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The Edge of Reason

During times of economic uncertainty, marketers are usually content to play it safe.

During times of economic uncertainty, marketers are usually content to play it safe. This fall, though, there is a decided edge to beauty’s most compelling products and trends. Consider: No fewer than five of the biggest women’s fragrance launches—among them Estée Lauder’s Sensuous, Lancôme’s Magnifique and Calvin Klein’s Secret Obsession—are orientals. The safe choice would have been florals. Lipstick has replaced lip gloss for those at the vanguard of style with the color of choice being purple—not the classic red. The result is a season unlike others in recent memory, rich in newness and hopefully relevant enough to convince consumers to open their pocketbooks.

After sorting through literally thousands of products to produce this issue, I’d say marketers have reason to be optimistic. The best of the season’s offerings have a real raison d’être. As you’ll see in “Fall Beauty Guide,” our A to Z compendium of the most important products and trends, there’s a true diversity of offerings, each with a clear target market in mind.

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In skin care, especially, brands have done a superb job of reading the prevailing winds and responding accordingly. As the number of consumers visiting spas continues to drop, a slew of products are launching that fill the gap between daily maintenance and professional treatments. As you’ll see in “The Modern Age”, there are a host of treatment-oriented masks and superconcentrated products and serums to combat major skin issues. Even the season’s new crop of cleansers and daily moisturizers goes above and beyond quotidian duties.

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Drama permeated much of the hair and makeup on the fall ready-to-wear runways and we channel that spirit in “Deep Impact” on page 36. Who better than the striking flame-haired supermodel Karen Elson to represent the spirit of the season? Elson isn’t just a pretty—rather, beautiful—face, though. Married to rocker Jack White and a mother of two, she’s also unabashedly outspoken about the issues that matter to her, ranging from politics to the preponderance of prepubescent body types in fashion.

Surprisingly, the hair and makeup at the couture shows, held in Paris last July, were much more reserved. Usually a riot of color, texture and fantasy, as you’ll see in “Cool, Calm, Collected,” the looks this season were subdued, serene and chicly simple. Even Pat McGrath’s maquillage at Dior, which in the past has featured sequins, Day-Glo colors and feathers—all on the same face—was a relatively sedate arched brow with deep cherry red lips. The resulting dichotomy is the democratization of beauty trends, an array of looks that reflect what’s in vogue today but also allows women to find the vibe—and products—that are right for them. The days of consumers being dictated to by editorial and advertising images is over, giving way to a freedom to choose what statement they want to make. And as we head into the homestretch of the 2008 presidential campaign, isn’t a woman’s right to choose what it’s all about?