Interview: Arezoo Kaviani – the woman that brought us the vajazzle
How a Persian immigrant’s beauty treatments infiltrated Essex and households nationwide.
You don’t notice Arezoo Kaviani at first. Even when you sit opposite her eating sushi in Harvey Nichols’ sublime foodstore, she seems to blend in to the background, just another face in the madding crowds flocking the hallowed shopping pavements and halls of Central London.
Yet perhaps this is just as the diffident, shy even, Persian immigrant, who made London her spiritual home before going on to become a wealthy power-player in the neck-bitingly competitive world of global cosmetics, would want it.
For Arezoo almost seems to enjoy operating behind the scenes. Her bijou office-cum-salon is tucked away on a quiet, leafy Knightsbridge street, far from the prying eyes of prying Paparazzi. It is there that the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Gyllenhaal and Cameron Diaz come to have A-list facials, as well as having their bits waxed, plucked, shaved, moulded and depilated.
Her contacts book is a beauty industry PR’s wet dream, crammed with stellar names. Rock royalty, real Royality, titans of business, Hollywood darlings, TV starlets – they are all here. It’s a Who’s Who of the modern world of celebrity, a mish-mash of those who matter, those who are rich, and pretty much everyone in between.
And this is just the abstract stuff: Arezoo has probably done more to promote the cosmetics industry – and to promote London’s role at the heart of this £200 billion-a-year industry – than anyone else.
She invented the “vajazzle” – aka the process of decorating a woman’s fruitier regions with jewels – and brought the Brazilian and Playboy waxes to London.
And her mind is always busy, always looking for a new project to sink her teeth into: as she notes, with an impish grin, she’s a person who gets bored “very easily”. As it happens, the next big thing happens to be a very big thing indeed. She’s about to launch (at some point in the coming year), a patented set of toners and moisturizers, creams and serums, solutions and ablutions – the ‘Arezoo’ range.
The plan is to the delight of her legion of fans, and is set to transform a one-room mini-empire into a global brand and Arezoo herself into a cosmetics magnate: the 21st Century’s Estee Lauder, producing cutting-edge treatments at affordable prices.
Nor is this pie in the sky. “I’ve chosen the best of the best to partner me,” she says. “Everyone is in place, including sales, marketing and PR experts. I want my products to be everywhere. I want mothers and sisters and grandmothers to buy them, as well as men of all ages. It’s my dream, my ambition – the sky is the limit on this one.”
How much money does she expect to make, from this range of products, which will undercut the stratospheric prices charged by the likes of Crème de la Mer, appearing on the shelves of Harrods (her “favourite place in the world”) and the iconic New York store Bergdorf Goodman.
“Oh”, she says, chewing absently on a Yo! Sushi dumpling, “I want to make millions and billions, lots and lots of money. I want my products to be available across the world – I’m not going to charge crazy prices. If someone has the chance to buy just one product, I want it to be mine.”
The more one speaks to Arezoo, the more one sees the words “national treasure” writ large in the years to come. Until now, and despite appearing in a few, carefully selected TV programmes, she hasn’t quite achieved the commercial and media acclaim of, say, Jo Malone, in part because she isn’t one to blow her own trumpet. She prefers – and this is anything but a fake hip-check to humility – to focus on her customers, generations of the same family in some cases, who continue to flock to her two-room walk-up.
Just to set the record straight – and this needs to be done – it was Arezoo, not the vapid TV starlet Amy Childs, who invented the vajazzle.
“Oh, I invented ‘body jewellery’, as I call it, 15 years ago, using fine Swarowski crystals, not the cheap shiny glass she uses,” she sniffs.
“Anyway, vajazzles are so dated now, so old hat, all our clients say so. I was a bit surprised to hear Amy say that she invented it. She can’t have been more than about five years old when I first came up with the idea.”
Arezoo also transformed the lives of two nouns, twisting them into verbs recognised immediately across the English-speaking world and beyond. First came the ‘Playboy’, then the ‘Brazilian’: waxes that either leave you with a landing strip of pubic hair (the former) or more depilated than the day you were born (the latter). She introduced both to London – and by extent to Britain – after seeing them performed by the legendary J Sisters in the late eighties.
There are two other aspects of this impressive businesswoman to consider. First, she remains close to her ancestral roots, a grounded woman who, despite all of her success, links her Iranian heritage to her daily work. The history of waxing, or ‘sugaring’ as it was originally called, originated in Egypt, before spreading to Persia, the Middle East and the Levant, where women and men would deracinate all their body hair the night before their wedding. Alas, there was no chance of Arezoo calling it an ‘Iranian’ or an ‘Egyptian’.
“If I did that everyone would think of hairy women with spiders legs coming out of their pants,” she says.
Then there are her London years. Arezoo wasn’t born into cosmetics royalty, she had to do everything the hard way. Her family arrived in Sheffield in the late seventies, fleeing regime change in Iran. Her early memories of Britain were Arthur Scargill, intense cold, and “millions of identical Coronation Street houses, each with the same avocado-coloured bathrooms and patterned carpets.”
Yet she always had a dream. “I remember playing Monopoly in Tehran with my brother when I was six. He kept winning and I hated that. Finally I understand that he always triumphed because he bought Park Lane and Mayfair. That made me want to go and live there.”
After arriving in London, she worked her butt off as, she admits happily, immigrants are want to do. She manned a parlour first in Harrods, then working with the elite hairdresser Nicky Clarke for five years, before opening her own salon which marked its tenth anniversary last year.
Arezoo loves it in London and wouldn’t live anywhere else. “It’s increasingly the centre of the global market for treatments and high-end cosmetics. It’s the leader in food, in fashion, in restaurants. We have clients that come here from France, Italy, the Middle East, America. London is the halfway line between everywhere in the world, the crossroads between north and south, east and west. It’s the most multicultural city in the world, and a great place to live in and to do business in.”
Again, the humility and diffidence shows through. London has become the world’s capital of the wax, the facial, and the – apologies for uttering these words contiguously – the ‘back-sack-and-crack’ – in large part because of her.
This unassuming mien is one of the reasons why Arezoo has become a stalwart of the beauty industry over the past three decades. She doesn’t advertise and she doesn’t promote (much), and for this, and for many other reasons, celebrities trust her implicitly with their privacy, their faces, and their nether regions.
She may have to advertise a bit more from next year, when her own-brand products hit the shelves, but, after all, it’s what she’s always wanted. “My dream has always been to walk into the world’s best stores and see my products on their shelves,” she says. This is the tale, then, of a peripatetic Persian girl who took London to her breast, before introducing a grand old city to vajazzles, Brazilians and, soon, a product line that will put Arezoo on the global map. And don’t, for a minute, bet against that happening.