In beauty, skin care is hot, color is cooling, and in fashion, we are still waiting on a revival of apparel. That was the word on market trends from M&A player Ariel Ohana during the summer soiree he co-hosted Monday night in Los Angeles for his family’s investment banking firm, Ohana & Co., which since 1994 has worked on deals with Bandier, The RealReal, Vivian & Silas Chou, Inter Parfums, BCBG, Lanvin and many more.
Some entrepreneurs (like those from Santa Monica, Calif.-based, washable silk sleepwear brand Lunya) came for a first date with the Ohanas. Others, like jeweler to the stars and the Rolling Stones, Loree Rodkin, just started a relationship. And then there were those, like L.A. fashion lifer Serge Azria and Who What Wear cofounder Katherine Power, who were celebrating a long partnership with the firm that has offices in Paris, New York and L.A.
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“I’ve only known them for 30 years,” said Sunrise Brands chairman and chief executive officer Gerard Guez, of the Guez denim family dynasty. “Karine [Ohana] is a visionary in matching funding dollars with ideas,” he added of the bank’s co-managing partner.
The gathering over Whispering Angel and grilled dorade at the Peninsula Hotel’s Belvedere Terrace was a chance to showcase brands with a mission to make the world a better place with the use of natural ingredients, fair trade or other innovations, the principals explained, before opening the floor.
When the founders took the mic, their presentations were both seasoned and start-up, beginning with clean beauty pioneer Susie Wang, who came up with the idea for her DTC brand 100% Pure while she was a freshman at UC Berkeley. “My mission was to create the healthiest products in the world,” she said of her brand launched in 2005, explaining how she uses strawberry pigments to color lipstick and black tea to color mascara.
“We are at the very beginning. I wish we were as far along as you,” said Sophia Hutchins, the beauty influencer who has been romantically linked to Caitlyn Jenner. “My brand is called Lumasol and we’re an SPF-first company…SPF is a white, goopy disgusting mess…that clogs your pores and has horrible environmental impacts. Our brand uses new technology to give us protection from the depleting ozone…We have Millennial-ized SPF.”
“Our idea is to democratize clean skin care,” said Power of her latest entrepreneurial venture, the recently launched, non-toxic drugstore skin-care brand Versed.
Also on the banking firm’s hotlist: L.A.-based Koral activewear. “They revolutionized the ath-leisure world,” said Karine Ohana of the brand from Ilana Kugel and Peter Koral, which just recently added men’s. “I can tell you when I wore Koral pants at a Trocadero cafe in Paris, I got someone to ask for my phone number that day. The Koral pants are really sexy,” shared the Paris-based executive. Another one? Shanghai success story The Beast, which started by selling flower bouquets and love stories via social media channels, and has since expanded into a chain of more than 50 luxury lifestyle stores across China.
“I design lingerie,” said newbie founder Noelle Wolf, introducing herself to guests before dessert, wearing a silk dress with one of her lacy confections peeking out over the neckline. Wolf recently split with “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf but already has a new love: her namesake, designed-in-London luxury lingerie collection launching next month at Selfridges, Browns and Neiman Marcus.
Moj Mahdara, founder of Beautycon, met Sahara Lotti, creator of Lashify DIY eyelash extension kits, for the first time. Also on the scene looking for inspiration was Lin Lin, chief executive officer of the China International Beauty Expo, who summed up the entrepreneurial spirit in L.A. this way: “There’s more edge.”