Zizo Attia, creator of Z. Bigatti, got the idea for Minnesota's most luxurious skin-care product while sitting in front of the TV.
remembers it: "I'm sitting there one day watching a program on NASA
, and at the end I said: 'We can put a man on the moon but we still cannot make a cream that does what it says it does.' "
Cue the next scene: For five years in the early '90s, Attia
spent much of his
time holed up in a St. Paul lab while he
and a cosmetic chemist crafted what he
feels is the world's finest, most elegant anti-aging cream.
When the product was launched in 1994, Z. Bigatti
Re-Storation Skin Treatment was the spendiest on the U.S. market, priced at a whopping $150 per two-ounce container.
But money is no object when it comes to a woman's skin - especially if she
falls for the silkiness and light, pretty fragrance of the product.
So the cream was a success.
Just a year after launch, buyers at Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman were already prodding Attia
to develop a full product line.
Now, on the company's 15th anniversary, Z. Bigatti
offers 20 products, including such goodies as a Lip Pout lip treatment cream, a Deep Repair facial cleanser, and, my favorite, the Champagne Gel Cleanser (prices range from $55 to $295).
Descended from a Parisian family of department store owners, Attia
looks the part of his
luxury brand, though he's
less likely to pass for a Minnesotan.
speaks with a plummy Gallic accent and seems the sort of debonair fellow who might carry off an ascot.
In fact, he
once bought a Rolls-Royce but then noticed it didn't have much company in modest Minnesota.
"I was so embarrassed I had to sell it," he
in the Twin Cities for the long haul.
He's lived in St. Paul since earning his business degree from the University of St. Thomas.
During the late '80s, he was the CEO of a local management firm and enjoyed the reputation of a free-spending party host.
gets to trot the globe on Z. Bigatti
business (the products are sold on six continents).
And since the brand is a celebrity favorite, he
often gets to mingle with the stars (he counts Roberto Cavalli among his
But even so, Attia
never pays celebs to use his
products - nor does he
shower them with free samples.