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Beauty Beat: Chantal Roos Ends an Era at YSL Beauté

Beauty executives here said the departure of Chantal Roos as president and chief executive officer of YSL Beauté marks the end of an era.

PARIS — Beauty executives here said the departure of Chantal Roos as president and chief executive officer of YSL Beaute marks the end of an era of trendsetting fragrance marketers who put their personal stamp on the industry.

Christian Courtin, president and ceo of Groupe Clarins, described Roos as a grande dame. “Chantal is someone who knows fragrances, but the world of fragrance has changed to become a universe of marketing,” he said. “It’s somewhat disappointing.”

Starting May 2, Roos will become Gucci Group’s strategic adviser for the fragrance and cosmetics industries. Andrea Barbier is to replace her at YSL Beauté. Both will report to Gucci Group president and ceo Robert Polet. The announcement on Tuesday confirmed a WWD report.

Roos spent Tuesday saying goodbye to her staff.

“That was a tough moment; it was the most difficult. All during these years, we have tackled many difficulties and we have made it here with success,” she said of the seven-year effort to turn the company around, first by cleaning up YSL, then incorporating new brands, before addressing the profitability question and consolidating the portfolio.

Three brands were launched in 2003 alone, as Boucheron was being absorbed. YSL Beauté now includes the YSL brand plus Stella McCartney, Boucheron, Roger & Gallet and Alexander McQueen as a designer niche. Licenses include Oscar de la Renta and Ermenegildo Zegna.

Roos is leaving the company in better shape than she found it. L’Homme Yves Saint Laurent, last year’s hit men’s fragrance, continues to perform, makeup sales are growing at a double-digit rate and Roos predicted that “2007 will be spectacular” with the launch of a women’s fragrance in the fall.

Asked if she had any regrets, Roos said, “I’ve never been a satisfied person. I always question myself.”

In her new position with the Gucci Group, Roos will search for opportunities for the company. Her mission to look for ways to grow the business should silence speculation about Gucci exiting the beauty business. Roos said she would have an office at Gucci headquarters and would keep normal hours.

“The job will be whatever I make of it,” she noted. But judging from her remarks, it will be a full-time position. “I will never retire; I have plenty of ideas. I am very excited about the new assignment,” she said.

Through the fragrances she created for brands such as Yves Saint Laurent, Issey Miyake and Jean Paul Gaultier, Roos helped pioneer the European designer niche trend.

Patrick Choël, former president of LVMH fragrances and cosmetics worldwide, said Roos “is a great professional. She has done a lot for the business.”

Robert Salmon, former vice president of L’Oréal Corp., said, “She always worked with famous designers, such as Yves Saint Laurent and Tom Ford, and did well taking their talents and bottling them. She absorbed their ideas like a sponge” and then came out with commercial successes.

“Chantal Roos had a rather incredible career, starting as a marketing assistant,” he said. “She is a woman who is a real perfectionist and has a very strong character.”

Philippe Benacin, ceo of Inter Parfums SA, who worked with Roos for about a year while his company was acquiring the Van Cleef & Arpels beauty license from YSL Beauté, said, “What I felt from her creations, I felt that she always had personal ideas. If she has one idea — one story to tell — she will always go to the end of the tale.”

In referring to some of the fragrance projects she oversaw for YSL, he said, “If you look at Cinema, Nu or M7, each one has real creativity and is not a me-too product.”

Courtin lauded the way Gucci Group was handling the transition from Roos to Barbier.

“I think it is a nice way to give someone else the management of YSL Beauté, but Gucci Group will still be able to have access to Chantal Roos’ brain,” he said.

In New York, Marc Rey, who was named ceo and managing director of YSL Beauté in the U.S. on March 15, announced his first personnel changes. Marni Sherman, formerly director of sales administration, has been named vice president of customer and sales support, a new position in the U.S. Chuck Roundtree, formerly at Beauté Prestige Inter­national and Hermès, has been named area vice president, central region. Both Sherman and Roundtree will report to Rey.