Byline: Jenny B. Fine

NEW YORK — Watch your back MAC. Another Canadian cosmetics company has set its sights on the American makeup scene.
Club Monaco, the Canadian clothing company best known for its line of basics with a fashionable twist, is readying a cosmetics collection for U.S. distribution.
Granted, the line is not expected to reach the estimated $250 million in global retail sales that MAC Cosmetics posted in 1996. But executives at Sutton Cosmetics Inc., the company’s Toronto, Ont.-based beauty licensee, do hope to capitalize on Club Monaco’s burgeoning fashion presence in the U.S.
Club Monaco currently has six stores in the U.S. — two in New York, three in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco. The 12-year-old company plans on adding 20 to 25 stores here over the next three years, including flagships in cities such as Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Seattle.
Sutton, which signed a 99-year deal with the firm, is following an equally aggressive plan with the cosmetics line, plotting a U.S. distribution that includes both Club Monaco boutiques and department stores.
The cosmetics line launched Thursday in Club Monaco’s flagship Flatiron district boutique here and is set to bow in stores in San Francisco and at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles in May.
In addition, negotiations are currently under way for distribution in select Federated Department Stores doors this fall — Macy’s in New York, Florida, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Burdines in Florida and Bon Marche in Seattle.
In all, U.S. distribution for the makeup range will total about 20 doors this year, with plans to triple that number within three years, said Michael Podbere, president of Sutton.
Sutton, the Canadian distributor for the Princess Marcella Borghese cosmetics line and the Escada and Perry Ellis fragrances, among others, is reportedly projecting a first-year retail volume of around $200,000 for each door, or about $4 million in the U.S.
In Canada, the Club Monaco Cosmetics range was launched in November, and is now sold in 20 Eaton’s department stores and two of the 57 Club Monaco boutiques.
Elsewhere on the international front, Podbere said he is currently negotiating with two retail chains in Britain to introduce the line this fall. Plans are also under way for a September introduction in Hong Kong.
Although Podbere declined to comment on the sales projections, he did note that the double-pronged distribution strategy for the U.S. should enable the venture to hit profitability in under three years.
“The only way to do it is to have good sales productivity in each door, which is why we’re taking an extremely selective approach,” he said. “Our approach in creating the line is to make it a world brand by putting it into the better department stores, as well as Club Monaco [stores], because that raises our perception with the public.”
Citing the success of MAC in infiltrating the ultracompetitive department store game, Podbere said he’s convinced that growth remains possible in an already-crowded category.
“Years ago in the automotive market, Jeep was practically the only company producing four-wheel-drive vehicles,” he said. “Because consumers liked the concept so much, they put a lot of demand on other companies to produce that product and now virtually every car company makes one.
“I think consumers are looking for something new in the world of makeup, too,” he continued. “We felt we could enter the market with a new twist to the story.”
To give the brand such a twist, freelance makeup artist Denise Markey, whose work has appeared in magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar as well as Club Monaco’s advertising campaigns, was brought on board as creative consultant.
Graphic designer Fabien Baron was also enlisted, and he created translucent matte packaging enhanced by silver and black graphics for the line, a style that Podbere said is “clean, simple and pure, and sets us apart from the black-packaging genre of our competition.”
Consisting of over 200 stockkeeping units, the Club Monaco Cosmetics line includes 63 lipsticks, priced at $13 each; 46 eye shadows, $11 each, and 13 shades of blush, priced at $13 apiece. There is also liquid foundation, available in two formulations and 12 shades at $18 each; pressed powder in five hues at $17 each; a variety of pencils, and a 15-item brush line that ranges in price from $12 to $38.
When developing the line, Markey followed two main tenets: Makeup should be easy to apply and a line should be versatile enough to enable a woman to look subtle one day and more fashion-forward the next.
“Women have got locked into a corner of [makeup] do’s and don’ts,” she said. “I wanted to give them more freedom of choice.”
To that end, powder-based cosmetics such as eye shadows and blushes are less pigmented than in other lines “to make blending less troublesome,” Markey said. A shade such as pink, “which is often too blue, which emphasizes the veins around the eyes,” has been neutralized.
Seasonal color statements will be unveiled twice a year, and each counter will be manned by a minimum of two professional makeup artists, Podbere said.
Print advertising for the line will be minimal in the first year, Podbere said, because of the relatively small number of doors the line will be in.
Instead, Sutton will concentrate on garnering local attention for the line by involving itself in regionalized events, such as the Elite Model Agency Model Search Contest in Canada, for which it served as primary sponsor.
If all goes as planned, Sutton will soon expand Club Monaco’s beauty offerings, starting with skin care later this fall or early next spring and followed by a fragrance introduction late next year.

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