SUNDARI: AYURVEDIC SKIN CARE WITH N.Y. TOUCH
Byline: Pete Born
NEW YORK — Holistic beauty has met Manhattan chic.
Supermodel Christy Turlington and two aspiring cosmetics entrepreneurs from Havard business school are behind the launch of an ayurvedic skin care line that mixes Indian philosophy with Himalayan herbs.
The line, called Sundari — or “a beautiful woman” in Hindi — will be launched in mid-October with the opening of Sephora’s new Rockefeller Center flagship here. The brand also will roll out to Sephora locations in SoHo, Georgetown in Washington, South Beach in Miami Beach and San Francisco.
The supermodel and her two partners, Cavan Mahony and Ayla Hussain, will host a launch party at their new office at 349 West Broadway in SoHo to celebrate the birth of their company.
In addition to Sephora, the new brand will be merchandised over the company’s web site, telemarketed via an 800 number and distributed on the West Coast at Fred Segal Essentials in Santa Monica, Calif. Then Sundari will take a bow in November at Bergdorf Goodman, when the store reopens it newly renovated cosmetics floor.
According to sources, the co-founders expect to do $2 million to $4 million in volume the first year, driven by generous sampling and abundant point-of-sale education. Mahony maintains that the company is adequately capitalized, at least for the first year. “We have angel investors,” she said. “People who believe in us and believe in the vision.”
That also struck a chord with Turlington, who had taken up yoga and was looking for a project after graduating from New York University in May. “I didn’t want to do anything predictable,” said Turlington, who appears in Calvin Klein fragrance ads and models cosmetics for Maybelline. “I thought about creating something out of my knowledge of the industry,” she adding, ruling out any possibility of launching a Christy Turlington scent.
“There are so many fragrances out there,” Turlington added, noting that her long-range ambitions lies well beyond beauty. “I always wanted to write,” she said. Unlike most models, she claims to have no interest in an acting career: “It’s never been a desire of mine.”
After leaving business school, Mahony and Hussain went into the industry looking for experience before starting their company. Mahony worked in marketing at Lancome under Margaret Sharkey, now U.S. general manager of Helena Rubinstein, before moving to Chanel for two years. Meanwhile, Hussain worked at Revlon on the Almay brand.
The driving idea behind the line is to not only promote healthy skin, but also an inner sense of well-being, or, as Turlington says, “bring inner beauty outward.”
But the three young Manhattan women are not about to go mystic. “We’re trying to bring the ayurvadic idea to the U.S. in a way that is palatable and good for this consumer,” Mahony said. That means formulations have been modified and the line has been designed to adapt Eastern methods to American tastes and need for convenience.
The Sundari regimen has been organized into three steps: cleanse, nourish and moisturize — all of which can supposedly be accomplished in five minutes.
Under ayurvedic principles, all body types are organized into three groupings, or doshas. Vata, symbolizing air, includes people tending toward dry skin. Pitta, or fire, is linked to normal/combination skin. Kapha, earth and water, is usually associated with oily skin.
Under the three-step approach, there are three products for each dosha type. But the formulations differ with the skin characteristics. For instance, the Vata moisturizer contains lavender. The same product for Pitta skin contains Elder flowers, which are natural astringents and suitable for oily skin.
In addition to the nine basic products, there are three others that can be used in more than one dosha. One of them is a night cream containing a herb from the Himalayas that boasts detoxifying properties.
While the ingredients come from nature, the products are far from primitive, at least in price point. Cleansers are priced $25, moisturizers $52 and nourishing essential oils for $60 — totaling $137 for a three-step regimen.
According to Steve Bock, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing for Sephora in the Americas and Asia, he was attracted to the line because he felt the products were great, as was the concept. The Turlington connection was also a factor, he noted, but Bock did say the project would be viable without her.