TARTE JOINS THE INDIE MAKEUP SCENE
Byline: Kerry Diamond
NEW YORK — Among all the new beauty brands launching this fall, the biggest buzz seems to surround a makeup line called Tarte.
Created by entrepreneur Maureen Kelly and makeup artist Troy Surratt, Tarte is all about prettiness and simplicity, from its girly colors to its gel blush and bronzer sticks to its faux leather lavender packaging.
“It’s been a while since we’ve seen a new, fun line,” said Heidi Manheimer, vice president and general manager of Beauty.com, which is the exclusive online vehicle for Tarte. “Troy and Maureen are great. Troy has certainly had a lot of experience and he has taken what he’s learned and put it to great use.”
The 125-stockkeeping unit line will launch this September in Henri Bendel and on Beauty.com. According to industry sources, Tarte will do $1 million at retail in the first 12 months.
It seems inevitable that Surratt would one day have his own makeup line. As a child growing up on a farm in Kansas, he waited for the Avon lady the way other children pined for the ice cream man. Surratt also worked for Lancome at stores in Kansas City and Topeka, but he didn’t see the beauty industry in his future. “Since I was 10, I wanted to be a fashion designer,” he said. “I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1995 and worked at DKNY and assisted Randolph Duke.”
At the fashion shows, however, Surratt was riveted by the makeup artists. “I realized beauty was my passion,” he said.
About a year and a half ago, Surratt began assisting Kevyn Aucoin. The two met through another makeup artist and bonded over their love for singer Tori Amos. “Working for Kevyn has been the most amazing experience,” said Surratt. “He’s such an inspiration.”
Kelly, meanwhile, was pursuing a master’s degree in clinical psychology at Columbia University, although one of her favorite hobbies was making lip glosses for friends at Christmas. While planning her wedding, she saw Surratt’s name mentioned in Vogue and called to ask if he would do her makeup for the big day. The two hit it off at their first meeting, and began discussing projects they could do together.
The idea of a makeup line came up a few times, and after months of discussions, they decided to get serious a year ago. “We started sketching things on a cocktail napkin,” recalled Kelly. “We wanted to do everything as differently as possible because the market is so saturated.”
They decided on the name Tarte because “It represents that cheeky playfulness in all of us,” said Surratt.
The Tarte range is an almost-complete line of products, lacking only mascara and foundation. The lip category has 27 lipsticks at $16; nine double-sided lip glosses at $18; seven lip sheers at $15; and five lipliner markers at $20. For cheeks, there are eight pressed blushes at $19, and three cheek stains at $23. For the eyes, there are 40 pressed eye shadows at $16 each and a double-ended eyeliner for $18.
Then for the face, there are three silicone-based concealer pens at $22 and two shimmer dust powders for $45. Pressed powder and foundation in a double-sided compact will launch later this fall.
Included in the line are 12 brushes, each designed with shorter handles than those found in many of the makeup artist lines. This way, explained Kelly, they can fit in the average makeup bag.
They plan to emphasize education at each Tarte counter. “We want the customer to feel like she can recreate the look,” Surratt said.
“We don’t want to send her home with $200 worth of makeup she can’t use,” continued Kelly.
The duo approached their packaging as if they were designing accessories. “I wanted to bring color back to packaging, but I wanted it to be ladylike at the same time,” said Surratt.
“And I wanted to use fabric of some kind,” said Kelly.
Everything in compact form is covered with pearlized, lavender faux leather. To make sure theirs is the only line with this look, Kelly and Surratt are closely guarding the name of their fabric supplier. All the other products have lavender-colored components. There are no boxes or excess packaging. Instead, all purchases will be placed in a reusable clear plastic makeup bag that has the Tarte name printed discreetly on it.
The Tarte display units were created by New York sculptor Michael Scott. The main materials in the unit are wrought iron, stainless steel and transparent glass tiles in shades of pink and purple.
Kelly and Surratt are in talks with additional retailers, but nothing has been finalized beyond Bendel’s and Beauty.com, which happens to be Aucoin’s online home. The distribution plan is to concentrate on specialty stores and beauty boutiques.
There will be no advertising for the line. “We’re just going to rely on the kindness of strangers to get the word out,” said Surratt.
Up next for the Tarte team: skin care in 2001.
“The makeup can only be as pretty as the skin you put it on,” said Surratt.