DESSANGE COOKS UP NEW COLOR LINE

Byline: Julie Naughton

NEW YORK — As Paris-based global salon and spa chain Jacques Dessange prepares to gain a foothold in the makeup business with a new 99-stockkeeping-unit cosmetics line, it is also wrangling with the U.S. Justice Department over visas granted to workers in its U.S. salons.
For her part, Marie-Laure Simonin, general manager of Jacques Dessange Beaute, the company’s global makeup division, would rather concentrate on the makeup, which she sees as a “natural next step” for the company.
“When you look at cosmetics megabrands like Chanel and Givenchy, they are linked in the consumer’s mind with haute couture,” Simonin said. “To us, the idea of teaming beauty with haute coiffure made even more sense. We have 40,000 women worldwide daily going into our salons, and as a company, we realize that hair and makeup need to work together.”
However, this isn’t Dessange’s first foray into makeup. The company ventured into cosmetics in 1990, in partnership with Sanofi Beaute. “It was a very good line, but wasn’t really geared at retail,” said Simonin, although she added that the line did average about $8 million retail in five countries at its high point. “It was more for providing makeup services in our salons. This new collection is more of a retail line, and the company made a huge investment in doing it in-house.”
According to Simonin, that investment included naming her to head the division, as well as hiring a team of 15 people and creating an in-house research-and- development department.
The result is the new Jacques Dessange Beaute collection, which consists of 23 types of products available in a total of 99 colors. Included are eight foundation/complexion sku’s, four eye sku’s, six lip sku’s and five nail sku’s, ranging in price from $19 for an eye pencil to $49 for a compact powder foundation. Each item is packaged in matte gold with shiny gold accents and has a JD logo stamped on it in purple.
Simonin says that the cosmetics line features several points of difference, most notably in its use of light. “Dessange has always been known for putting light in hair color,” she said. “Knowing that, we couldn’t launch makeup without that same concept. To do that, we employed micronized pigments. Other companies also use such pigments, but they use them as light reflectors. Our pigments are used as light dimmers.”
Simonin sees key products as the foundations — “they make skin glow from within,” she said — and pencils.
Each of the pencils will be packaged with an accessory — an eyebrow comb for an eyebrow pencil, and a lip brush with a lip pencil, for instance.
An additional nine brushes will also be offered. They include a powder brush, a blush brush, a large and a medium eye- shadow brush, a tapered eye-shadow brush, a retractable lip brush, disposable foam applicators and a glass nail file, and range in price from $12 for a tapered eye shadow brush to $37 for a blush brush.
The cosmetics line, which launched in July in France, will be available by the end of December in Dessange’s five U.S. salons, as well as at Dessange salons in Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Austria and Greece. The skin care line is also currently rolling out and is slated to reach the U.S. by early next year — tentatively in early February, said Simonin.
Beginning in January 2000, makeup and skin care will start rolling out to the remaining Dessange countries. Both lines are expected to be in all 35 Dessange countries by the end of December 2000. There are more than 660 Dessange salons worldwide.
Simonin said that the makeup and skin care products are projected to do $16 million retail by the end of December 2000, with that number expected to climb to more than $32 million retail within three years.
The chief challenge to U.S. growth, Simonin said, is the fact that Dessange has just five salons in the States. “That’s not conducive to building a big brand, so we are in discussions to expand our distribution to other channels here in the U.S. sometime next year,” she said. Simonin said she hopes those channels will include department stores and upscale cosmetics stores like Sephora.
Building its product business has been a focus for the chain since 1990, the year in which the first Dessange makeup products appeared. The company followed in 1991 with a skin care line, in 1992 and 1993 with hair care lines and in 1997 with a product line of clay-based personal products called Phytodess.
In the salons, the makeup will be displayed on freestanding tester stands resembling totem poles. “Our intention is to make the cosmetics easy to try — and buy,” said Simonin.
No U.S. advertising is currently planned for the new products. “We need to work out the distribution first,” said Simonin. “However, we’re planning advertising for both makeup and skin care in many of the top fashion magazines in Europe for 2000.”
As the cosmetics division is planning its growth, the company’s U.S. service arm is gearing up to deal with the U.S. government regarding immigration issues.
The government indictment alleges that Jacques Dessange Inc. (JDI) illegally obtained more than 30 U.S. work visas between 1994 and 1997 by claiming that foreign hair stylists were actually senior-level managers. It also alleges that JDI conspired with the New York law firm of Deutsch & Salberg to provide erroneous information on visa applications.
“While the incidents alleged in the indictment are regrettable, to classify them as criminal is a terrible distortion of the facts,” said Bernard Sagon, president of Jacques Dessange Inc., in a statement. “We may have relied on bad legal advice, but we did so in good faith, and we never conspired with anyone to evade the law. We are confident that our position will be upheld by the courts. “
According to Sagon, JDI is cooperating fully with the Justice Department and has done so since the investigation began.
In fact, JDI has filed a legal malpractice suit in the New York Supreme Court against Deutsch & Salberg and its partners, charging that the attorneys’ actions in providing legal advice on immigration matters and in preparing visa-related documentation “constituted willful misconduct or negligence and caused JDI to sustain pecuniary and other damages.” The complaint requests that “the court award damages of no less than $250,000” for the alleged malpractice.

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