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NEW YORK — Beauty brands’ involvement with fashion runway shows is increasingly looking like all-out marketing campaigns.

Where backstage involvement was once purely an act of providing a service, these days it is often an exercise in self-promotion, both internally and externally. Several companies — including Aveda, MAC, Shiseido and Bobbi Brown — filmed videos backstage this season, planning to use the footage to inspire their employees, and in some cases, to run at counters to trumpet the fact to consumers that they’re runway-savvy. A few companies, including Aveda, Bourjois and Shiseido, are creating links on their consumer Web sites to show up-to-the-minute runway looks, along with explanations of how to create them.

All this backstage action has a big payoff, say executives: It gives their brands extra credibility to both consumers and internal team members.

“MAC is a supporter of the freelance makeup artist community — it’s why we exist and is at the core of our DNA,” said John Demsey, president of MAC. The brand, founded 20 years ago as a line for professional makeup artists, has for nearly as long been the dominant cosmetics force behind ready-to-wear shows both in the U.S. and abroad. Last season, MAC made that pairing official when it became the official makeup sponsor of Olympus Fashion Week in New York.

This season, MAC took on two new show-related projects: creating a media lounge at the tents, and formulating what it calls the Satellite Media Tour. The latter project involved filming backstage artists in the brand’s lounge at the tents, explaining fall 2004 looks and which products can help consumers achieve them. “The looks were created last season, but consumers can buy them now,” said Demsey, noting that the footage was distributed to 20 U.S. markets, with voice-overs for each market explaining where consumers can purchase the products.

Like several other companies, MAC uses backstage footage each season to create a training video for its employees. “Our staff views participation backstage as the ultimate aspirational experience, and it is internal motivation for our employees,” Demsey added.

Daniel Annese, vice president of marketing, North America, for Estée Lauder, said the brand’s national makeup artist, Paul Starr, and his team did the cosmetics at Sass & Bide and Halston this season. “Paul and his team pass the knowledge that they glean backstage to beauty advisers and consumers at their personal appearances. In turn, beauty advisers continue to pass that advice on to consumers at counter long after the appearance is over. It gives clients a valuable perspective on colors and application, and Lauder gets the insider credibility associated with the runway scene and creates great buzz in-store.”

This story first appeared in the September 17, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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Chris Salgardo, general manager of Shu Uemura, concurred, saying, “Working with the designers and top makeup artists continues to lend to our credibility — and the consumer is expecting that, especially when she’s boutique shopping. Our artists work with the shows, then take that knowledge to the counter, where they can start a dialogue with consumers — noting which show they saw the look at, and why the trend is directional.” As well, Salgardo added, this backstage information is used extensively by the brand’s educational department to teach both fledgling and established makeup artists.

Shu Uemura was involved with 17 shows in New York this season, including Tracy Reese, Custo Barcelona and Rebecca Taylor, said Salgardo, adding that the brand also worked with top editorial talent, including Polly Osmond and Charlotte Tilbury, at shows it sponsored.

Shu Uemura’s sister hair care brands, Redken, Kérastase, Artec, Matrix and L’Oréal Professionel — all, like Uemura, owned by worldwide beauty giant L’Oréal — were also extensively involved in this season’s ready-to-wear shows in New York. Redken had the largest role, for the third year acting as fashion week’s official hair care sponsor as well as doing the hair at 17 shows.

“[At our booth at the tents] we’re there interacting with [stylists] and marketing to stylists,” said Pat Parenty, senior vice president and general manager of Redken, adding that the brand sampled extensively in the tents, distributing some 35,000 full-size units from its new Redken for Men line. Sister brand Matrix took the week as an opportunity to highlight its advertorials in Us Weekly, featuring a Matrix stylist preparing Hilary Duff for the MTV Video Music Awards.

Maureen Case, president of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics Worldwide, said her brand uses the runway footage it shoots at Bobbi Brown’s shows and produces a consumer piece for on-counter use. The three-minute piece, with a voice-over from Brown, helps to show consumers the latest trends and reminds them that its founder is tied into that world, said Case. As well, Brown is filmed extensively at the shows for in-house use, including education and at sales meetings.

Case said that brands need to look at what they are investing in the shows, and evaluate what the benefits are. In her brand’s case, the association makes sense — but “there has to be a consumer residual,” she said. “We don’t spend a lot on advertising and [the shows are] part of making consumers aware of the latest developments at Bobbi Brown.”

It’s a commitment that Chris Molinari, Aveda’s vice president of global communications, was prepared to make this season, noting that the brand’s executives felt that it was key to “enroll the Aveda network in the shows.”

Aveda strongly ramped up its fashion week involvement this season, sponsoring 27 shows in New York. To leverage that experience, Molinari noted that Aveda is creating a comprehensive collateral piece referencing the shows and resultant trends for the salons in its network. As well, backstage footage shot at the shows the brand sponsored will be edited into a piece to be shown at Aveda’s national sales meeting and in the brand’s educational programs.

Like many others, Aveda partnered with top editorial hairstylists at the shows, an investment that Molinari considers money well spent. “Our [backstage] team members — who represent 35 salons, 15 states and five different countries — learn so much from these top artists, and in turn that benefits the work they do in their salons.”

This season, Aveda also sponsored a breakfast for photographer Patrick McMullan’s new book, “In Tents,” and will distribute some 2,000-plus copies its network of salons. This week, the brand also installed on its Web site a real-time link to McMullan’s backstage shots. “Ultimately, our goal is to connect the reader to what’s fashionable, which is why being involved with the shows works for us on so many levels,” Molinari added.

While there are plenty of beauty brands that proudly tout their involvement in the shows, not everyone’s thrilled about what beauty’s encroachment on fashion’s territory has wrought.

Michael Gordon, founder and still partial owner of Bumble and bumble (the Estée Lauder Cos. is the brand’s majority owner), said that in the early Nineties his brand began its involvement with fashion week with then-fledgling hairstylist Orlando Pita.

“I remember going with Orlando to Paris and videotaping Chanel, Gaultier and Martine Sitbon, shows he was doing that season,” said Gordon. “I brought the film back and we used it for internal training, and that was inspiring. Back in those days, there was no buying — or ‘sponsoring’ — of shows. These days, the shows have turned into an extension of advertising. It’s become, for me, increasingly distasteful to see that shows are being taken over by whoever has the money.

“I don’t fault the companies for being smart, but if it’s about the cash and not the talent, it takes away from the credibility of doing the shows in the first place. I feel that this is particularly a problem for hair companies. It seems that these days the show organizers expect the hairstylists to work for free. I won’t ask my people to do that because I don’t want to contribute to the cheapening of the craft.”

But for Claudia Poccia, general manager of Stila Cosmetics, the shows are “a tool to teach all of our makeup artists.” The brand’s founder, Jeanine Lobell, is every season the key makeup artist for a number of runway shows — this season at Nicole Miller, Lilly Pulitzer and Nanette Lepore, among others. Lobell’s involvement with the shows and her experience as a celebrity makeup artist also are built into the DNA of the brand, said Poccia, who noted that those experiences spawn several new products each season.

Shiseido Cosmetics (America) Ltd. had a video crew following and taping Tom Pecheux backstage. Pecheux, creator of Shiseido The Makeup, did the makeup at three Shiseido-sponsored shows: Proenza Schouler, Derek Lam and Doo.Ri. With the footage it gleaned backstage, Shiseido plans to create three videos — a training film intended for use by the company’s training team and beauty counter consultants; a cut that Shiseido plans to play on counter in its U.S. retail doors, and a public relations reel. The brand also plans to put still shots of Pecheux on its U.S. informational content Web site, sca.shiseido.com, along with step-by-step instructions for the looks he created at the Shiseido-sponsored shows.

In total, Shiseido had sponsorship involvement in 11 shows this season. In addition to Pecheux’s cosmetics efforts, stylists for the Japanese cosmetics giant’s Joico brand, headlined by Damien Carney, did hair at several other shows, including Alexandre Herchcovitch and Nico & Adrian.

Charles Worthington’s hair products division, acquired by PZ Cussons in July, is out to prove it remains committed to fashion week. At Matthew Williamson’s show on Sept. 10, the hair care brand showcased newly revamped packaging for its Results collection, which will debut in the U.K. this month and in the U.S. in January.

Sometimes, the sell is subliminal — for example, the hand massage station that upscale skin care brand Darphin set up backstage at Zac Posen, or the new colors from her eponymous nail line that celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippman tested at shows like Donna Karan. Jamal Hammadi, hairstylist for his own line, Hamadi Beauty, used his new brand for the first time professionally as he styled the hair at Nanette Lepore.

And while the runways have long been prestige beauty’s game, these days top mass brands are also getting in on the show action. As reported, Procter & Gamble Cosmetics got the fashion world’s attention — not to mention the press’ — by announcing a partnership with noted makeup artist Pat McGrath late last week, right in the middle of New York Fashion Week.

Marc Pritchard, president of P&G global cosmetics and hair colorants, announced McGrath’s appointment to the newly created position of P&G global cosmetics creative design director. McGrath, who was the lead makeup artist this season at Anna Sui, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein, said she planned on using selected Cover Girl and Max Factor products to create runway looks, effectively catapulting these P&G cosmetic brands into high fashion.

Going forward, “we will work with Pat to create products for our consumers that translate trends from runway to ‘real-way,’” said Pritchard.

Since relaunching its U.S. presence in 1999, French cosmetics company Bourjois has tried a few different approaches to fashion week. “In the beginning, we did between five and 10 shows in New York, because we wanted to introduce the brand here, and give it a buzz,” said Claire Laurin, president of Bourjois USA. “But now we’re working exclusively with Betsey Johnson — both brands are very whimsical, colorful, very joie de vivre.”

— With contributions from Jackie Cooperman and Matthew W. Evans