MAY 18, 2016

For Toni Ko, Perversion Lies in the Eye of the Beholder

privy profile   |   By Bonnie He


Occupation: Serial Entrepreneur

Based in: Los Angeles

Languages Spoken: English, Korean


L'Oreal thought Toni Ko was worth it.

In 2014, the internationally renowned cosmetics company acquired Ko's beauty powerhouse NYX for a rumored $500 million dollars, enough for a lifetime of sipping margaritas at the beach, if Ko had chosen to coast into an early retirement.

But ambitious Ko, who founded NYX at age 25 and established her makeup line as one of the most highly regarded beauty brands in the industry, craved a new reason to drive herself up every morning. Her unique skill set is undoubtedly bridging the gap between high quality products and low price points. So the innovator immediately dove into Round 2.

And PERVERSE was born.

Debuting at Coachella Weekend 1 this year, PERVERSE instantly attracted influencers Kylie and Kendall Jenner, and models Chanel Iman, Suki Waterhouse, Ashley Benson and Olivia Holt at the festival. During Weekend 2, PERVERSE hosted an official meet-and-greet with Arden Cho of “Teen Wolf” and Katherine McNamara of “Shadowhunters”.

Other celebrities spotted framing their faces with Ko’s sunglasses include Jessica Alba, Cara Delevingne and Rihanna.

As for brick-and-mortar stores, coming soon are five physical locations, including Topanga Canyon Mall, Hollywood Boulevard, Culver City Mall, and a flagship store in Downtown LA. On Saturday, May 21, PERVERSE opened their first store in Larchmont Village.

If history repeats itself, we know Toni Ko won’t rest until PERVERSE has all eyes on it.

 Toni Ko Privy Interview Photo




Is it true that when you arrived from Korea at age 13, you didn't speak a word of English? And yet, you overcame that obstacle and became a serial entrepreneur. Tell us what drove you to succeed!


Yes, that is very true that my family moved to the U.S. when I was 13 years old and I did not speak any English. School was quite interesting and very challenging because I did not understand what the teachers were teaching. But, I think that whole experience made me the person I am today because I had to find creative ways to earn passing grades, and it made me very aware, almost hyper-sensitive, to my surroundings because I had to analyze everything. My drive comes from many different sources. For one, nothing is good enough for me. I know that sounds terrible, but there is definitely beauty to this approach because when nothing is good enough, you never settle for mediocrity. In the book, "Good to Great," I was inspired by the philosophy that Good is the enemy of Great because when a person in a company starts accepting Good as Good Enough, they let go of the potential to be Great.




Korean women are known for being fashionable. What about your background do you think influenced your foray into cosmetics, and now, the fashion industry?


My mom definitely influenced me. My mom is 72 years young and still to this day, she takes immaculate care of herself, her skin, and her style. As far back as I can remember, she's massaged and layered lotions and potions on her skin. She never leaves the house without doing her hair, putting on makeup, and getting dressed for the occasion. I think that naturally rubbed off on me, which I'm grateful for.


Toni Ko Privy Interview PERVERSE Sunglasses





What was it like to see your baby integrated to world-renowned beauty conglomerate, L'Oreal?


I was extremely proud, yet was very, very, very sad. NYX was all I had known my entire life. I was so married to the brand and the company, I felt I lost my identity after I sold the company and became depressed for a while. But, I truly believe it was the best decision. I was not into building a legacy company and NYX is doing SO MUCH better. L'Oreal will build the brand into a global brand. I am so happy knowing that one day, something I created will be recognized by every single woman on the planet, much in the way Revlon and L'Oreal are. And that is a very special feeling. However, I do want to add that the chase is much more fun and exciting than the kill itself, and while money is good, it is the least fun part of the entire equation.




What inspired you to start your own line of fashion sunglasses? 


It's an industry that is heavily dominated by one global titan. They own a totally lateral business, so the consumers are paying much more for sunglasses than they should. Your Guccis shouldn't cost you $300, but you have to pay it because one company that owns 85% of the $36 billion dollar industry is dictating the price. I want to break that mold and give everyone access to crazy, sexy, cool sunglasses at wallet-friendly prices. PEVERSE sunglasses is a value proposition brand, and that's where I'm the strongest. The base of the business model is exactly the same as NYX: great products and a great price. What's not to love about that?

 Toni Ko Privy Interview PERVERSE Sunglasses Red




Congrats on getting PERVERSE selected as the official eyeglass sponsor of Coachella! Could you please tell us a little about the brand and concept behind PERVERSE?


Absolutely. First, I love the name PERVERSE. PERVERSE is a highly misunderstood word. PERVERSE means "deliberately breaking from the norm" and I love that because I am here to deliberately break the current business model in the eyewear industry. The concept is simple: get a great pair of sunnies at a great price. We have a huge collection of on-trend styles and colors, all priced between $30 to $60 (with a few special exceptions). We're targeting that millennial market of shoppers who are 15 to 35 years old -- not necessarily the teeny boppers, but the youthful consumer who feels like she's perennially 25 years old. We also want to attract the 15-year-old who wants to be 25 and the 35-year-old who wants to be 25. There are 92 millennials in the U.S. alone, which makes up 30% of the total U.S. population. My goal is to get 2 million customers buying 2 pairs of sunnies each year.


Toni Ko Privy Interview PERVERSE Sunglasses Coachella Sponsor Festival16


Toni Ko Privy Interview PERVERSE Coachella Sponsor Indio16




You are involved in charity work, and recently started the Toni Ko Foundation. What causes drive you?


Causes that involve children and education.




What are your top 5 favorite restaurants in LA?


I LOVE any of the Wolfgang Puck restaurants, Crustacean for their garlic noodles, In-N-Out of course, King Taco for my Mexican food fix, and Parks BBQ for good Korean grub!




Current relationship status? If single, what qualities/lifestyle factors do you seek in a partner?


Recently divorced and currently single. I think respect is the most important factor in a partner, and I respect kindess, generosity, and intelligence in a man.




What do you like about Privy and the promise it offers?


I can't think of one thing not to like about Privy. :)


Privy Interview Toni Ko PERVERSE Sunglasses




Onto the Fun Stuff!


1. My last meal on Earth would be: Hummmmmm...In-N-Out with animal style fries.

2. Dream vacation: Tropical getaway. I'm not a snow bunny and hate cold weather. I need sun, sand, and surf.

3. Last great book I read: "Mademoiselle Chanel" by C.W. Garter.


Privy Interview Toni Ko PERVERSE Sunglasses



Toni Ko Privy Interview PERVERSE Sunglasses


 Photo Credits: Toni Ko,, Stephanie Gonot, Karen Hernandez


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