Byline: Cassandra Chiacchio

NEW YORK — Two years ago, Baronessa Consuelo Cali and Eric Kloper introduced their olive oil-based beauty line to a rather skeptical audience. Now the executives behind Baronessa Cali Cosmetics are looking at a future that could include spas, a book and retail sales of $10 million in 2001.
Long before she ever thought of creating a beauty line, Cali acted as primary owner and operator of her family’s spa in Rome, the Beauty Farm, for 10 years. The Farm, well versed in the curative properties of olive oil, was known for preparing concoctions that were good for both the inside and outside of the body. Meals and treatments were often prepared right next to each other, sometimes in the same pot.
Kloper, an old acquaintance of Cali’s, had been a lawyer specializing in the entertainment industry when he visited the spa five years ago. He took one look at the treatments being prepared and knew he and Cali could create something unique.
Upon arriving in the U.S., Cali’s first task was to learn English. Already able to speak Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese, she credits her now fluent English to Post-it notes and the Lifetime cable channel. Despite Kloper’s teasing, she remains in awe of the station, protesting, “There’s so much drama!”
The next hurdle for the fledgling company was getting people to take the line seriously. “They laughed at me,” said Cali with a grin. “They saw my products and asked if I was making a salad.”
The Oliva line is based on old family recipes from the now-defunct Beauty Farm. According to Cali, the key ingredient in all the products is olive oil extract. However, she noted that the product smells nothing like olives and there is no oily texture.
The collection launched in January 1999 with a facial cleanser, day moisturizer, night moisturizer, body lotion, body scrub, bath gel, shampoo and conditioner. Earlier this year, a bar soap and a travel-size body lotion were added. In September, the company offered four additional products: eye cream, foot cream, foot scrub and a gift set containing the body scrub, lotion and soap.
The individual products range from $7 for a bar of soap to $24 for eye cream, while the gift set retails for $38. With the exception of the bath and body items, the products are packaged in containers that resemble food jars.
“The Romans used to say olive oil was liquid gold,” Cali noted. “They were right, there are so many benefits to using it. Olive oil extract contains Vitamin E, Vitamin A, beta carotene and squalene.” She went on to cite skin tissue regeneration, moisture regulation, skin toning and protection among olive oil’s virtues.
The New York-based company recently opened a Milan office and expects this year’s retail sales to hit $1.5 million. Kloper said sales could jump as high as $10 million next year. His confidence is resting on the fact that distributors in Europe, Asia, the Mideast and Canada have shown interest in selling the products.
The Oliva line can be found in select Nordstrom’s and Sephora locations as well as in an eclectic variety of smaller stores. “Our line is cross-dressing,” he laughed when listing gourmet stores, linen stores, furniture stores and beauty boutiques among those that sell the line. Customers can also order from different e-tailers rotated on the company’s Web site,
In January of 2002, Cali and Kloper plan to build “a lifestyle spa” in SoHo. A day there will include beauty treatments, lunch and the opportunity to buy Oliva products. Two more spas will follow later that year in Miami and Los Angeles. Ultimately, by the end of 2004, they want to have opened 50 spas worldwide.
In the meantime, Cali is busy writing a book due out in July 2001. “It will be a lifestyle book,” she explained. “It will contain beauty secrets, methods used at the Beauty Farm and, of course, the many values of olive oil.”