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Carolina Herrera New York Makeup’s Colorful Launch

Carolina Herrera New York, which introduced makeup as the coronavirus pandemic hit, has many learnings to share.

 PARIS — Launching a makeup line just as the coronavirus pandemic hit could have been a recipe for disaster, but Carolina Herrera New York successfully turned it into an opportunity.

The brand introduced the range in mid-March 2020, right before the world shut down. Ana Trias Arraut, chief brand officer of Carolina Herrera, Dries Van Noten and Nina Ricci at parent company Puig, didn’t even have the chance to visit Harrods in the U.K., which had launched the collection of lipsticks and compacts coming in colorful, customizable packaging so sculptural they could double as jewelry.

Carolina Herrera New York Makeup was created to echo the elegance of the brand’s namesake designer as well as the color-intensive approach of the house’s current creative director, Wes Gordon.

“You’ll always find the Herrera woman on a cloudy day standing out in a bright pink coat, when everyone else is in black,” Gordon said in a WWD interview in February 2020. “I wanted to translate that exuberance of our collections into makeup. The idea that a dress or an outfit can lift your mood and bring you happiness is a simple yet powerful concept, and I feel that makeup should be the same.”

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Makeup that is wearable and customizable packaging-wise was at the core from the outset.

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Carolina Herrera New York Makeup
Carolina Herrera New York Makeup Courtesy of Puig

“Because fashion was the starting point, we started to imagine the line as a collection of ready-to-wear pieces, rather than traditional keep-it-in-your-vanity or hidden-inside-your-purse makeup,” Gordon explained. “Mrs. Herrera is a big fan of vintage jewelry and has the most amazing collection, so that in part sparked the idea of mimicking precious objects for the design. We wanted each product to double up as something eye-catching that you could wear and have a conversation piece at the same time.”

The color-cosmetics project was a few years in the making and a brain meld between Gordon and Herrera’s daughter Carolina A. Herrera, who serves as creative director of Carolina Herrera.

“Carolina A. and I both felt that it was really important to blur the line between makeup and rtw by creating pieces that almost could be mistaken for jewelry,” Gordon continued.

The makeup line was launched on Harrods’ e-commerce site on March 15, 2020, followed by the debut at the retailer’s brick-and-mortar location.

Herrera executives rose to the challenge of ensuing shutdowns with a pivot to digital.

“This allowed us to have a really strong emotional bond with our consumers,” said Trias Arraut. “We started interacting with our audience in a very different way, trying to show them what this line is all about — celebrating color, joy, freedom, a sense of humor and self-expression.

Carolina Herrera New York Makeup
Carolina Herrera New York Makeup Courtesy Photo

“The digital world allowed us to express that a lot,” she continued. “It was an energy-booster, even for the team. Good results were coming from somewhere.”

Online trading also allowed for interesting learnings, not least from the makeup brand’s own e-tail, which went live on in August 2020.

“Particularly in the case of makeup, we’re learning a lot having direct contact with the consumer,” said Trias Arraut.

The idea, she explained, is to go beyond just selling, making the experience be about how consumers connect with and get to know the brand, mixing fashion, fragrance and beauty, too.

Once lockdowns started to lift, the makeup line was introduced, as planned pre-pandemic, in Spain; some countries in Latin America, such as Mexico and Brazil, and the color cosmetics’ geographic footprint was extended in the Middle East.

“I remember the very first visit to Madrid with the team finally to see the makeup products in a door. It was super emotional,” said Trias Arraut.

Even after brick-and-mortar doors have opened, there’s been no slowdown in Herrera makeup sales online, which now generate about half of its overall color cosmetics business.

“The digital part is a phenomenal success,” Trias Arrault said, adding that reflects the trend of the makeup category in general.

A Carolina Herrera New York Makeup tassel.
A Carolina Herrera New York Makeup tassel. Courtesy Photo

In the physical doors where Carolina Herrera makeup is present, color cosmetics represent 30 percent to 40 percent of the brand’s overall sales.

“It is really good, plus it’s been a booster for our fragrances,” said Trias Arraut.

The makeup’s revenues have exceeded plan so far, and some products have gone out of stock. (A good problem.)

“We’re taking it one step at a time — and it’s fun. It’s bringing a lot of the brand values and allowing us to express other angles of the brand. It resonates very well with the time we’re living,” she said of the Herrera label.

The brand dipped into makeup with a tight range.

“We know it’s a very competitive market, and we want to bring something that stands out, that is a plus for the consumer,” said Trias Arraut. “But little by little we’re going to extend it to new geographies, for sure.”

She sees “amazing” prospects for color cosmetics in markets such as the U.K., which is not historically core to Carolina Herrera.

“Makeup allows us to get opportunities,” said Trias Arraut.

A key is watching where consumers purchase. “The consumer today is buying a little bit everywhere, and we need to be where they expect us,” she said.

So far the overarching strategy works well, and Herrera makeup ranks among the top six to 10 color cosmetics brands in the doors where it’s been launched.

The brand will gradually introduce more products, as it has already done in the lipstick range. Up next are two new makeup categories, although Trias Arraut remained mum on further details.

For more, see:

Puig Secures 200 Million Euro Sustainability-linked Loan

Puig Shakes Up Business Structure, Aims for 3 Billion Euros in 2023 Sales

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