Ko brings Bespoke Beauty to Larchmont

| December 31, 2020 | 0 Comments

AT HOME in Fremont Place, Toni Ko shows her new Bespoke make up line, Jason Wu Beauty.
Stephanie Yang Photography

Makeup maven Toni Ko may have made her fortune in cosmetics, but she is also in the business of happiness.

She painted her Bespoke Beauty Brands building, 320 N. Larchmont Blvd., a pastel shade reflective of her brand.

“Pink is a happy color,” she says. And, in case anyone misses the subliminal message, she added street entry signage, “Happy People Creating Beautiful Beauty Products.”

“People have their pictures taken in front of it,” Ko said proudly during a telephone conversation last month.

The company’s product development takes place on the third floor of the building, but, because of the pandemic, Ko is working from her Fremont Place home, where she is preparing for the launch of her new makeup line, Jason Wu Beauty.

She met fashion designer Jason Wu at a casual dinner with friends, and together they dreamed up the idea of the line, the glamour of haute couture with an affordable price tag.

It includes multitaskers, such as lipsticks that double as eye shadows, in earthy, neutral colors with a touch of naughtiness, says Ko.

Jason Wu Beauty will launch on Jan. 17 at Target stores across the country. Wu designed First Lady Michelle Obama’s inauguration dresses.

L’Oreal deal

ON LARCHMONT, the former Cerrell building is now home to Toni Ko’s Bespoke Beauty Brands.

Ko founded Bespoke Beauty Brands after a noncompete agreement was lifted five years after she sold her NYX Professional Makeup in a deal reportedly worth $400 million.

After the L’Oreal deal, Ko had planned to relax and retire.

“I thought I was going to retire and sit by the beach for the rest of my life, and that didn’t happen. After two days I got bored.”

Instead, she bought a Fremont Place house, make that two houses, and because the noncompete agreement restricted her from working in the beauty business, she ventured into the sunglasses market. For a while, she had a shop. Perverse, on Larchmont.

The L’Oreal restriction lifted, Ko founded Bespoke Beauty Brands in 2019 and purchased the former Cerrell Associates building. (The Cerrell public affairs firm had been at the site for 40 years before moving last year to 5900 Wilshire Blvd.)

HER HOME is remodeled in a contemporary style with hints of its Spanish and Italian past, says Toni Ko.

Bespoke’s first makeup line, KimChi Chic Beauty, is marketed in collaboration with drag queen Kim Chi, of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Ko’s NYX line was a sponsor on season two of the TV show.

“I DM’d her on Instagram. I was a big fan, and she replied,” says Ko of the partnership.

Home photos by Tessa Neustadt

Distribution of Bespoke’s products is from a warehouse in the City of Commerce, and manufacturing is in Asia, so when the Larchmont building went on the market, she jumped at the chance to gain access to the Westside and be near influencers.

She herself is not an influencer, she laughs. She was, however, in 2019, on the cover of “Forbes”’ annual “America’s Richest Self-Made Women,” and her Toni Ko Foundation lends support to organizations that help children, especially young girls’ educations. She is also a board member of the UNICEF Southern California chapter and took a field visit to Madagascar in spring 2019.

Ko, 47, emigrated to the U.S. with her parents from South Korea when she was 13. As a teen she helped run their beauty store and a cosmetics distributing company.

With $250,000 in seed money from her mother, Ko launched a line of lip liners and eyeliners in 1999 when offices were equipped with fax machines and “super-slow dot matrix” printers. Trade shows, however, were plentiful at the time, and she thinks she went to every one.

Social media

Photo by Tessa Neustadt

By 2011, social media was picking up speed. “We were fortunate. We gained momentum from these outlets.”

Before social media, one happy customer could tell her friends. “Now, this person could tell 1,000 friends.”

In Fremont Place, she embarked on a complex remodel of her early 20th-century homes — rumored to have been owned by A.P. Giannini, founder of Bank of America — with BAR Design and Construction and architect William Hefner.

As required by the Fremont Place Association, she removed and saved the historical façade and moved the home to the back.

A new home was built in its place, and the original façade was reapplied to the front.

She is “super happy” with the results — a six-bedroom main house, a two-bedroom guesthouse, a pool, outdoor lounging and dining areas and palm trees.

The original owner was said to have hired a set designer as the architect, which explains its “Romeo and Juliet”- style balconies and Spanish and Italian feel.

The late Kazuko Hoshino was the interior decorator of the new home, painted white with gold-trimmed furnishings.

Ko insisted on the rose quartz surround for her fireplace. “It has good energy,” she says.

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Category: People

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