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Editor’s Letter: The Transformers

Laurent Attal shared his strategic vision for how L’Oréal is evolving its approach to science and innovation.

As I was making my way through Interwoven Globe, a fascinating exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that covers the worldwide textile trade from 1500 to 1800, I was immediately reminded of this issue’s cover subject, Laurent Attal, the executive vice president of research and innovation at L’Oréal. The show is a beautiful examination, through richly embroidered and decorated fabrics, of the cross-pollination of ideas between Europe, Asia and the Americas, demonstrating how themes, motifs, materials and ideas travel beyond borders. It is a concept with which Attal is intimately familiar. His domain is vast—L’Oréal has research facilities all over the world—and since being appointed to his post in 2010 by chief executive officer Jean-Paul Agon, Attal has expertly interwoven and transferred ideas, innovations and breakthroughs from one area of the globe to another. He recently invited WWD’s executive editor of beauty, Pete Born, to spend two days with him touring L’Oréal’s facilities located just outside of Paris. In addition to this rare glimpse inside the company’s state-of-the-art laboratories, Attal shared his strategic vision for how L’Oréal is evolving its approach to science and innovation. As Born writes in “Doctor of the Universe,” “Clearly, the ‘hope in a jar’ school of marketing hype of decades past is dead; the future will be fought in the lab.”

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This issue, WWD Beauty Inc’s third-annual Science Issue, explores that idea in depth. In “The Innovation Exchange,” I asked leaders from five different sectors of the industry—marketing, research, supply, retail and editorial—how they see the skin-care sector evolving in an era that is absolutely transformational for the category. Meanwhile, in “The Unstoppable Entrepreneur,” Gail Federici analyzes the myriad factors that have led to her incredible—and continuing—success in hair care.

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Of course, the digital revolution continues to exert a profound influence on beauty. Most recently, we are seeing a new class of influencers emerge on YouTube, personalities who are quickly becoming the voice of beauty authority for Millennials. In “Screen Grab,” our West Coast–based beauty editor, Rachel Brown, presents a compelling overview of the YouTube ecosystem, including a comprehensive list of the channel’s rising stars in four key global markets. Many have fan bases that number in the millions, and while some of the names may be new to mainstream marketers, no doubt Attal and his colleagues are tuned in to this—and all—of the changing dynamics of the beauty industry.