Expert Advice

Irvine and Louise Rusk Launch Ilka

Maggie Mulhern | July 10, 2011 | 9:58 PM

Industry icon Irvine Rusk is back in town with a brand new line of products. The ingredient-based line, Ilka, was inspired by unique plants from Rusk's native Scotland. 
Irvine and Louise Rusk Launch Ilka
Irvine and Louise Rusk

Finding Gale
For the past few years Rusk and his wife, Louise, have been enjoying retirement since selling their shares of their namesake line in 2003.
That all changed one day when Rusk caught a TV show profiling large farming equipment. The segment was all about harvesting sweet gale from an area not too far from where Rusk was raised in Scotland.
“I became intrigued by this special plant and began to investigate,” said Rusk. “Sweet gale is found only in Scotland and the surrounding area, and a little bit in Canada. The oil from this plant is so special and used in various skin care products, but is not in any hair care line. I became obsessed.”
The Creation of Ilka
Rusk gathered sweet gale and many other special plants, including pot ale, bere barley, sea kelp and sea pink. It was important to him that all were wild, organic and sustainably harvested. He and Louise worked with a top chemist specializing in formulating with natural ingredients and came up with nine products divided into a line for color-treated hair, fine-limp, and coarse-thick hair.
Irvine and Louise Rusk Launch Ilka Irvine and Louise Rusk Launch Ilka Irvine and Louise Rusk Launch Ilka
              Ilka for Color-Treated                                   Ilka for Fine-Limp                              Ilka for Coarse-Thick
The Rusks were left with two unresolved issues: The name and how to market the line.
“It almost took us as long to find the name as to develop the product!” says Rusk. “Ilka is a variation of an old Scottish word meaning ‘for everyone.’ We felt it worked.”
The marketing plan is equally unique. “We want to offer this product at a better margin for better profits,” says Rusk. “We are not gathering an educational team or doing shows. Other people do this and do it well. Any education we have to offer will take place online on our fantastic website. I would rather save our resources and work with salons on margin and on their business plan.”
Ilka shampoos are $20 and the foundation products are $22. “The salon will make 55 percent,” says Rusk. “These are priced for the higher end, but not for the nose-bleed market. I feel we are in the prestige retail business.”
“We are in our infancy,” says Rusk. “We’ve just made our first run of the product.”
Look for more products in the Ilka line to roll out in summer 2010. Visit for more information on the new line.

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