Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, global brand president of Aramis and Designer Fragrances, BeautyBank and IdeaBank at the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., tackled the topic of finding beauty at the core of transformation and driving change during a talk given Nov. 1 at TEDxTimes Square.
“Each morning in the fields of France, Turkey, India and more, flowers are picked by hand at dawn and transported in less than one hour to extraction houses to secure the purity of their scent — to protect beauty — so that miles away we can open a bottle of perfume and experience a second of pleasure,” said Gabai-Pinsky. “My passion and my work is in fragrance — I create brands, develop them and manage their business on a worldwide basis. It is an intense activity, very far away from the fields of flowers where it all begins. There is no real recipe for success, no formula. Everyone deeply involved in the business will tell you it is comparable to the movie industry, where you invest enormous funds before launch and you know after a week if you have a success or a failure. This model generates great uncertainty.”
Gabai-Pinsky noted that new fragrance launches top 1,100 globally each year. “That is more than three every business day on a global basis,” she said. “And of course, with such proliferation, life cycles tend to shorten. It is a business in constant evolution. It started in France with expert [perfumer] brands. Then other countries started to play, like the USA. [Those] brands were challenged by beauty brands, which were challenged by designer brands, then designer brands were challenged by celebrities. So what is next? From a geographic standpoint, the next wave of global players might come from Brazil or the Middle East — we might see a change toward lower retail proposition. So the question is, in a world in constant change, and in a category where you have to deal with uncertainty, what is the paradigm?
“When uncertainty surrounds you, you must be ready to evolve your behavior to stay current, but you must be certain about one thing: who you are,” said Gabai-Pinsky. “It is true for individuals, it is true of brands. Staying true to the brand’s DNA does not mean nothing changes. We must evolve the vocabulary of the brand to stay relevant with time, and we must evolve the tools of communication to stay connected — but the core itself stays the same. Everyone is influenced by the notion of instant gratification, but what is the value of new if it does not last?” Gabai-Pinsky acknowledged the need for newness, but noted that new isn’t the point —good is.
Nor does she believe brands must have celebrity faces. “I do not necessarily rush to use celebrities or VIPs to tell the message of my brands — I care about the message itself,” she said. “The message has to touch you emotionally, personally, intimately. And to do this, somehow, I had to take a pause, and accept to move away from the marketing rules we all learned about; because to touch people deeply you have to give a chance to craft, culture and creativity.”
Craft is wanting to do it better every time and committing to quality no matter how much it costs, she said, while culture is what anchors a brand in a value system and gives a reason for being. And creativity is “shaping the dream our consumer did not know he or she had…it is the best-cut boyfriend white T-shirt or the most enveloping perfume. [In beauty] we are not in the business of answering needs, we are in the business of creating wants.”
Being bold is also essential, she believes. “To create want, one must know what one is, say it loud and without apology and unleash around core identity, sheer creativity, inspired by culture and legitimated by craft,” said Gabai-Pinsky. “Every time I was successful, it is because I followed these principles. Every time I was not, somehow, one piece was missing. It is not just about consumer insights, it is also about free-flowing creativity. It is not just about reaching a target, it is also about touching people one by one. It is not just about marketing strategies, it is also about telling genuine stories across many different tools, including media, digital, social and point of sale. And storytelling is not just about generating content. It is about expressing the core of our identity in a way that invites people in, helps people connect and maybe enlighten their own personal journey. By opening up in a sincere way, you might offer others a way to learn about themselves.”
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“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