Alexandra Whitcombe, founder and chief executive officer of Vendome Beaute, is part of a growing number of industry entrepreneurs who are using websites to launch products while simultaneously pursuing distribution in specialty and department stores.
Whitcombe’s line of cosmetics, available coming this fall online at vendomebeautefrance.com, is informed by the former model’s background in botany. The rollout includes eye shadow, mascara and antiaging serum, among other products that are made from natural ingredients sourced from Europe.
A deep interest in art is at the heart of the company’s visual merchandising on its web site, which features elegant watercolors. Here, Whitcombe discusses her target customer, the importance of brand presentation online and the role of narratives.
WWD: As you launch your products online, what is the target demographic?
Alexandra Whitcombe: Our target demographic is for the chic, flirty and confident woman of today’s world. The Vendome girl is fresh and modern, with an easy sophistication to her style. We see the brand mostly appealing to women ages 25 to 45, but truly women of all ages will find Vendome Beaute to fit their beauty needs.
WWD: Consumers have made a significant shift and commitment to buying products online. What challenges do you see in rolling out products via e-commerce? And what are the opportunities?
A.W.: We believe online shopping will be an advantage to us as we launch the line. We will have impactful digital campaigns to support our rollout, which will help generate awareness for the Vendome Beaute brand as well as drive consumers to our e-commerce site.
As with any new company launch, the challenge is going up against established brands who have much larger marketing budgets. But we aren’t looking to compete against those brands; instead we wish to offer a brand with a point of difference that will appeal to a consumer wanting something new and fresh.
WWD: With online merchandising, would you agree that the brand presentation plays a critical role? Why? How would you describe your brand presentation online?
A.W.: Brand presentation has always been critical; this isn’t something new that was realized in the digital age. From in-store displays to Instagram pages, how a brand or product is presented visually is vital to its success. There have been plenty of fails in this area. If the product is great, but it doesn’t look good, the chance for success is lessened greatly.
I come from an artistic background, and the presentation of Vendome Beaute needed to be more than pretty and eye-catching. My goal was to have the presentation tell the Vendome Beaute story. For me, I wanted the lifestyle and essence of the Vendome girl to be communicated through the imagery. We have partnered with an artist to capture the heart of the brand. In addition to the artwork on the web site, we have created beautifully designed packaging that illustrates a day in the life of the Vendome girl.
WWD: Consumers are increasingly craving authenticity. And narratives play a role in this desire. Is this why you chose to include a deeper, richer “our story” on the site?
A.W.: The heritage of the brand was an important story to tell from a personal perspective. The Whitcombe family has always had a passion for beauty and the arts. As a family, we each infused our knowledge and artistic influences into Vendome Beaute. The brand was conceived from decades of inspiration and growing up entrenched in a world of artistic beauty.