[INTERVIEW]Fresh start: Cosmetics products spring to life hereThe Avenue of Cosmetics, the unofficial name among fashion insiders for the street between Apgujeong-dong and Cheongdam-dong, recently added a neoteric touch.
The avenue is now home to Asia’s first Fresh boutique. The chain, specializing in face and body care products, started in Boston in 1991 and recently expanded to major cities throughout the United States. Already endorsed by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry, Julia Roberts and Leonardo DiCaprio, Fresh is known for its refreshingly simple product lines ― with names like Sugar, Milk, Soy, Umbria Clay, Rice ― and packages personally designed by the founders, Lev Glazman and Alina Roytberg.
The couple base their formulas on traditional remedies from different parts of the world. Sugar Bath, one of their best sellers, for example, contains citrus juice and oils good for the delicate eye area, offering antibacterial treatment which had long been used in Eastern Europe. Inspired by Asia’s ancient remedies, the Rice series contains real Japanese sake. Umbria Clay is made from the fine white clay that the Italian region is known for, which is said to soothe the skin.
Fresh Korea is part of the LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) group, which bought the brand in 2000. The JoongAng Daily spoke with Jennifer Park, the managing director of Fresh Korea, about the new venture.
How did you come to discover Fresh?
The first Fresh product I tried was the Sugar Lemon soap and body lotion, and to this day they are my favorites. They leave me with such a, well, fresh feeling that my day starts right. Also I used Fresh soaps and candles as thank-you gifts for editors while promoting a French chocolate called Richart, and all the editors loved receiving Fresh products. Since I became a mother of twin babies last year, I found that the Umbrian Clay Treatment Bar worked like magic on my twin babies’ bottoms!
What did you see in the Korean market?
It was natural for me to launch Fresh in Korea first because I’m Korean. My family moved to the United States when I was 12. Now that I’m in charge of marketing and operations of Fresh Korea, I visit Seoul every six weeks. Korea has gone through tremendous changes over the past decades, and I can see people living in Seoul have developed a new need for so-called “lifestyle” stores. Our concept is to invest five minutes for the well-being of your life. When you’re busy with a hectic city life, you need those moments to feel refreshed. Fresh also has a concept salon inside Jung Saem Mool Inspiration in Cheongdam-dong. The salon offers shiatsu facials and total body care like what you find in London’s Calmia and Santa Barbara’s Bacara spas.
You used to work as a marketing manager at General Electric. What a change!
At General Electric, I was involved in trading steel products with Third World countries. I was content to have a good professional job, but something was lacking. I wanted to work with products that I could relate to better ―beautiful items that I could be passionate about. I did not exactly plan to be in the chocolate or cosmetics business, but something in me clicked when I saw the Richart chocolate boutique in Paris. I just knew that was it. Once I went to work for Richart, I was constantly around trendy people and it became more natural to start other trendy businesses. Then my husband and I met the founders of Fresh at an opening party and became friends. Later we proposed becoming the distributor for Korea, and we got an approval from the LVMH group.
Are you still close with the Fresh founders?
I’ve known and worked with Lev and Alina for years. Whenever my husband and I go to Boston, we stay at their house. Lev usually prepares a simple dinner for us such as salad Nicoise and pannini ―and always white wine. We discuss the Fresh business, movies, restaurants, children, life. When they come to New York, they stay at our house. We like to go to good restaurants as the four of us have a mutual passion for good food. Sometimes we go to Korean restaurants, such as Kang Suh Hwe Kwan in Koreatown or Woo Lae Oak in Soho. Alina used to have a Korean roommate while in college, so she enjoys all Korean food and she is very familiar with the Korean culture. They are originally from Russia, and we’re from Korea. You can say we are all 1.5 generation immigrants, as we were educated partially in the United States. We share the values of hard work, have the pioneer spirit and understand American culture.
by Ines Cho