Byline: Cassandra Chiacchio / Julie Naughton / with contributions from Kristin McCarthy

NEW YORK — For beauty junkies, Henri Bendel is a niche-brand nirvana.
And Ed Burstell, vice president and general manager of the store, aims to keep it that way, by holding twice-yearly Beauty Breakfasts. The latest, held earlier this month, showcased more than 97 beauty brands — including fragrance, color cosmetics, skin care and hair care.
The events — which draw beauty editors from top consumer and trade publications looking for new brands to write about — resulted from a 1995 brainstorming session. “The beauty business was very strong and we were going in a direction that was off the beaten path with niche brands,” Burstell explained. “They needed exposure and we needed to tell the world about them.”
And since Bendel’s has built its business on these niche brands, it was up to them to come up with a way to attract the press. “We wanted to invite them into a non-threatening environment, without having to show them only one thing,” Burstell explained.
Even Burstell, however, admits that he’s a bit surprised at how much they’ve grown.
“The first event had 10 vendors participating,” he said. “The response turned out to be overwhelming.”
Burstell can understand why, however. “At these breakfasts, there is the element of discovery,” he explained. “You are going to find what is new and hot and if you don’t like it, you can walk away from the table.” They’re intended to be fun events, he emphasized. “We’re talking about makeup and fun accessory items,” he said. “We needed it to be whimsical.”
While well-known beauty editor favorites — such as MAC, Laura Mercier, Trish McEvoy, Bliss, Lorac and Vincent Longo — were well-represented this time, there were also a number of interesting newcomers. “Of course, many of our established brands are what others could consider a startup,” Burstell said with a laugh.
He’s still always on the lookout for what’s on the horizon. “I am attracted to the totally new,” he said, naming Pixi, Poppy and Defile as a few standout brands. But he also appreciates established brands. “On the flip side, MAC has never looked better. It looks amazing and has really powerful color stories.”
According to Burstell, some companies participate in the breakfasts year after year, while others — depending on their product introduction schedules — may participate more sporadically. Of the brands that were there this time, about 90 percent are already sold at Henri Bendel and the others will be there within 90 days, said Burstell.
Some of the offerings at this month’s Beauty Breakfast:

Roger & Gallet: This firm’s newest collection, The Vert, is inspired by Japan. The green tea collection includes a fragrance, a shower gel and perfumed soaps, with prices ranging from $7 to $50.

Bioelements: Founder Barbara Salomone, who has long sold her skin care and hair care products to top spas and salons, introduced her new Spa hair care line to Bendel’s. It includes Spa Shampoo, a hydrating cleanser with algae extract and maritime pine extract, $28.50 for 8 ounces, and Unwind Spa Detangler and Quick Conditioner, a daily-use product with shea butter and neroli oil, $28.50 for an 8-ounce bottle.

Delux Beauty: Delux’s Jillian Fink-Dempsey’s new Elastic Lip Glosses bring new meaning to the phrase “Bachelor Number One.” Literally. The three new glosses are Ed, a light peach; Tom, a bright berry, and Dean, a pouty pink. They retail for $18 each.

Z. Bigatti Labs: Minneapolis-based dermatologist Jennifer Biglow firmly believes that everyone enjoys superior bubbly — hence her Champagne Gel Cleanser. The nonfoaming, gentle cleanser includes grape seed extract and retails for $65 for a 4-ounce bottle.

Caitlin: This fragrance line, created by actress Caitlin O’Heaney, has notes of gardenia, apple, sandalwood and patchouli. The line contains a 15 ml. parfum, which retails for $75, a 100 ml eau de toilette for $48 and a votive candle for $20, all sold in Irish linen bags.

Star Cosmetics: Set to launch at Henri Bendel in late February, this brand-new line was created by Tamara Gold and Janine Brauns for both professional and consumer use. Prices in the line range from $14 to $85 for the Face Portfolio.

Laurie Lombardi: Makeup artist Laurie Lombardi’s newest offering, the Radiant Earth Makeup Kit, contains four all-over shimmers, three glosses and a powder. The kit retails for $75. It follows her previous introduction, the Korrective Makeup Kit, which is designed to enhance facial structure.

Chelsea Girl: For those that balk at using sunscreen, Chelsea Firestein, owner of the Chelsea & Co. boutique in Delray, Florida, created Wash Away the Sun Cleanser SPF 15. This patented product, which cleans the face while leaving SPF on it, retails for $29. The rest of the Chelsea Girl line includes Daily SPF 30 Moisturizer, Silky Body lotion, Wash Away the Sun Shower Gel SPF 15, Wash Away the Frizz Shampoo and Wash Away the Frizz Conditioner. All retail between $28 to $40.

3000 BC: Named for the Philadelphia spa and boutique of the same name, 3000 BC is an Egyptian-inspired product line that includes essential-oil packed products like Geranium Hand Cream and Saqquara Body Polish. Retail prices range from $11.50 to $78.

Serendipity 3: At the last Beauty Breakfast, New York-based restaurant Serendipity 3 launched its first products inspired by “Frrrozen Hot Chocolate,” a popular dessert from its menu. This time, it followed up with Frrrozen Hot Chocolate Body Icing, a chocolate-scented body moisturizer, which retails for $12.50.

Susan Ciminelli: This line of aromatherapeutic products and treatments from Ciminelli’s day spas follow a holistic approach to beauty. Her skin care line, which uses natural botanicals and essential oils, ranges from $30 for Calming Bath to $150 for Special Reserve Cream.

Watosa: This Japanese cosmetics line from makeup artist Sablo Watanabe has everything from face powder to lipstick. The colorful striped paper packaging is as distinctive as its bright colors within. Prices range from $16.00 for a Shiny Powder Pencil to $43 for 1.5-oz. of Merry Fairy Dust.

Not Soap Radio: These brightly colored bubble baths, which double as bath gels, are all infused with herbal extracts such as St. John’s Wort and Ginseng. Each whimsical gel, such as Liquid Freud, retails for $15.

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