By  on March 23, 2007

The strong, structured silhouettes marching down the runway this season have opened the door to a lipstick revival.

After all, a dramatic, highly pigmented pout perfectly suits the industry's recent turn toward polished femininity.

This spring, beauty counters are teeming with recent lipstick launches from Chanel, Lancôme, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and Poppy King's Lipstick Queen collection, to name a few. Others, such as BeneFit and Bare Escentuals, have significant introductions planned for later this year.

Women will always hang on to their lip gloss, declared beauty marketers, but new ingredients and clever twists on packaging designs make lipstick modern again.

Nina White, deputy general manager and senior vice president of marketing for Lancôme, credits the upswing to fashion, music and, of course, Hollywood. "Just look at the Academy Awards, where you're really seeing celebrities embrace lipstick again," she said. "When Michelle Williams wore that yellow dress with bright red lipstick last year, it was such a daring fashion and beauty statement. It announced to everyone the importance of color."

A renewed focus on lipstick seems to have come at the expense of lip gloss, which, since 2001, saw sales accelerate handsomely as it evolved from a teenybopper staple into a more sophisticated formula for women. The entrance of lip plumpers, which fall under the lip gloss umbrella, further sped up sales.

But recently, lip gloss seems to have lost its some of its sheen. The lip category remains challenged, said Karen Grant, senior industry analyst for NPD. Last year, lip gloss sales declined for the first time in 10 years, decreasing 7 percent to $197 million. Lip gloss saw a steeper decline than lipstick, which dipped 2 percent to $273 million, according to NPD.

Competition in the space is abundant. NPD estimates that since 2003 there has been a new lip shade added to the market every day.

Grant said lipstick's continued decline, albeit smaller, is partly a result of manufacturers steering away from the category. She noted that last year, lip products accounted for 21 percent of sales generated by new makeup launches, compared with 34 percent in 2004."The timing is right for manufacturers to start enticing consumers back to lipsticks," said Grant.

A host of beauty firms already have heeded the call. Bare Escentuals, known for its preservative-free mineral face makeup, has a 100 percent natural lipstick line slated for fall, an effort intended to move the beauty firm deeper into color cosmetics.

Lip products currently account for 3 percent of Bare Escentuals' mix, with face makeup accounting for 78 percent; eyes, 8 percent, and skin care, 7 percent. New product categories, including the night treatment RareMinerals, make up the balance.

The 10-shade collection of preservative-free, mineral lipsticks will replace Bare Escentuals' current range of 40 shades. The company plans to build the new collection to 40 shades over the next three to four years, said Sarina Godin, senior director of product development for Bare Escentuals, adding that the top 10 shades in the current collection drive roughly 80 percent of the company's lip sales. She noted the company has found that, given its mature clientele, lipstick sells better than lip gloss at Bare Escentuals boutiques.

The company began working on the all-natural lipstick formula more than a year ago after realizing its current range, as Godin put it, "didn't tell the same story" as the rest of the line's preservative-free makeup. The formula uses natural waxes and oils, including jojoba and coconut oil, along with plant and fruit extracts. It also contains a Brazilian butter called cupuaca for hydration and a creamy texture, and Tahitian oil for moisturizing. The result, said Godin, is a "very creamy, hydrating texture that wraps the lips in color." She said Bare Escentuals plans to choose a name for the product in the next few weeks.

New ingredients, allowing for a more glossy and shiny finish, put a contemporary spin on lipstick, said Jeanine Recckio, a self-defined beauty and lifestyle futurologist. But in this case, the outside counts, too. A number of beauty companies have recently tinkered with the packaging and the delivery system to get noticed.

"I believe the revival is driven by an amazing packaging concept and, in Chanel's case, the brilliant idea to actually brand the [lipstick] bullet with the iconic Chanel logo," said Claudia Lucas, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of beauty for Henri Bendel. "Formula and an updated shade selection are important. But interesting and luxe packaging is what draws the customer in and makes lipstick feel modern again."Referring to Chanel's latest lipstick introduction, Elizabeth Mankin, senior vice president of beauty marketing and training for Chanel, said: "Even the packaging can be surprising. The click of Rouge Allure by Chanel turns lipstick packaging into an object of design."

Chanel's contemporaries, including Yves Saint Laurent and Givenchy, all have elevated lipstick to an accessory, and at the very least, a conversation piece.

This month, Yves Saint Laurent introduced Lip Twins. The lipstick's twisting gold cylinder houses two lip shades (one with a satin texture and the other with a shiny finish). A tug on its monogrammed top reveals a small lip brush. Marc Rey, newly installed chief executive officer and managing director of YSL Beauté USA, said Lip Twins' two shades allow women to customize their look. "Color is part of YSL's brand history," he noted, adding the three keys to innovate the category are color, texture and delivery mode. Lip Twins' daring delivery system marks YSL's direction for the future, Rey said.

Givenchy Rouge Interdit, which was introduced earlier this month at select Saks Fifth Avenue and Sephora stores, has a delicate, black ribbon pull at the top. "It was designed to be a couture accessory," said Linda Maiocco, vice president of marketing in the U.S. for Guerlain and Parfums Givenchy. She added the formula relies on liquid crystals, which are also used in flat-screen televisions, to impart color without overly saturated pigment. She noted that a line extension is planned for next year.

Maiocco expects women will gravitate toward both lip gloss and lipstick, but noted that lipstick has made a strong resurgence on fashion runways. She commented, "Lipstick is tied to fashion, and the polished, womanly look coming from the runway."

Gucci Westman Neville, artistic director for Lancôme International, is responsible for several of those bold runway pouts, including the deep red hue at Peter Som; the "just bitten" look at Rag & Bone, and a red, glossy mouth at Proenza Schouler.

"The mouth is a very sensual, expressive part of the woman," said Neville, adding that lipstick appeals to women because it can instantly change their look. "It's like getting your hair dyed."Lancôme is touting the beauty staple at the beauty counter, as well. It has introduced three new lipstick collections over the past 12 months, including Color Design Sensation Effects Lip Color; Pout-à-Porter, the limited edition series of colors created for the runway by Neville (the deep red she created for Peter Som will arrive in department stores in the fall), and Le Rouge Absolu Désir, an extension of its best-selling Le Rouge Absolu range, said White of Lancôme. This month, Lancôme introduced Color Fever in specialty stores, a formula that relies on a technology called Liquid Prism designed to enhance shine and glossiness

"Even though the lipstick category has been soft, it never actually went away. It's a huge business," said White. "I think we saw a natural ebb and flow of business cycles and fashion. At Lancôme, we've not only been anticipating the swing in lipstick growth, we planned to be a key driver in it."

Fashion trends underpin the color movement, but others say geopolitics also could have a hand in heralding lipstick's return.

"The world and our current situation are pretty threatening at the moment," said Australian lipstick aficionado Poppy King. "There's a lot of darkness, fear and concern in the world and the microaction of putting on lipstick can make one feel strong."

After all, it was in the early days after the 9/11 attacks that Leonard Lauder, chairman of the Estée Lauder Cos., coined the phrase "lipstick index." At the time, he said the beauty firm used lip color sales as a barometer to gage consumer spending moods. Lauder said, "When things get tough, women buy lipstick."

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