By  on June 17, 2011

Is there anyplace on earth with more raw energy than Asia? The exploding middle class in China, India and Indonesia, to name just a few. The urbanization boom and emergence of major new cities. The unquenchable enthusiasm for new experiences, new products. Our goal with this, our first-ever issue dedicated to Asia, was to capture that energy in the pages of WWD Beauty Inc, and bring to life this region that’s so much more than just another place to sell more stuff. (Although there’s a lot of that, too. In most of these countries, double-digit sales increases are the norm, not the exception.)

But while Asia is a key business development driver, what is truly fascinating is the evolution of its role as trend setter rather than follower. Whereas historically the flow of influence has been from West to East, now the cross currents mean that Chinese supermodel Liu Wen is a global—not regional—face of Estée Lauder while the French-born Sephora and its open-sell, self-assist format has taken root as one of Asia’s key beauty concepts. “Asian women in general are true beauty seekers, quite phenomenally so,” Procter & Gamble’s Joanne Crewes tells our Beijing-based reporter Kathleen McLaughlin in “In Development” on page 28, where she looks at how (and where) the urbanization of China is impacting consumer mores, and the expected impact for international beauty marketers.

If names like Wuhan, Xi’an and Qingdao are unfamiliar, they most likely won’t be for long. All are cities of six million-plus people in China; all represent rich opportunity. All have also been colonized, so to speak, by Sephora, the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton–owned retailer, which is aggressively expanding its presence across Asia. As you’ll see in “Asia Major” on page 32, the retailer expects to have 100 stores in China by yearend, and 50 scattered across Southeast Asia within the next three years.

Sephora doesn’t yet have stores in India, where the law currently forbids foreign direct investment in retail in the multibrand segment. However, industry analysts say it’s only a matter of time before such restrictions are loosened and western-based retailers gain a stronger toehold. When they do, they’ll find a receptive population, particularly to fragrance. As Mayu Saini reports in “India Blooms” on page 34, fragrance has very deep roots in India, among both men and women. And though sales are currently small compared to the worldwide market, they are growing in some sectors by 100 percent.

Elsewhere in this issue is an in-depth interview with Shiseido’s Carsten Fischer, who discusses everything from the challenges confronting Japan after the recent natural disasters to how he’s married his native German dialectic communication style to the Japanese consensus culture. As you’ll read in “Master Class” on page 8, he’s been able to successfully meld the two and cross cultural boundaries. Likewise, the three beauties on our cover—Tao Okamoto, Hyoni Kang and Ming Xi—are as popular in Paris and New York as they are in their respective hometowns of Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai. They, too, have successfully crossed cultural boundaries and we hope that with this issue, we have as well. Drop me a line at jenny_fine@condenast.com and let me know.

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