WWD Beauty CEO Summit

PALM BEACH, Fla. — These were the days of inspiration.

The recent WWD Beauty CEO Summit, held in the elegant halls of The Breakers here, came to close on May 9 in much the same way it had opened two days before: with a historic and compelling call for change.

Megaentrepreneur Lynn Tilton gave an inspiring final speech, complete with a poem that she recited. But her driving theme — innovate or else — was hard as steel: “We no longer live in a world of survival of the fittest,” she warned. “It’s really survival of the adaptist. If you hold on tight, you will die.”

That sense of urgency was sounded with the opening night speech on May 7 by Frédéric Rozé, president and chief executive officer of L’Oréal USA and executive vice president of the Americas Zone of the French parent. He quickly established the theme of the meeting, “Metamorphosis,” by declaring, “At the end of the day, our success comes from our capacity to transform ourselves, to metamorphose ourselves.”

The comment encapsulated the sense of the meeting, which differed sharply from past meetings. Not since the first summit in 1997, has there been so many young indie brands at the podium, reflecting an upsurge in upstarts. Power leaders like L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Estée Lauder shared the stage with thriving and aspiring young independents like Dollar Shave Club, Ardency Inn, Le Labo, Madison Reed, Drybar and Ciaté London, a face-off that mirrored the dynamic polarity that has been pulsing in the market.

It was the boomers and the Millennials comingling their energies on the stage of one of America’s most historic hotels. The indie brands provide the ideas and the fire, while the  power leaders form the breadth and depth of the industry, providing the upstarts with a platform for innovation. The two schools of thought were hinged together by a speech given by Coty ceo Michele Scannavini, who explained how the four P’s of the post-war generation are being replaced by the four C’s — convenience, content, community and curating environment — favored by Millennial shoppers. Suddenly, a baton was passed. This is the final installment of speeches from the summit. —Pete Born

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