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Cultivating a Luxe Bath and Body Collection for the Mass Space

By: Abby Penning
Posted: November 22, 2013, from the January 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

Looking to bring a little more luxury to the bath and body care section of Target, Sonia Kashuk released a new collection of body lotions, body, butters, shower gels, body washes, hand creams, body oils, body polishes and fragrances, as well as additional bath and body accessories, onto the market. With eye-catching packaging—vividly hued flowers in yellow, purple, pink and red on black backgrounds—and distinct fragrances—Pink Innocencia, Purple Seductia, Yellow Alluriana and Red Promisia—the products seek a sophisticated, chic niche on the shelves, attracting shoppers with luxe attraction and affordable prices.

GCI magazine had a chance to speak with eponymous brand owner Kashuk about her new collection, discussing her motivations and inspirations, the development process, how relationships spurred the project and what she’s looking to next.

GCI: What spurred your decision to create a bath & body care line?

Sonia Kashuk: Truly, it was a void in the marketplace. I think that bath and body is such a focus as we all continue to be focused on our bodies, our exercise, looking good, taking care of ourselves—every aspect of skin and body comes into play. And it can be hard, because we are in such an overly saturated market, but when you can find and discover those kinds of little niches, it’s kind of like finding a gem in the raw. It was something that I felt that nobody had really gone after.

And because of my partnership with Target, I was able to do exactly what I did almost 15 years ago [in color cosmetics]. For these products, there was no compromise on quality, so I was really able to bring forth the best of the best and be able to keep it affordable because we’re able to go direct to the consumer—from the manufacturing direct to the consumer. It’s really a win, not just for myself because I’m incredibly proud of it and know what this product is consisting of, but I’m so proud to be able to bring it to the Target guest.

GCI: What was your inspiration in developing the actual products?

SK: The main thing was definitely a fragrant, scented base. What we wanted to do was have it feel luxurious. It is about scent. With that said, there were three things that I had to check off [in the development process]. The first thing was, if you’re walking down an aisle in Target, the first thing that had to happen was the package had to be exceptional and beautiful and eye-catching. It really had to, as I say, “dance off the shelf”—where it would stop you in your tracks. Because no matter how wonderful these scents are, no one was going to pick it up if the packaging didn’t really take a stand.

So it was packaging that would stop you in your tracks, then it was the smell—these incredibly scented, beautiful aromas, developed by Robertet, which is one of the leading fragrance houses in the world. The scents are all naturally derived too. It’s really partnering with the best of the best. We also worked with Bureau New York, a small design firm, on the packaging. They have worked on products for Givenchy, for Helmut Lang, for David Webb, so they’re a very high-end, boutique design agency, and I feel like you sense that when you see the packaging.

So it was bringing that sense of design and style, and then Robertet bringing what they do into to the mix, and then making sure that the last thing that was going to be experiential, those formulas, would just seal the deal. To me, every partner I had on this project brought the best of the best. I feel like the whole experience, from beginning to end, is exhilarating, it’s mesmerizing and your skin feels incredible. So I feel like every aspect of this [line] rivals anything in the prestige market.

Once it all came together, I recognized that it’s amazing and that people in the mass market, where I sell, would love them, but so will the prestige market. I think that oftentimes in the market and category I sell in, there is nothing that rivaled the prestige world of bath and body. And I felt like I really became that bridge to bring those together, [which] is exactly what I set out to do 15 years ago when I introduced color and accessories. It was really cool for me that I stayed this focused for 15 years and was able to go back and find a void and see a niche where I could do exactly what I did in the original concept of the brand and to keep it going. I think that for me has been such an exciting aspect, in that I’ve been grateful to have incredible support by the industry. We’ve had an incredible response, and the winning person here is really that Target guest who is able to buy it.

GCI: What unique elements does your new line offer?

SK: I think number one is the scent, because there’s nothing that’s comparable. The scents are all natural, they’re sophisticated, they’re beautiful—there’s just absolutely nothing in the [same retail] space with any resemblance. I think the fact that somebody could go in and buy an affordable fragrance at $19.99 is just completely unheard of.

We brought in an exfoliating body polish, which is interesting—it’s being called out a lot, as is the body oil, because it’s such as trend with oil right now. So I feel like we’re relevant in what’s happening, but I always like to have those core basics, which are the beautiful body lotions and body butters and the shower gels and washes. It’s those of classics, those basics—not that the collection is basic in what we deliver, but in that’s it’s not hard for the shopper and user to understand.

I didn’t want to over complicate the collection, but I wanted to make sure it was relevant and modern. I feel that all of these key ingredients—ingredients meaning not just what goes into the product [formulation], but what makes up the product, like the packaging and the scent—all of those things are really the differentiating factor.

GCI: How do you translate your experience with makeup and color cosmetics into bath and body products?

SK: I think what I translated was my sense of aesthetics. I hope that people got that, that I feel that it even kind of re-energizes my whole cosmetic line. Because when you see the whole thing in its entirety, I have a love of packaging and objects and things that look really beautiful, and I feel that what I bring to the table is going to make the product look super chic and yet maintain that affordability.

I am a shopper at Target. I go there to shop, my family shops there. So I am just constantly looking to be giving the unexpected. I feel like I’m so much a part of the “Expect More. Pay Less” motto of Target. I want to be always the “Expect More” portion. It’s not just Target’s motto, it’s mine. I want to always be pushing the ante. I love nothing more than a “wow” response. That’s what I love.

When I can design packaging or brush cups that have me coming up with my own design, or the patterns on the makeup bags—which I literally sit with the designers on the computer to create—that part for me is incredibly rewarding and creative. So I think it’s that creative design aspect where I’m really the creative designer/director on the brand that I really like to own and have a passion and love for.

GCI: How was working with Target on the creation of this line?

SK: It’s amazing. Where Target is incredible—and this what I encountered from day one when we started working together almost 17 years ago—is that they do what they do and I do what I do. I bring them my sense of aesthetic and my sense of design, and they are able to marry that with their marketing and their ability to know how to handle supply and the retail business end. I’m definitely the entrepreneurial designer that brings my end of it. So that marriage of my very entrepreneurial spin with their ability to market and deal with the operational part is where we’ve had great success.

GCI: How long was the product development process?