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Wine Grapes Propel Personal Care Industry

By: Leslie Benson
Posted: August 5, 2008, from the August 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.
Italy’s Faenza vineyards

Silvi ’59 harvests the grapes grown in Italy’s Faenza vineyards to produce its skin care line.

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“Formulation in making wine and making cosmetics is very similar in that they are both luxury products requiring much dedication, perfection and quality,” says Mondavi, who, along with her wine connoisseur husband, Rob Mondavi, co-produces an old vine zinfandel for Medusa Wines and petite syrah, chardonnay and cabernet through Spellbound Wines’ label. “We utilize the grape seeds from the wine-making process to create the 29 collection as a grape seed age protecting line,” she says.

Mondavi, who worked in the skin care industry for 13 years, noticed the need for a cosmetics line with grape seed extract as the main ingredient. In 2007, after more than four years of formulation, she and her family launched 29 Cosmetics. The line is manufactured in Italy, and the finished goods are shipped by boat to their warehouse in Georgia, where Mondavi’s stepfather, Arthur Wilbanks, handles shipping, receiving and logistics. Continuing the family affair, Mondavi’s grandmother, Stella Abernathy, handles quality control, bar-coding, gifts, press and marketing sets. But most instrumental in the marketing front for the cosmetics line is Mondavi’s mother, Anita Wilbanks, who developed the design of the tester units and appears beside Mondavi at each Neiman Marcus brand launch. “Anita and I spend every day in store with the sales associates, product specialists and clients, showing the features, advantages and benefits of each product,” Mondavi says. “We love getting to know the stores, the demographic areas and the clients.” Rob Mondavi even makes appearances during the monthly launch events, co-hosting with his own wine tastings.

The success of the brand sparked the creation of this year’s 29 skin care and body care collections, as well as the 29 amenity collection in the hotel rooms at the newly opened Mansion on Peachtree, A Rosewood Hotel & Residence in Atlanta. But Mondavi’s cosmetics line is what started it all. “Our Napa Mist is one of our best sellers; it replenishes the skin with rose water and grape seed extract,” Mondavi says, noting that First Crush Lip Exfoliation Treatment, used in combination with Wine Blot (moisturizer with SPF 15) and Hint of Honey (glittery balm), make up clients’ most popular uses of her products.

Mondavi recognized the importance of quality product presentation on the store floor, so before approaching Neiman Marcus as a distributor, she asked architect Caroline Rolader to render watercolor drawings and mock-ups for the design of the line. The 29 Cosmetics demographic is the luxury client who travels often, so each Neiman Marcus counter selling the brand features a charming, old-world steamer trunk display of the products. “We wanted a feminine look with luxury and elegance with a contemporary, clean and modern feel,” says Mondavi. “We created many of the color palettes inspired by the Napa Valley. The company is based in Napa, my home is in Napa and the creation of the brand with the grape seeds came from Napa.”

The trick to performance value of the Napa-born grape seed extracts and oils in the cosmetics, Mondavi says, is a triple-milled formula that enhances the photographic quality and performance of the makeup. Neiman Marcus models have already worn the 29 Cosmetics line in numerous runway shows. However, the grape seeds’ oils and extracts aren’t the only ingredients contributing to the products’ performance. Mondavi also combines her products with vitamins C and E, as well as sunscreen, to further protect skin against free radical damage.

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