The Business of Beauty, the Business of Fashion

It used to be a fact universally acknowledged that when a fashion house wanted to beef up its bottom line it launched a fragrance or two or three.  Now it launches a make- up line or two or two hundred.

At Milan Fashion Week, Gucci debuted its 200-piece beauty collection- a launch said to be close to fashion director Frida Giannini’s heart .Even though Gucci has the very successful Flora and Guilty fragrance lines and understands line extensions and brand spins, this is a whopper of a collection from a luxury fashion house.

The collection, mostly autumnal hues (from the pictures) has the classic Gucci spoor of interlocked G’s in its embossing and packaging. Beauty magazine Allure has already declared Otiane (a deep teal) the ‘it’ eye shadow of the season. (There is a smoky lavender that I tend towards .)

It has been created in collaboration with Pat McGrath, the woman behind Armani’ fabulous make up line, the very beautiful Dolce &Gabana make up line  and the painter behind a thousand memorable backstage looks. It has Carolina Casarghi (part of the Monaco royal family ) as the  face and  Frida Giannini as its personal midwife. Sounds like the perfect mix for success.

Earlier this year Louboutin launched his $50 a bottle Rouge Louboutin  nail polish range ( thirty shades including grey) with its eight-inch bottle cap, a tribute to the Louboutin Ballerina Ultime heel. Rumor has it that a makeup collection is in the offing. Logically we would have expected a lipstick version of the red sole in its signature Pantone Chinese red first but we are not complaining – some of those nail polish colours will make you Loubie girl for a day for sure even if you don’t have the shoes.

This season Dior’s iconic Five Coleurs eye shadow palette works like a fashion palette with a central colour and four accessorizing colours and textures based on classic and favourite Dior fabric and fashions.

Burberry has done this too after entering the beauty category in 2009.   Its current Bloomsbury girls collection reflects its runway collection with a colour palette of blue, bottle green and elderberry. It now has two of its own Burberry Beauty Box stores and will be launching a skin care line .

Designer Prabal Gurung not yet a fashion house or part of a conglomerate has a chic 14 piece collection out to retail at MAC this winter.

Marc Jacobs has spun an alternative fortune with his ‘Daisy’ franchise but he also has the very interesting  ‘Remarcable’  buoyancy gel foundation and matte gel lipstick ‘Lovemarc’ in a successful makeup and skin care line

Tom Ford has those gorgeous eye shadow quads that spell posh elegance.

In an earlier generation designer Mary Quant inventor of hot pants, hyper mascara and the geometric bob of the sixties launched a range of successful cosmetics that summed up the free spirit of the decade until she sold to a Japanese company in 2000.

There have been collaborations with beauty brands –the late L’ Wren Scott had two beautiful mini collections inspired by her own designs for Lancôme. Beauty brands have leaned on fashion to add glamour to their offerings. Fashion weeks have often been sponsored by personal care and beauty brands.

But designers have realized the real juice is in going independent. Beauty lines represent a profitable new revenue stream.

It isn’t only about getting consumers to buy into the fashion aura though.

When designers keep a close eye on the development and brand stories it can yield collections that are beauty forward and bring a touch of much needed fashion edginess to our everyday make up and skin care routine.

Often tested backstage under tough conditions and used on models ( Armani’s Maestro Fusion make up is a case in point ) with makeup artists and strong fashion opinions, the best make up collections from fashion houses have colours that stand out and  packaging and textures that are seductive and unusual,often using the latest technology to deliver the goods.

Louboutin’s nail polish claim to deliver the effect of twenty coats of lacquer with one coat thanks to new paint technology

Luxury fashion brands also know how to tell stories because luxury is all about stories. Full disclosure: I am a sucker for stories.

Armani’s brand story of tiny Italian town Pantelleria  with its incense filled churches and lava spouting volcano had me lusting after his volcanic mineral based and extremely expensive Crema Nera. Fortunately for me it was out of stock and the moment passed though Crema Nera continues to be a best seller.

No one does this better than Chanel the last of the luxury independents.  (Gucci’s collection has launched in collaboration with P&G Prestige).

Chanel’s make up collections are carefully crafted, doffing a hat to Coco’s legacy. The Coromandel screens, the sheaves of golden wheat in her Paris apartment, the signature tweed jacket have inspired specific beauty collections.  The nail polishes have a cult status with a waiting list for the colour of the season. Orage is this season’s tempter.

The business of beauty and the business of fashion work on different planes, one works on volumes and accessibility the other on exclusiveness and limited numbers. Beauty is far more democratic but is learning to take brand story telling cues from luxury fashion while fashion finds in beauty an alternative way of connecting with consumers and ringing up the cash registers.

When they segue together the fit can be wonderful for the consumer as well as the business.

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