NEW YORK — A roomful of magazine beauty editors, attending a new product presentation by Lancôme, were treated to a pleasant surprise after listening to talk of fragrance notes and sensuous bottle curvature.

The real news of the night was the debut of Lancôme’s new artistic director for the company’s makeup collections, Gucci Westman.

The 33-year-old Westman, clearly a favorite of many of the surprised editors in the room, is succeeding Fred Farrugia. As previously reported, Farrugia has resigned after seven years as Lancôme’s artistic director for makeup. Farrugia has created 13 seasonal color collections for Lancôme, originated important products like the breakthrough, hot Juicy Tubes and is generally credited with making the venerable Lancôme brand palatable toyounger customers.

Marc Dubrule, general manager of Lancôme International in Paris, underlined Farrugia’s many contributions to the brand, including his educational role in training makeup artists for the brand, as well as designing color stories, creating products and even functioning as artistic director for the makeup advertising.

But after seven years, it was time to call it quits. “Both for us at Lancôme and for Fred, it was time for us to go our separate ways,” said Dubrule, who described the decision as friendly and mutual. He added that Farrugia had talked about doing other projects. Spring-summer 2004 will be his last collection. The Lancôme in-house team will do the fall-winter story. Westman’s first effort will make its debut for spring-summer 2005.

Dubrule noted how Westman has a tightrelationship with Seventh Avenue — having done New York runway shows for Behnaz Sarafpour, Bill Blass, Tommy Hilfiger, Badgley Mischka, Carolina Herrera, Anne Klein and Richard Tyler — and a history with the bright lights of Hollywood. She continues to work with Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Julianne Moore, Drew Barrymore and Gwyneth Paltrow. Her advertising clients have included the Gap, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Revlon. And she has done a lot of magazine work with a host of celebrity photographers like Steven Meisel, Mario Testino, Bruce Weber, Peter Lindbergh and Carter Smith.

Dubrule said Westman will build on the foundation created by Farrugia. Rather than a change of director, he described the succession more like “a fresh start.”“She has a lot of sensibilities,” he noted. “We love her vision of women, full of respect, full of integrity. She has a special talent in foundation.”

Westman carries herself and talks like a hip, young Manhattanite. But she is half Swedish and spent the first 24 years of her life in Sweden in the west coast town of Varberg before leaving to spend a year in Paris, where she went to makeup school. There, she worked on Nina Ricci, then moved to L.A. and the movies. Her credits include “Being John Malkovich” and “Buffalo 66.” “I learned a lot about character development,” she said. She branched out into music videos, then moved to New York and the fashion scene.

Westman, who speaks French and feels an affinity for Europe, was drawn to the chicness and glamour of a French brand. She looks forward to putting together palettes, particularly with colors from nature, like ancient Japanese seaweed and Japanese salt. Westman also is looking forward to her training duties, in the hopes of instilling a method of putting woman at ease, through a method she calls “gentle manipulation.” The idea is to give women enough confidence to try something new.

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