Mondavi hits the grape for cosmetics line
With Napa's Mondavi vineyards as her back yard, Lydia Mondavi didn't have to look far for inspiration or ingredients for her 29 Cosmetics line, the only question being, What took so long?
Researchers have long touted the merits of the grape on body and soul, when used in moderation of course, and Lydia Mondavi, the owner of Spellbound and Medusa Wines, and founder of the spa-consulting firm the Abernathy Group, had been using grape-seed extract in her spa formulas for more than a decade before realizing its absence in day-to-day color cosmetics.
"Women were spending hundreds of dollars on creams and moisturizers while wearing makeup that was clogging their pores and drying their skin," she said by phone from Napa. "Even if their makeup was doing no harm, it wasn't doing any good, either."
Her aim was to develop a color line, from foundation to eye shadows, that would offer some skin defense by day, to avoid canceling out the work many individuals put into their evening regimens.
She debuted 29 Cosmetics -- named after the Napa Valley highway that runs the length of the grape-growing region -- a year ago, and will launch the line in Hawaii at Neiman Marcus exclusively, beginning Tuesday.
The line utilizes a grape-seed formula that offers protection from free-radical damage caused by unhealthy diets and environmental pollutants. As an environmental plus, using the grape seeds means "we're fully able to use every aspect of the wine-making process," said Mondavi, whose cosmetics line now numbers about 60 products, with a body-care line set to debut in early summer.
"I designed the product specifically for the Neiman Marcus woman, spanning three generations," she said. "It not only works with my skin, in my 30s, but my mom's skin and my grandmother's skin."
A Napa Grapes I-Block compact ($38).
A trio of Lip Therapies, at $23 each.
YOU MIGHT SAY she was destined to align herself with the luxury retailer. As a little girl she loved to play shop, to the delight and dismay of her family. They were amused when she scoured their closets and played at selling their belongings back to them, but were less thrilled when she attempted to sell family wares to their neighbors.
Watching young Lydia in action, her grandfather gave her a copy of Stanley Marcus' landmark retailing book, "Minding the Store." The book, now required reading for NM employees, spoke of the guiding principle of excellence, which has informed Mondavi's life and career choices.
"When he gave it to me, I was too young to read, but I kept that book and as I got older it became my operations manual. Now it's all worn, tattered, dog-eared. I give one of these books to everyone who starts employment with us."
Although 29 Cosmetics was a personal project, like the winemaking business it has become a family affair, with her parents involved in packing and shipping the boutique line.
"My grandmother (she's the namesake behind a lipstick color dubbed "Stella's Cellar") loves it," Mondavi said. "Even on days my dad's ready to play tennis, she's like, 'No, we have to finish.'
"We'll also sit around, drink a glass of wine and name our products."
So it's no surprise the cosmetics end up with names that would delight an oenophile. Among them are "Top It Off" and "Napa Sunset" SPF 15 lip glosses ($23) and I-Block eye shadows ($38), quad palettes referring to the naming system in designated blocks of vines along California's vineyards.
Next up for Mondavi is the opening of the first 29 Spa at the Mansion on Peachtree-A Rosewood Hotel in Atlanta in May. The popularity of 29 Cosmetics' Lip Therapies lip balms among men is also fueling ideas for a men's skin-care line.
No doubt the ideas will continue to flow with every glass of wine.
Meet Lydia Mondavi
29 Cosmetics Hawaii launch plus sampling of Mondavi wines:
» Time: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to 10
» Place: Neiman Marcus
» Call: 948-7588, for makeover appointment