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Giorgio Armani’s Beauty Business Turns 15

Véronique Gautier and Linda Cantello reflect on the brand's evolution.

MILAN — What a difference 15 years makes. When Giorgio Armani launched his beauty business with licensee L’Oréal in 2000, there was talk of Y2K bugs, and YouTube didn’t exist — let alone YouTube cosmetics tutorials, which have since proliferated.

Over the past decade-and-a-half, Armani has built a makeup and skin-care empire, but consumers have evolved, too, said Véronique Gautier, worldwide president of Giorgio Armani Parfums & Beauté. The beauty anniversary comes on the heels of the 40th birthday for Armani’s fashion house.

Although Armani’s categorical preference for nude tones and deep reds may not have yet been trendy some years ago, eclipsed by splashier, sexier colors, Gautier believes that today, many women are eager for a subtler makeup routine.

“I think one of the main [consumer] evolutions is to go toward more naturalness – a more performing product. But we don’t see the makeup, we see the woman,” she emphasized, adding: “Mr. Armani fundamentally is modern.”

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Linda Cantello, who has been Armani’s international makeup artist since 2009, works with the designer season after season to create a cosmetics connection between his runway creations and beauty products. She, too, has seen a shift in consumers’ understanding of how individual products work and in their level of interest in the technology behind cosmetics.

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“I think that [consumers] are much more difficult to fool, because before, many people made marketing claims that didn’t exist, that couldn’t possibly work,” she said, noting the explosion of Web tutorials — including those by Kim Kardashian — has made shoppers savvier.

It has also introduced them to concepts such as contouring, which had previously been limited to the world of professional makeup artists and which “in bad hands can look really bad,” Cantello said.

“To me, [Kardashian] has put women back 20 years. I think women think with contouring they can restructure they face, but it’s not plastic surgery,” she added.

As Armani and L’Oréal size up the future, the companies sense a swelling interest in professional tools — such as sponges or quality brushes — and are investing heavily in the development of that category. For instance, there’s a new line of 12 handmade brushes, called Maestro Brushes, designed by a Japanese calligraphy firm.

Products such as the Luminous Silk Compact, which Cantello described as a “translucent mattifier,” and the Ecstasy Lacquer, a highly-saturated, long-lasting gloss that can be layered for greater shine and will make its debut in October, are also among Armani’s latest beauty innovations.

Over the years, there has been a notable shift in the most dynamic markets for cosmetics, according to Gautier.

“Asia was always [important], but now it’s really the new frontier,” she said, adding that whereas Japan was a dominant force in the early 2000s, South Korea had since taken center stage.

“The other big trend since 15 years ago is the travel-retail segment,” she added. “We are very strong in travel retail, but it is growing very fast. It’s really the retail of tomorrow.”