BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Cosmetic Executive Women inaugurated the Women in Beauty Series on the West Coast last week with a clear message from Pamela Baxter that the recession has not — and will not — kill the luxury market.
“If you are a luxury brand, you have to stay focused. I don’t think you can go with the winds of the economy,” the president and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s Perfume and Cosmetics Group and Christian Dior Inc.’s U.S. division told 225 people gathered at the Beverly Hilton. “At the end of the day, people do want to dream.”
Baxter singled out Rouge G de Guerlain, a collection of lipsticks retailing for up to $45 and hitting stores globally April 1, as evidence that LVMH beauty brands, including Dior Beauty, Fresh, Givenchy and Acqua di Parma, as well as Guerlain, aren’t straying from the luxury course in the face of economic pressures. Guerlain creative director Olivier Echaudemaison teamed with Place Vendôme jeweler Lorenz Bäumer on the Rouge G packaging.
“If you have got an innovative package and design, I wouldn’t call it ostentatious, I would say you’re getting something that is very unusual and very unique,” she said. “People will still pay the price for that.”
Along with luxury, no one should be writing obituaries for department stores, indicated Baxter, who transitioned from behind a Max Factor counter to eventually become Estée Lauder Cos.’ president of the specialty group worldwide before joining LVMH in 2003. She maintained that department stores are important venues for cosmetics shoppers requiring personal attention.
“We’ve found that some of the younger customers who start with Sephora, as they get older and they want more advice or they want more service, that they do go to shop in the department stores later,” said Baxter. She estimated that the average department store shopper is 48 years old, compared with 55 percent of Sephora shoppers who are under 25 years old.
Still, Baxter’s harshest words during the roughly hour-long session were reserved for specialty stores. She stressed that the price-slashing strategy pursued by Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue last holiday season surprised luxury firms and undermined long-term business goals.
“The major issue is that both Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue are owned by investment bankers. Investment bankers are not known to build brands. They buy businesses for one reason only — to make money. So, I worry about that,” said Baxter. “I don’t know that it is going to have that big of an impact on cosmetics because so far they have toed the line on cosmetics.”
Even in the tough retail environment, Baxter made the case that upstart beauty brands that take risks and are creative could succeed by highlighting risks key to her career advancements. Shortly after Baxter joined LVMH, for example, she lead an effort to tackle Dior Beauty’s ubiquity in doors that didn’t match its premium positioning by eradicating 30 percent of its distribution. She also ended the brand’s gift-with-purchase program.
For those in Baxter’s audience who wanted her to offer a glance at the future of beauty, she offered up this nugget — time-saving products for busy women for whom every second is precious will become increasingly crucial. “Maybe there will some day be a beautiful lipstick that goes on in one fell swoop and stays on all day and doesn’t dry your lips out,” she said. “Maybe.”
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion
Eighty degree temperatures and outdoor installations at the annual Art Basel Miami Beach called for bright, elevated beachwear. See more street style pictures on WWD.com. #theyarewearing #ABMB (📷: @lifeinreverie)
Following September’s emotional tribute to her brother Gianni, Donatella Versace wanted to bring the spring show’s deep sense of intimacy to her @versace_official pre-fall collection. Donatella found inspiration in Versace Palazzo in Milan and from Gianni’s opulent apartment. Archival patterns and new motifs were splashed on silk shirtdresses and fitted jersey frocks. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com. #wwdfashion
Demna Gvasalia continues to shake up the Paris fashion calendar — and experiment with new runway timetables for his @vetements_official brand. WWD has learned that Vetements plans to stage its next coed show for the fall 2018 season on January 19 during Men’s Fashion Week in the French capital. Details about the timing and venue have not been confirmed — stay tuned on WWD.com to catch the latest. #wwdnews (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
@zacposen's go-to holiday gift? Cookies! "I'll usually bake cookies and send them as a gift," said the designer, who recently released his cookbook "Cooking With Zac: Recipes from Rustic to Refined." Get the recipe for his Brown Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies via link in bio 🍪🍪🍪 #wwdeye #cookingwithzac
For @monsemaison’s pre-fall 2018 collection, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim honed in on the brand’s many signatures — men’s wear, which was tweaked and feminized through deconstruction, proportion play and lots of bare shoulders. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
On Friday night, @yohjiyamamotoofficial received the Design for Asia Lifetime Achievement Award in Hong Kong. The 75-year-old designer has been celebrated for many years and is best known for his dark and avant-garde tailoring. “In my long career, in design, architecture, [I’ve been to] so many parties, this is the very first time that I have such a warm feeling, I really appreciate this,” Yamamoto said. #wwdfashion (📷: @dominiquemaitre)