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Chicago Emerges as Brand Hub

Leslie Benson
Back to the March Issue

Marilyn Miglin
Chicago, IL

New fragrances—especially those with celebrity themes—launch every month around the world. Most resemble musical one-hit wonders. They launch, hit a peak in popularity and then lose sales as new acts take the spotlight. For one fragrance to launch and endure more than 30 years of industry success is truly a feat—especially from a brand situated hundreds of miles from the beauty world’s U.S. capitols.

For Marilyn Miglin’s Pheromone, however, the president and CEO’s signature fragrance has sustained its rank in the beauty world as one of the top 10 fragrances sold in luxury department stores, according to her Web site. Miglin’s conservatism, she says, has helped her company stay stable and successful.

“The longevity of this brand amidst the heavy turnover of new fragrances and a plethora of new launches each season is incredible,” Miglin says. “Confidence is what my products offer to consumers—confidence in bottles, self-esteem pushed up through lipstick cases and jars brimming with hope.”

Miglin’s products—skin care, cosmetics, fragrances and candles—focus on both men and women, but her fragrances are still her shining stars. Without many other fine fragrance producers in the Midwest, Miglin’s competition stems from the U.S. coasts and abroad.

“Travel is always necessary in order to stay on the cutting edge,” she says. “This is particularly the case with both Europe and Asia. Unfortunately, fine fragrances are not really produced in the Midwest, since the perfumers and fragrance houses are located on the East Coast. In addition, since the industry is primarily located there, this limits the number of events to attend. However, one of the pros of conducting business in the Midwest is that once you’ve proven yourself, the consumer will trust you and remain loyal. This is not always the case on either coast, where customers do not maintain such loyalty.”

Remaining true to her home state, Miglin utilizes local and regional suppliers for her creations.

“The Midwest offers a plethora of assembly and packaging suppliers—Kraft Chemical, Accord Carton, S&K Label, Delta Labs, Crystal Filling [and] Marcy Labs, among many others,” Miglin says. “Quentin Blone at Wingard is one of the best representatives we have.”

With years of networking and experience under her wing, Miglin has landed her products in department and specialty stores across the globe. She says she owes it in part to her Midwestern lifestyle, and apparently, Chicagoans agree.

Miglin currently serves on Mayor Daley’s committee on tourism and on several unrelated economic and cultural community boards. As president of the Oak Street Council, Miglin raised more than $1 million for the street’s conservation. In addition, she has worked extensively with burn victims, inspiring the city of Chicago to name April 15th Marilyn Miglin Day, and exactly 10 years ago—in 1998—the Raoul Wallenberg Pediatric Day Hospital in Jerusalem dedicated its burn unit to her.

“A long time ago, someone said to me, ‘If you can make it in Chicago,” Miglin says, “you can make it anywhere.’”

CAMP Cosmetics
Glen Ellyn, IL

In the beauty industry, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of glitterati and the habit of wanting to impress others, and it’s a race to stay one step ahead of the competition. But for CAMP Cosmetics, putting a comical spin on beauty is a breath of fresh air.

“We play on the word CAMP (Cosmetic and Makeup Professionals) with new product or color launches. We think outside the box—way outside the box—and as a result, [we] make people think or laugh,” says Michael Perich, founder, president and makeup artist of CAMP.

Presenting an alternative spin on the primarily female-dominated beauty business, Perich—who grew up around his beauty-enthused mom and three sisters—is a cosmetic professional with a positive attitude and a line of playful, original products to back him up.

“Working with women on a daily basis [by] teaching them, transforming them and giving them back their confidence is the ‘pro’ [to the business],” Perich says.

The independent thinker who urges others in the industry to be pioneers, not followers, made waves when he founded his own cosmetic boutique in 2004. From his shop, he and his makeup artists educate women about skin care regimens and makeup rituals. “If a plant is dying or you want to keep it alive, what do you have to do? You have to keep the root full of hydration,” Perich says. “Add in minerals, and that plant peaks into its full potential. A mirror full of results does not lie.”
CAMP Cosmetics is available in several free-standing locations, online and through select distributors.

Paris Presents Incorporated
Chicago, IL

Each morning as you step into the shower, you eyeball your clean, white net bath sponge before enveloping it in soapy lather. It hangs on a hook beside your child’s pink and yellow Freddie Flamingo Razzable Animal Sponge—a testament to the gap in your ages and tastes. That gap is filled by Body Benefits by Body Image, maker of shower puffs, and Razz, which probably created your child’s favorite bath-time buddy. Both brands, and several others, fall under the umbrella of Paris Presents Incorporated, a Chicago-based company pushing toward the forefront of bath, body and beauty care accessories, nail care and beauty travel packaging.

According to Beth Cassiday, vice president of Paris Presents, the company’s central location is convenient for numerous reasons—including tapping into local manufacturing and packaging resources. And having O’Hare International Airport nearby’s not too bad, either. “We’re in the Chicago suburbs and are able to easily understand what the customer wants and needs,” Cassiday says. “We’re so accustomed to traveling in the U.S. and abroad. From here, we’re able to go wherever we need to go.”

Founded by Robert Zall in 1947, Paris Presents began as a general merchandise distributor to hospital gift shops, boutiques and drugstores. Now, the brand distributes to mass merchandisers such as Target and Wal-Mart, department stores such as Kohl’s and specialty retailers, including Bed, Bath & Beyond. Of course, drugstores are still on their loyal list of retailers, but to compete in the mass market, Paris Presents has had to stay on top of trends, such as utilizing earth-friendly materials in new products.

“One of our launches is centered on a natural concept,” says Cassiday. “It’s called ecoTools—a natural line of bath accessories and cosmetic accessories.” The line, which includes cosmetics applicators and loofah buffs, uses bamboo and recycled materials.

China-Gel Incorporated
Arlington Heights, IL

For cubicle workers with backaches or arthritis, a cool, soothing therapeutic cream could offer just enough relief for muscle tension. Using a Chinese herbal remedy, that’s just what China-Gel Incorporated set out to create. Combining seven ingredients—menthol, camphor, ginseng, angelica, lavender, aloe vera and witch hazel—in an acupuncture clinic, the company developed a topical, greaseless gel to alleviate minor aches and pains.

Marketing manager Justin Toups says China-Gel distributes most of its products to spas, salons and massage therapists. Products are also available to consumers online. The company’s Internet base gives employees access to international customers via phone and e-mail, and its Midwestern headquarters opened several distribution channels.

“We have access to plenty of suppliers and vendors that can suit our business needs,” says Toups. “Since we are ‘stuck in the middle,’ no city in the U.S. is too far, and it also helps to have a great airport that makes scheduling travel easier. One draw back—though this trouble can find you anywhere—is that most of the trade shows we attend or [that] pique our interest are not local.”
For the independent company, trade shows are the key to attracting new customers and raising product awareness, and for Toups, travel is necessary for his business.

Be! Products, Inc.
Chicago, IL

According to Be! Products founder, Neli Vazquez-Rowland, “top tier brands and retailers are snapping up real estate in Chicago and opening flagship stores.” That was one reason why she launched her spa and salon-based nail care brand in the hub of the heartland. “Our timing couldn’t be better as we take a lead role on the stage of Chicago being discovered as a ‘coveted find’ in the fashion and beauty scene.”

Often sought after by event planners in the Midwest, Los Angeles and New York, Be! Products has even been selected this year as the exclusive nail care brand for gift bags at the Grammys, the Latin Grammys and the Oscars.
A mother of two teenage boys, the self-proclaimed fashionista balances several missions in life—to educate women about beauty through Be! Products and to support people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction through A Safe Haven LLC, which she founded in 1995.

But Vazquez-Rowland’s eye for beauty is what led her to pursue an “indie, next generation” line of protective nail lacquers. Using a patented formula known as “Duraflow,” Be!’s nail lacquers are formulated for durability and shine. Encouraging moisturized, natural nails—rather than artificial ones—Be! addresses a range of nail needs.

“With our strengtheners, we were innovative by adding Ayurvedic [ingredients] into our formulas to capitalize on the trend toward organic ingredients,” says Vazquez-Rowland.

“Be! is revolutionary in the nail strengthener industry by identifying and adding gotu kola to our formulas as a great topical agent that works well to heal natural nails. Gotu kola has been used for centuries in Asia for healing skin and natural nail disorders. It is often found in wound-healing products.”

Other than the recent Mani-Couture launch, celebrity makeup artist Reggie Wells, an Emmy Award-winner and long-time Oprah makeup artist, has joined Be!’s advisory board. Vazquez-Rowland’s next goal is for her products to air on the Oprah show, which is filmed in Chicago.

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