By  on December 12, 2008

Putting together this issue of WWD Beauty Biz, our sixth annual awards issue, was a conundrum. On the one hand, our economy continues its descent into chaos, each day bringing a fresh crisis, each crisis eroding consumer confidence even more. On the other hand, for the beauty industry, this was a year in which innovation eclipsed the insipid. Despite the calamitous nature of the times,there’s still a lot to celebrate and it’s that spirit with which we edited this issue. This was a year, for example, in which class traded over to mass and back again, in which dynamic new technologies ignited once staid categories, in which design fused with popular culture to produce a fragrance frenzy. As always, choosing our winners wasn’t easy. The debate between our editors was vigorous, but, using a set of criteria based on retail performance, industry feedback and our reports throughout the year, we’ve compiled a roster that we think encompasses the best of beauty for 2008. Check “The Winner Is” for full coverage of the WWD Beauty Biz awards.

This issue’s cover subject, Nastia Liukin, is no stranger to being the best. Catapulted into the role of America’s sweetheart after winning the gold medal in the all-around gymnastics competition at last summer’s Beijing Olympics, Liukin has just what it takes to succeed in times like these: a lasersharp ability to focus, a keen competitive spirit and a message that resonates with consumers. Oh—and she’s also able to flip, fly and twist through the air as explosively as a Fourth of July firework, and has the ability to rest her foot in the vicinity of her ear as easily as you or I might cross our legs. Now, the 19-year-old is on a quest to prove her mettle on the marketing front as well as the gymnastics mat, eager to join the ranks of athletes who have transcended their sports to become part of popular culture—think Tiger Woods and Mary Lou Retton. Discover how in “Strength Training.”

The nation’s hair salons are also in a period of transition. Once considered recession-proof, even they have begun to feel the pinch. As Rachel Brown and Andrea Nagel write in “Cutting Room,” “Hair grows and grays regardless of government policy or the unemployment rate.” During the past few months, though, the salon sector has become increasingly susceptible to consumer shifts in spending. Women may not be cutting back on basic services altogether, but they are waiting longer between visits. As history teaches us, the salon slowdown portends change for the beauty category overall. While it’s impossible to anticipate the long-term ramifications, one thing is for sure: WWD Beauty Biz will remain on the cutting edge of covering the news and trends that impact our business most. On behalf of executive editor Pete Born and the entire WWD Beauty Biz team, I’d like to extend congratulations to all of this year’s winners.

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