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Fashion brand Jenni Kayne launches skin-care line Oak Essentials

Jenni Kayne is known for its popular mules and luxe sweaters, but the brand’s latest endeavor is bringing it into the larger-by-the-day world of skin care. On Monday, it launched a new beauty line, dubbed Oak Essentials.

Regarding its origins, Jenni Kayne, the brand’s namesake founder and designer, tells a story that’s similar to that of many other founders entering the beauty space, particularly clean skin care. “When I was pregnant with my first son, Tanner, who’s now 12, I did a deep dive into all the chemicals you put in and on your body and how that affects a growing baby,” she said. Results included shifts from Diet Coke to iced tea and, overall, to products labeled as clean. 

It’s become increasingly common for fashion brands to venture into beauty. For example, in 2019, Norma Kamali launched NormaLife. And in early July, fashion brand Cult Gaia posted a job listing for a “beauty developer.” The pandemic has accelerated the need for wellness and mindful purchases,” said Melissa Hago, vp and creative director of beauty and wellness at trend forecasting agency Fashion Snoops. As a result, categories have continued blur. “We’ll see more of these mergers as consumers become more thoughtful with their purchases and seek to buy from the sources they trust. Brands like Jenni Kayne already have a following, so it’s an easy extension to now include products that are in keeping with the same aesthetic and same messages as their clothing,” Hago added. 

An aim for brand cohesion drove Kayne’s design for Oak Essentials. “[With fashion,] women spend so much time looking for newness or trying to reinvent the wheel or keep up, when really, if you can find what works for your body and your lifestyle, you end up wearing the same five things,” she said. “My whole concept is: Find your uniform. Find your routine.” She wanted to apply the same concept to skin care.

As such, Oak Essentials launched with five products: a cleansing balm ($42), a balancing mist ($38), a restorative mask ($68), a moisture-rich balm ($68) and a ritual oil ($72). Though the line will expand — serums and a gel cleanser are already in development — Kayne is wary of taking a more-is-more approach, which is common in beauty now. “I’m so into this [streamlined product assortment]. With everything in life, less is more, and sometimes we overdo it. So we’re keeping it simple and keeping it clean and thoughtful, and that goes a long way.”

Kayne said her existing team developed the collection, “in partnership with product developers backed by decades of industry experience.” The branding only reflects the Oak Essentials name, and Jenni Kayne is not mentioned anywhere on the packaging. “We debated that back and forth,” Kayne said, of the decision to give the brand a name other than her own. “The business is growing, and we just thought it would be smart to start it as its own business.” She noted that Oak is also the middle name of one of her sons.

The brand is tapping into its audience and customer base to promote the launch of Oak Essentials. Along with Instagram promotions on @jennikayne, it’s offering special gifts of the products to its VIP customers. Oak Essentials has its own Instagram account, which has accumulated more than 2,000 followers. The line also has real estate in the brand’s 13 retail stores across the country.

Beauty is not the company’s first category expansion. Kayne was just 19 when she first launched her brand, in 2003. In 2018, the company started selling furniture. And in 2019, Kayne published a book, “Pacific Natural: Simple, Seasonal Entertaining,” further cementing her status as a “California lifestyle guru” — a label given to her by Architectural Digest, in its September issue.

The business has grown, and grown up, with Kayne. And for her, it has felt “natural” to continue expanding into new categories. Like Kayne’s other products, Oak Essentials has a minimal aesthetic and neutral color palette. “I always envisioned [Jenni Kayne] as a lifestyle brand.”

Oak Essentials is now available on jennikayne.com and its dedicated site, oakessentials.com, and in Jenni Kayne’s retail stores.