The industry’s mania with celebrity is turning into a paradox, with the desire to put stars’ faces on beauty ads stronger than ever, despite reports of a struggling market for celebrity-branded scents.
Consider the deals done since April, not only for endorsements but also some branding propositions. Lancôme signed Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o as its new face, followed by fellow winner Cate Blanchett’s debut as the spokeswoman for Giorgio Armani’s Si scent. Meanwhile, MAC has announced plans for makeup collaborations with Brooke Shields and Lorde, to launch this fall; Coty will debut Enrique Iglesias’ first scent, Adrenaline; Pharrell Williams is introducing his first fragrance on Sept. 1, and One Direction, which reportedly has surpassed the Justin Bieber record with sales so far of more than $70 million wholesale, is said to be preparing its third fragrance, a new pillar. Are celebrity fragrances dead? Not completely, even though retailers appear to be very cool to the category.
“There still is tremendous appetite for product that is endorsed or sold by a celebrity,” says Catherine Walsh, chief communication officer of Coty Inc. She was Coty’s senior vice president of global marketing on the launch of Jennifer Lopez’s Glow fragrance in 2002, which touched off a wave that now accounts for 4 percent of the prestige fragrance market. Consumers and celebrities basically feed off one another, she notes, adding, “It’s insatiable because celebrities live their life on the Internet.” As a result, Wendy Liebmann, founder and chief executive officer of WSL Strategic Retail, points out that “speed to market” in marketing celebrity projects has dramatically increased.
“In a more challenging world economically, and more fragmented society, people are aspiring to be part of something,” says John Demsey, a group president of Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. “It’s all about community. When we grew up, you either liked the Beatles or the Stones or the Grateful Dead. Today there are, like, 500 of them. You never had such a proliferation of so much, so many stars in search of a product or in search of an audience than you have right now, because the distribution system opened up to the world with the Internet. Now people create their own e-commerce sites, their own publishing networks, their own social media. They garner press and they monetize themselves by themselves. This era of self-actualization by the star has filtered itself into the cosmetics and fragrance business.”
Going back to the halcyon days of RuPaul, MAC Cosmetics—with its all-ages, all-races, all-genders positioning—has had the flexibility, freedom and creativity to cast a halo of coolness around collaborative projects with well-known people that have been as controversial as Dame Edna, as unexpected as Marge Simpson and as iconic as Shields. James Gager, senior vice president and group creative director, points out that MAC has had the ability “to bring people into its universe and do a collaboration and then they leave.” But the resultant relationships form a loose family. That, however, is not the case everywhere. Gager questions whether every company needs a celebrity touting its brand as some sort of “golden panacea.” He says, “sometimes it can confuse the DNA of a brand rather than enhance [it]”—like if Clinique hired a pop star.
Carol Hamilton, president of the Luxe division of L’Oréal USA, agrees that a collaboration has to be genuine, or else “the consumer gives less and less value to that kind of spokesperson relationship. When you find somebody who truly embodies the essence of a brand and its values and then you develop a relationship with that celebrity, that comes across as meaningful and authentic,” she concludes.
When Walsh talks about the consumer’s “insatiable” appetite for all things celeb, she’s speaking of “the machine” behind the phenomenon. But it appears to need some tinkering, at least when it comes to the fragrance model.
Donald J. Loftus, president of Parlux Ltd. and executive vice president of Perfumania Inc., acknowledges that “the department stores are cooling off on the whole celebrity thing and pulling back their commitments.” One retailer, speaking not for attribution, says, “There’s not been anything new and exciting for a bit. The customer seems to lose her appetite very quickly.”
But there are a good number of successes, like Parlux’s Jay-Z launch, which ranked Number 10 in December and Number 22 for spring. Apparently that didn’t change retailers’ minds. “So Jay-Z they’re thrilled with and because they are,” Loftus dryly remarks, “they no longer consider him a celebrity. He’s an icon.”
Loftus maintains that a category that generated $110 million in department-store sales last year should be shown some respect. He thinks the industry erred when it insisted on merchandising celebrity scents as if they are just another lifestyle or designer fragrance. Celebrity fragrances have a younger, markedly different audience and they should be treated separately, maybe even merchandised upstairs in the junior department, he suggests.
“Maybe it doesn’t belong in a glass case; maybe it should be in a cool shop—with music playing or something that makes it more Hollywood,” he says. Loftus even proposes that Perfumania lease space and run it as a celebrity shop in stores.
Theo Spilka, global vice president of strategic licensing and business development at Firmenich, is working on a deal with Cher, a fragrance veteran of the late Eighties. As a matchmaker on many of these deals, Spilka says he is more cautious and selective about who he works with now, paying close attention to demographics and the strategy behind a brand. “The retailer has to be fully committed,” he says, noting that Terry Lundgren, the ceo of Macy’s, saw an opportunity in Justin Bieber to lure a youthful clientele into his store. “We don’t talk to as many celebrities as we used to. Not all of them bring something to the table. The thing today is to be extremely selective.”
Granted, says Joel Ronkin, general manager of North America for Elizabeth Arden, the firm has seen the cyclical nature of the category. But, he notes, “That doesn’t change the consumer’s appetite for celebrity fragrance.”
“My personal philosophy to beauty is paying attention to oneself. I love to be outdoors, lots of fresh air, trying to take care of yourself as best you can. I always notice that comes through,” says Felicity Jones, the global face of @shiseido-owned @cledepeaubeauteus, which launches today. Head to WWD.com to read more about the actress’ love for beauty and how she prepared for her new role in “The Basis of Sex,” playing the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #wwdbeauty (📷: @dandoperalski)
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews