By  on August 3, 2007

Groupe Clarins will attempt to turn personalization into a science with a daring venture designed to break new ground in the go-go skin care market.

The Paris-based company plans to edge into the red-hot dermatological treatment category with an entirely new freestanding brand that will not be supported by the Clarins name. It is called myBlend by Dr. Olivier Courtin and it is aimed squarely at the top of the market, which is dominated by high-priced high-performance brands like La Prairie, Sisley and La Mer. It is the brainchild of Courtin, who is managing director of Clarins and head of its research laboratories.

The global launch is scheduled for Sept. 15 and distribution will be limited to six Saks Fifth Avenue doors. Executives at Groupe Clarins USA now envision a distribution eventually numbering no more than 150 doors in the U.S.

What is new about the line is that the products were designed to loosely parallel changes in a woman's life, including emotional episodes, rather than simply her skin type. Moreover, the creams are designed to be adapted, or blended with booster supplements, to fill temporary needs — perhaps driven by fluctuations in lifestyle.

During a recent interview in New York, Courtin described myBlend as "the first blendable skin care brand" that represents "the leading edge of beauty science." He added that "it's about a woman's skin and her life and putting them together. All emotions show up in the skin. Change is a woman's reality."

MyBlend's introduction is being planned to position Clarins as another contender in the growing dermatological sweepstakes. In conjunction with the myBlend launch, Courtin will unveil a book entitled "The Courtin Concept — Six Keys to Great Skin at Any Age."

The son of the late Jacques Courtin, founder of Clarins, and brother of Christian, the firm's president and chief executive officer, Olivier Courtin built a career as an orthopedic surgeon specializing in women's sports medicine. His father's background — Jacques Courtin also was a licensed physician — inspired him to study the health of skin, the effects of hormonal change and the importance of neurology to skin health. Olivier Courtin began adapting creams to be used by his patients to aid healing after surgery. In 1965, he entered the family firm.His medical and family backgrounds combined to give him an unusual perspective on the skin care market. Many brands base product formulations on four basic skin types. Courtin designed myBlend with eight basic formulas, addressing problems of different life stages. They range from 01 Oil Crisis Control for oily and blemish-prone skin to 08 Potent Age Antidote for particularly dry age-impacted skin. The other products are 02 Calm & Controlled for sensitive, oil-prone skin; 03 Stress Management for adult breakout, oil-prone skin; 04 Balance of Power for normal to dry, occasionally oily skin; 05 Early Age Alert for first signs of dryness and aging; 06 Prescribed Comfort for dry, sensitive newly aging skin, and 07 Change for the Better for mature, dry and fragile skin.

In addition, the eight formulas can be adapted to cope with abrupt changes of emotional states and resultant skin conditions. Five booster formulas that are designed to be mixed with the basic creams are available in 1.5-ml. syringes. The boosters are dubbed Speedy Recovery, or The Healing Helper; Moisture Immersion, The Double Hydrator; Redness Rescue, The Soother; Antioxidant Surge, The De-Stresser and Radiant Burst, The Energizer.

Each of the eight basic formulas comes as a day cream and a night cream. Each is available in a starter kit, which includes a 50-ml. jar of formula — plus as an added gift, a smaller 15-ml. version of the same mixture. The smaller size, which works out to a two-week supply, is meant to be used as "a mini-lab," into which a consumer can inject a booster formula to personalize the product. The proportions of each have been calibrated to provide the proper potency. According to executives, two different boosters can be mixed into the basic formula as long as only half of each syringe is used. If the customer opts not to boost the basic formula, the 15-ml. also is designed to be used as a travel size.

One of the boldest aspects of myBlend is that it is a completely independent new brand without any connection or support from the Clarins mothership. Clarins said he felt that the company had to take the risk of launching a completely new brand because myBlend's concept would not be compatible with how consumers perceive Clarins. "When you have a brand," Courtin said, "it is impossible to have another concept."But the Clarins organization is squarely behind the new effort. "We live in a world of hyperpersonalization," said Eric Horowitz, president of the Clarins Division of Groupe Clarins USA. "It marries whatever is happening with your skin and what is happening with your life."

He noted that one of the aspects of health that intrigued Olivier Courtin was the workings of the nervous system and how it affects the skin. "Olivier was fascinated with the connections and how stress shows up in the skin," said Caroline Pieper-Vogt, senior vice president of marketing for the Clarins Division.

The day and night creams contain what Clarins calls a CellSynergy Complex of peptides. The day combo includes thymulen, alistin and glisten. The night cream also contains thymulen and alistin, but also has imudilin. Pieper-Vogt explained that the objective is to protect and stimulate repair of the nerve endings in the skin because if the nervous system can speed communication, the individual cells will be able to function at optimal levels and create a healthier, younger look. The day cream combination of peptides is designed to protect the skin's mechanism, particularly from daylight wear and tear. For instance, the thymulen was added to protect Langerhans cells, which act as guardians of skin cells, or what Pieper-Vogt calls the "highway patrol." The night cream is designed more for regeneration with the addition of imudilin.

Horowitz maintains that myBlend will operate in the rarefied top of the market. He estimates that if a customer purchases the day kit, night kit and at least one booster, the transaction can add up to more than $500.

That's because the price of the basic formula rises as the concentration grows increasingly heavy duty, depending on life stage challenges. According to Horowitz, the 01 day cream kit is priced at $170 and the 08 level weighs in at $215. The more emollient, more regenerative night cream ranges from $195 to $250 from the 01 concentration to the 08 formula. The boosters are priced $45 each.

Relatively economical 50-ml. refills will also be available, with the day cream priced at $100 to $130 for the 01 to 08 sizes. The night cream refills run from $120 to $150. According to executives, refills for the 15-ml. mini-lab size will be made available sometime after launch.The brand initially will be launched in the Saks doors on Fifth Avenue in New York; South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif.; Chevy Chase, Md.; Boca Raton, Fla.; Beverly Hills, and North Palm Beach, Fla.

Horowitz said those doors were picked to give the new brand an accurate test, and the U.S. is the lead launch market, in part because of the widespread acceptance of doctor brands. Also, high-priced skin care is thriving here. "The luxury section of beauty has been one of the healthiest parts of the industry," Horowitz said, adding that he is shooting to put myBlend either in the top 10 or "around" the top 10 in the doors where it will be sold, within 12 to 18 months. He didn't project what that would mean in dollars, but industry sources estimated that the brand could do $250,000 to $350,000 in retail sales in typical branches and about $1 million in the Fifth Avenue flagship. Horowitz speculated the line may be introduced in France in late fall and in other markets early next year.

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