NEW DELHI — Since Bobbi Brown opened its first store in New Delhi this July, the activity here has puzzled beauty market analysts.
Maureen Case, president, Bobbi Brown Worldwide at the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., told WWD that the 538-square-foot freestanding store at Select City Walk mall in South Delhi has seen a surprising number of walk-throughs and a 50 percent conversion to sales.
That’s unusual in the Indian market, where mass-market sales are the real winners, especially with the rupee rate sliding dramatically in recent months, losing more than 20 percent against the dollar since January. Beauty analysts described the upswing as a “complete surprise” despite the continuing growth of more than 20 percent in the premium color segment.
“We’re not surprised, we’re delighted to be successful,” Case said. “We’re very impressed with the footfall in the store. What was surprising was that there was such awareness about the brand, I think that was the biggest ‘aha’ for all of us here. This is an important market for us.”
She said India, China and Brazil are huge markets with an emerging middle class that always wants aspirational brands. Customers from these countries buy Bobbi Brown in the cities they live in or travel through, such as London or New York. “So it’s really important to enter these markets, to make a statement,” she observed.
Although it is the smallest brand in the Estée Lauder portfolio, with some 600 doors in the U.S., compared with 1,000 for MAC and 2,400 for Clinique and Estée Lauder, Bobbi Brown has set its expansion path, and has been growing its presence in Asia.
Last year, the first store opened in Vietnam, and China is experiencing a consolidated growth with 80 stores and an opening in Sephora, all in eight years. “We’re in tier-one cities in China, and now we’re just expanding to tier two,” said Case. “Our business really is gaining traction, even though in the Chinese market 67 percent of the consumers use only skin-care products.”
She explained that “with the globalization, it really is the age of communication in which young women want to look professional when they go to the office, which is something that their mothers didn’t care about. It is interesting that their mothers did not teach young women how to do makeup,” and it is something, she said, women are learning from brands like Bobbi Brown, which have a strong emphasis on makeup instruction.
Bobbi Brown has been growing its presence in Korea, as well, which Case describes as a “fantastic market,” but remarked that the economic environment there has been “quite challenging” recently. “But Bobbi has a tremendous awareness there at 72 percent, which is pretty significant. We have a good business in Japan and a strong business in Hong Kong; Taiwan; Singapore; Thailand; Malaysia; Vietnam, where we opened last calendar year; Indonesia, where we have a small business again, and the Philippines. It’s a big territory,” she said.
She noted, however, that as important as new markets are, it is equally important to make sure you can support growth and to keep it up organically “as fast as the market and your own resources allow.”
But why so late in India, when many other brands have already established market share?
“Not to be in India would be such a misstep! But we’re still relatively small,” Case explained. “We’re a big business to the outside world, but within our growth, we still have so many opportunities.” She said now is the time to take that opportunity in India.
Eliano Bou Assi, regional artistry and education manager for Bobbi Brown, traveled to New Delhi for the launch to educate consumers, as foreign brands have found education helps boost sales in India. The free beauty lessons and special-occasion makeup on offer for the initial months have also been big draws for the store.
Bobbi Brown cosmetics sell in 60 countries, with Sweden and Ukraine being among its new markets. The brand, which was launched in 1991 with 10 lipsticks, now has 1,000 stockkeeping units and 650 products.
“Well, what we’re inspired to do now is to really take a look at the market and make sure that we’re meeting the needs of the Indian woman with lip shades and textures. We know we have some, but we really want to get early learnings. There are such wonderful skin tones, and we will continue to look for inspiration for shade extensions and also in the foundation arena, and find ways to make her skin look like skin, which is what Bobbi believes in,” said Case.
Although other brands, including Chanel, MAC and Lancôme, dot the mall, in which beauty has shown double-digit growth over the last five years, the new entrant has caught the imagination of the customer, and analysts observe that the three-month mark for the store may be an indicator that Indian women are more ready to experiment with color and brands than ever.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast