While consumers pay lip service to being green, just try to get them to stick with a skin care brand that doesn’t deliver results like a more chemically engineered one does. That is the niche where Ute Leube, founder of Amala — an offshoot of Primavera, the German producer of holistic lifestyle products — hopes to build a business on in the U.S.

This story first appeared in the April 17, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Amala is our youngest baby, and will soon enter the luxury beauty world at Barneys New York,” said Leube, noting the brand’s name comes from a Sanskrit word meaning most pure. The more masstige Primavera, which marketing director Joi Ruud calls “the heritage brand,” didn’t suit the prestige market the company hopes to gain in the U.S. “Primavera’s focus has never been beauty, but holistic lifestyle products. It made sense to create a brand specifically for the prestige beauty market,” she said. The company hopes to bring Primavera to the U.S. masstige market in the not-too-distant future.

Amala enters its first U.S. specialty store distribution at the end of this month: Barneys doors in New York City, Beverly Hills, San Francisco and Chicago. The brand is also available in 15 spa doors in the U.S. and aiming to be in 50 by yearend; it bowed in a handful of spas in April 2008. Amala is also available in Singapore, China and Hong Kong.

Four Amala collections are available, three designed for facial skin care and a fourth for body care. “Each has a key plant ingredient surrounded by additional naturals,” said Leube. “We took everything we learned about working with plant ingredients with Primavera and put it into this line. Any plant has hundreds of special properties, and if you isolate certain materials, they are not as effective overall. In the right combinations plants can be as effective or more effective than chemically engineered ingredients.”

Leube does concede plant-based products do require patience: “Working with natural ingredients and whole plants is an ongoing challenge, because they are created in the Earth, not the laboratory,” she said. “Different harvests make plants behave a little differently every year, and that means the formulations have to be adjusted from year to year.”

The Rejuvenating line, intended to restore elasticity to and stimulate microcirculation of facial skin, is built around Peruvian cocoa beans. The key ingredient in Hydrating, for dry facial skin, is Egyptian jasmine. Purify, for oily skin, features Indian blue lotus. The body care line is built around Turkish myrtle, said to clarify skin.

Products range in price from $30 for a cleanser to $316 for a 100-ml. Rejuvenating serum. Because the products are 100 percent natural, packaging is critical, said Ruud: “We don’t use preservatives, so using airless pumps for skin care and aluminum-lined tubes — along with a blend of essential oils — keep everything stable for up to two years,” she said. In total, the line has 61 stockkeeping units.

Leube and her team are currently formulating several other collections, including a men’s line, which is expected to launch in the U.S. within the next two years.

The brand sources its ingredients via fair-trade agreements with farmers globally. As well, the ingredients are organically farmed and have won certification from Ecocert.

While none of the executives would comment on projected sales or advertising spending, industry sources estimated Amala would generate sales of $4 million to $5 million at retail in its first year on counter in the U.S.

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