By  on May 20, 2011

MILAN — Dolce & Gabbana is out to prove it’s no wild card in the color cosmetic sector as it launches a new trend-led makeup line called Animalier, fueling consumers’ appetites for runway-inspired makeup.

Leveraging high-voltage leopard prints from its fashion line and channeling them into makeup, the designers are pushing a runway to makeup message synonymous with the label’s brand of glam chic. “Absolutely, it’s an accessible way for everyone to buy into a must-have new season collection and can also be a clever way to preview the new must-have color, creating a waiting list before it’s even available,” said Marigay McKee, fashion and beauty director at Harrods when asked if integrating the runway into makeup boosts sales. “The cosmetics market, especially brands that are derivatives of fashion labels, thrive on coherence.”

“A successful interpretation of the runway collection is key…colors, images, quality and design must recall in the consumer’s mind the ready-to-wear collections,” said Simone De Stefanis, director of buying for La Rinascente beauty and cosmetics.

Luigi Feola, vice president of Procter & Gamble Prestige, noted, “Our makeup key consumers are really interested in trend-led products that stand out in the marketplace, in a way that is exclusively Dolce & Gabbana.”

In a telephone interview from his Milan office Wednesday, Stefano Gabbana said he saw no separation between makeup and the Dolce & Gabbana fashion line. “We always take inspiration from our fashion collection for the makeup; we’re pushing a lifestyle. The ideas are the same whether we’re working on makeup, a perfume, or a bag,” he said. The new line’s hero product, dubbed Animalier bronzer, takes its cues from the Italian house’s signature leopard prints that also feature on dresses, bags and a line of sunglasses. The limited edition gold metal compact will retail for $50 and contains a face powder embellished with a leopard print design alongside existing items from the Dolce & Gabbana makeup collection, including its Classic Cream lipstick in Ultra 190 ($30), Precision lip liner in Ultra 7 ($30), Smooth Eye Color Duo eye shadow in Stromboli ($36), Crayon Intense eyeliner in Stromboli ($29) and its Intense Nail Lacquer in Red ($20). The Animalier collection is rolling out now in the U.S, U.K, Italy, Russia, the Middle East and Greece. Feola underlined company plans to maintain a tight rein on the business, sticking to a selective distribution model.

According to Gabbana, the bronzer took more than 18 months to formulate. He said that the designers were keen to invent something new. “After functionality, the visual aspect of a product is very important to us,” he explained. “We wanted to create an object that a woman would bring out of her handbag, and instantly someone compliments her on it and asks her where she got it from.”

“Our consumer is buying into products that look as good in their handbag as the clothes that they wear,” said McKee from Harrods. La Rinascente’s De Stefanis added, “Expressing a fashion trend through a makeup palette or lipstick needs to be well interpreted and represented through its advertising campaign and merchandising elements in-store. If the consumer can feel the same emotion as they do from the runway though…the sale is guaranteed.”

P&G Prestige’s Feola noted the company has reported strong interest from the consumer for limited edition and hero pieces, and believes these items can drive category growth. From January to June this year, Dolce & Gabbana’s color cosmetic business has grown threefold compared to the same period in 2009.

Dolce & Gabbana makeup is carried in 49 doors globally, including Saks Fifth Avenue in the U.S., Harrods in the U.K. and La Rinascente in Italy, and is on track to hit 70 doors by the end of June, according to Feola. Its stockkeeping units have strengthened from an initial 100 units to 213 sku’s since its debut. McKee credited growth to its must-have fashion items that capture the essence of the Dolce & Gabbana brand such as its new Animalier collection and last season’s Jewel Compact, a lipstick palette.

Gabbana said he’s very focused on the makeup line’s development. “I visit stores, not only ours, but department stores too. I watch the behavior of women when selecting items, it’s something that really interests me.” He added that he also asks friends to test new products. As an avid user of Twitter, he said he also was surprised to see makeup news being tweeted so much.

It’s a consideration not lost on the industry. Chanel has closely aligned its makeup with runway collections for some time, as has Dior. Burberry’s color line, launched last July, takes its overall inspiration from the trenchcoat. However, McKee pointed out translating the runway to cosmetics is not a magic bullet. “The biggest challenge is making them wearable. What looks eye-catching on the catwalk or a music video doesn’t necessarily look good in everyday life. The key element is to find an iconic product that suits all skin tones and skin types.”

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