SEPIA DOES THE TANGO WITH SEPHORA

Byline: Alev Aktar

NEW YORK — From Jennifer Lopez’s curves to Ricky Martin’s hips, Americans can’t seem to get enough of the Latin beat. Now those hot for the look can turn to Sepia, a top Argentine makeup-artist line that made its debut in the U.S. earlier this year.
The collection was created by Fatima Rizzo, a 28-year-old makeup artist and former actress. She grew up surrounded by fashion designers — her mother, aunts and two sisters are all in the business — and it wasn’t long before her interest was piqued.
In 1989, she moved to New York to take makeup lessons, then worked on fashion shoots for Para Ti, an Argentine women’s magazine. Finally, in 1995, she created her own line and began selling it at perfumeries and at a kiosk in a shopping mall in Buenos Aires.
The 150-stockkeeping-unit collection is now one of the leading niche brands in Argentina. “What makes us a great-selling line in Argentina is that we have the right colors and textures,” said Rizzo, who explained that the warm, gold-toned shades marry well with Latin skin tones.
Sepia was introduced at three Sephora doors in February, and will roll out to about 12 doors in the chain by yearend, including the upcoming units in Rockefeller Center and Times Square, here. According to executives, the line will be introduced in department stores here in 2000.
Products run the gamut from foundation and loose powder to blush, lipstick and brushes, and prices range from $12 for a lip liner to $33 for Lipsix, a palette of six shades of lipstick in complementary shades. Lipsticks are $14 apiece. Like many makeup-artist brands, the products are packaged in black plastic containers.
Sepia offers four looks per season, instead of just one. And not all of the products are targeted to Latin skin — Rizzo insists that there are shades for all complexions, even the palest rose.
“I feel that that it appeals to a broader range of customers than Latin American,” says Steve Bock, Sephora’s executive vice president of marketing and merchandising for the Americas and Asia. “However, [Latin women] in our South Beach [in Miami] store have certainly been enthusiastic purchasers.”
He added it is also selling briskly in the store in the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, “where it appeals to a broad spectrum of tourists and locals.”
Bock said the line has been beating plan in his stores.
Sepia, which is owned by Rizzo and private investors, is targeting sales of $3 million retail this year, according to Magdalena Robirosa, image director at the company. Of that sum, about $335,000 is expected to be generated in the U.S. from September to December.