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L’Oreal Plans Rubinstein Revival

The Helena Rubinstein beauty brand has a renaissance in the making.

PARIS — The Helena Rubinstein beauty brand has a renaissance in the making, in the view of executives at its parent, L’Oréal.

As reported, Rubinstein has signed American actress Demi Moore to be the “muse” — or spokeswoman — of all its products. Designer Fabien Baron is in the midst of renovating the brand’s packaging. And its new merchandising units, called “beauty boudoirs” and designed by Andrée Putman, are being rolled out internationally.

“We’re positioning Helena Rubinstein as a real luxury brand,” said Simona Cattaneo, the recently named international general manager of Helena Rubinstein, in a phone interview Thursday from London, where she was involved in Moore’s photo shoot by photographers Mert and Marcus. “We’re working on it 360 degrees — for the image, with Demi Moore, and at the same time, we’re also focusing on the marketing mix.”

Cattaneo replaced Catherine Fulconis as international general manager in September. Prior to working at Helena Rubinstein, Cattano was the international general manager of Kerastase, another L’Oréal-owned brand that she joined in 1995.

Helena Rubinstein’s revamp was begun a few months ago, according to Patricia Turck Pacquelier, international brand president of L’Oréal’s prestige and collections division.

“For a long time, it was managed as a second Lancôme, which it is not,” she said, referring to another high-end beauty brand owned by L’Oréal. “Lancôme is huge and international.”

Instead, Turck Pacquelier chose to emphasize Helena Rubinstein’s premium positioning, particularly since luxury beauty products are flying off shelves worldwide these days.

Turck Pacquelier said she and the team at Helena Rubinstein looked through their microscopes at what they call the brand’s DNA, at how ahead of her time was the brand’s founder who pioneered the art of advising customers on beauty. Given people’s increasing longevity, Rubinstein executives decided to center the brand on the 40-plus demographic.

“But we saw something was missing: We had to give Helena Rubinstein a face,” said Turck Pacquelier. “Demi was a perfect match. She’s not 20 or 30 — she’s 43. She’s always avant-garde and daring as a woman. Demi is extremely glamorous and charismatic.”

This is the first time Helena Rubinstein has had an actress as its spokeswoman. And she happens to be an American.

This story first appeared in the October 13, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Could this signal the brand’s return to the U.S., a market that Helena Rubinstein left about 18 months ago?

“Not immediately,” said Turck Pacquelier, who explained that growth in premium beauty brand sales in the U.S. has been accelerating nevertheless.

Helena Rubinstein’s strongest markets are Italy and Japan, followed by France, Spain and travel retail.

In China, the brand’s yearly sales have spiked 35 percent and more, said Turck Pacquelier, who added that Russia has been “an amazing success.”

While L’Oréal executives would not discuss Helena Rubinstein’s sales, industry sources estimated the brand ranks 10th worldwide in the skin care and makeup categories combined.

Next year, Helena Rubinstein will focus on launching “expertise” products, each with one main claim. The brand is also set to launch a new whitening collection for Japan.

Price positioning for the brand is expected to be in the 100 euro range, or $125 at current exchange, for the expertise products. Other new items should run between 120 euros and 250 euros, or $150 and $314.