He almost single-handedly pioneered make-up for men during the 1980s – famously wearing the same shade of shimmering-pink Yves St Laurent lipstick as his supermodel wife on their wedding day.
So it should come as no surprise that Duran Duran founder and keyboardist Nick Rhodes is once again at the vanguard of the cosmetics industry.
But now, more than 30 years since his band’s New Romantic heyday, he has helped to create a product which has serious scientific credentials and has been described as the most advanced anti-ageing serum in the world. Indeed, it has the potential to cause a revolution in skin care – if you can afford it, of course.
Duran Duran founder and keyboardist Nick Rhodes is once again at the vanguard of the cosmetics industry, helping make a product described as the most advanced anti-ageing serum in the world
The luxury product, called GeneU, comes with a luxury price tag: an initial consultation including DNA test and two weeks’ worth of product costs £600, making it one of the most expensive serums on the planet. A month’s refresher supply then costs £300. That works out at a cool £4,000 in the first year.
Why so pricey? Well, it harnesses cutting-edge technology developed by one of Britain’s leading scientists, Professor Chris Toumazou, regius professor of engineering at Imperial College London, and uses a simple DNA test to create a serum tailored to each individual customer.
Clinical trials found that the serum reduces fine lines and wrinkles by as much as 30 per cent in just 12 weeks. So, it works.
Such claims have already attracted interest from a glamorous cartel, including, apparently, Prince Andrew, Saudi billionaire Sheikh Walid Al-Juffali and US socialite Ivana Trump.
Nick has shunned the cosmetic surgery procedures and Botox beloved by many of his pop-star peers, and is instead now fascinated by ‘the genomics revolution’.
At 52, and having lived the rock-star lifestyle, he looks remarkably fresh-faced. His skin is smooth and clear, helped when we meet at the GeneU ‘concept store’ on London’s well-heeled Bond Street by a touch of foundation and concealer around the eyes.
There is also a trademark smudge of eyeliner around his lower lids – a nod to the androgyny he cultivated during the 1980s. ‘I’d be far too terrified to slice my face open,’ he shudders.
‘If other people want to do it, good for them. But I sincerely hope I never, ever think of going down that route. Terrifying – no, not for me. No Botox, no nothing.
‘I’ve tried my best to take care of my skin. Some of it is genetic – my mum and dad have pretty good skin. But you need to take care of it. I drink a lot of water, that’s very important.
‘I was a vegetarian for 22 years and now I eat a little bit of fish. I walk several times a week in London parks.’
Rhodes almost single-handedly pioneered make-up for men during the 1980s – famously wearing the same shade of shimmering-pink Yves St Laurent lipstick as his supermodel wife on their wedding day
He’s tried GeneU, and he says: ‘My DNA tests showed my skin degrades collagen rapidly, but that I have fairly good antioxidant protection.
‘How well does it work? You have to be realistic and objective. You’ll never get a product that will give you the skin of a teenager 40 years on. However, I found particularly underneath the eyes, the finer lines have been reduced.
‘I don’t look as tired first thing in the morning. I can honestly say my skin is smoother than it was.
‘I completely believe in the product and the technology and if you can afford this, it’s amazing.’
Nick’s collaboration with Prof Toumazou came after they met by chance in the most glamorous of circumstances – on board a private jet to Venice to celebrate the 50th birthday of their mutual friend, Sheikh Walid.
They struck up a conversation and Nick said he was ‘enthralled’ by Prof Toumazou’s work.
Previously, the professor has developed a cochlear implant to help children to hear and an artificial pancreas for diabetes patients. He is also working on creating an artificial kidney for his 22-year-old son, who has a genetic renal disease.
He told Nick about a microchip he had developed, which could sequence sections of DNA in just 30 minutes at a fraction of the cost of other methods. It is hoped the chip will eventually be used to rapidly screen for genetic diseases, including aggressive forms of cancer, and to identify strains of infection such as sepsis so patients can be treated quickly with the correct antibiotics.
But Prof Toumazou told him he was also thinking of leasing the technology to the beauty industry to develop personalised skincare regimes – testing for variations in the genes linked to skin ageing.
However, Nick encouraged him to start his own business, and GeneU was born.
He says: ‘I came up with the name for the brand, and helped form the identity of the company. It was exciting for me – something I’d always wanted to do. I love science and technology but also the arts, fashion and design.
‘I did everything from the adverts, photography, design, branding and in-store design. I was also very involved with the packaging.’
The sleek packaging, which doubles up as a dispenser for the collagen and antioxidant serums, has won awards. The Bond Street shop is monochrome and futuristic and staffed entirely by stunningly beautiful PhD scientists (yes, you did read that right).
The luxury product, called GeneU, comes with a luxury price tag withan initial consultation including DNA test and two weeks’ worth of product costs £600
Nick says: ‘The whole feel of the brand is slick and minimalist and only slightly clinical. Crucially, it’s also androgynous: the brand appeals equally to both men and women. I think the men are attracted by the science aspect of it.
‘But appealing to both men and women was deliberate. I’ve used moisturiser since I was a teenager when everything was targeted at women. I have, of course, been accused of being the world’s first metrosexual – but I really enjoyed the way it felt on my dry skin. I’ve been guilty of using whatever moisturiser my partner used and have tried all sorts of things from the cheapest on the market to the top-of-the-line, expensive ranges. But it’s the fact that this is made for you that makes it so great.
‘I’m like everyone else – I can look at an advert and say it looks like a good, expensive product. But what I like about GeneU is that it’s evidenced, it’s not guess work. It’s right there – it’s your DNA that gets tested. I’m now much more protective over my moisturiser – it’s mine, and it stays on my shelf.’
I completely believe in the product and the technology and if you can afford this, it’s amazing
It would be easy to look at the venture and see a scientist using the multi-billion-pound global beauty industry to cash in on a lucrative invention which may take far longer to make a profit in the clinical world. But Prof Toumazou says the more the consumer gets used to DNA testing, the sooner they will embrace the idea of personalised medicine in other areas. He also hopes to use vanity as the ultimate vehicle to encourage people to change their unhealthy lifestyles.
Prof Toumazou said: ‘The gene-testing provides consumers with a mirror which shows what their future selves could look like. We’re working on being able to tell customers how their genes are expressing themselves differently in six months’ time based on changes they may have made, such as quitting smoking, after the first test. It’s basically up to you.’
Nick said it would have prompted him to make changes – had it come years earlier. ‘Many years ago I smoked a lot of cigarettes and I started as a teenager, when I was 16 or 17. Fortunately I quit when I was in my late 20s, and I’m glad I did. If I hadn’t, I would have been convinced to stop by the test results.
‘That’s what it does to you – it makes you want to look after yourself better. It gives you that window into your ageing process.’
Nick has just finished putting the finishing touches to the new Duran Duran album, which will be released in September with the first single due in July.
And he has high hopes that GeneU will also be a big hit.
‘This is a British company using British technology, engineering and ingenuity which could actually make a mark here.
‘And this is just the first generation. There are grand plans.
‘We’re trying to bring down the price. I’d like to make it more widely available for people – because it should be.’
Courtesy Daily Mail