company claims that its marula oil has 50 percent more antioxidants than argan oil, a popular hair- and skin-care ingredient. Executives also point out that a manual cold-press process is used to derive the oil and ensure quality. “We will only use marula oil with this purity,” said DeJoria. “The cold pressing is a little more expensive, but gives a higher quality.”

Marula The Leakey Collection has grown from one stockkeeping unit, Pure Marula Oil, priced at $78 for a 1.69-oz. product, to three, with a 4.23-oz. cleansing oil for $38 and a 1.49-oz. facial lotion for $68. Within the next few months, the brand will expand further with lip balm and eye cream.

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