Four entrepreneurial-minded spirits, each with his/her own specific niche in the beauty world, spoke together on a panel run by retailer Marla Malcolm Beck, founder and chief executive officer for Bluemercury Inc., about inspiration and what innovation means today. “Innovation is more important during a recession than any other time,” said Malcolm Beck. “[The consumer] wants a pick me up. She wants a ‘wow’ moment.” Below are some of each panel member’s discussion points:
This story first appeared in the May 15, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
• Poppy King, chief executive officer and founder of indie brand Lipstick Queen, talked about her love affair with lipstick and her personal philosophy on innovation in an economic downturn. “The important thing right now is to speak the truth and not give [the consumer] this idea we can do everything,” said King. “But what you can do is do one thing and one thing really well.” King said that throughout her nearly 20-year career in the lip category, she has always delivered products that excite the imagination, solve a problem and speak a truth. “It’s an ongoing dialogue with females more so than a cosmetic,” said King about her brand.
• Fabrice Penot, co-founder of Le Labo Fragrances and Candy Machine, spoke about his company’s point of difference in the saturated fragrance market. “What makes us really special is we have no stock,” said Penot about Le Labo, where specialized fragrances are freshly handmade to the order. “Le Labo is based on this idea that people are going to understand and connect with the fact that we are going to really care for the ingredients in the first place,” said Penot, who said the fresh ingredients are stored and refrigerated until the moment they are made into a scent, packaged in a personalized bottle. “It’s so special to give a perfume with a person’s name on it,” he said. Another point of difference for the Le Labo brand is that the key of its profitability comes in part from its straightforward business model. “We cut all the costs of a warehouse, the labor in factories, transportation, because everything is made on site,” said Penot, who said part of Le Labo’s innovation comes from the customer’s experience at Le Labo’s downtown New York City store. “We tell the story about the fact that [fragrance] is fragile,” said Penot. “We share a part of the backstage of perfume creation.”
• Lev Glazman, co-founder and director of research and development for hip beauty brand Fresh, used a personal story of fragrance discovery to explain how he came into the cosmetics industry. Glazman said living in Russia at the age of six, there were only two fragrances on the market and both were called Red Moscow. In a country where “everybody smelled the same,” Glazman recalled one particular morning, when he and his mother rode in a cab in their pajamas for a half hour to buy French fragrance (which cost about one month’s salary) on the black market. “There was this magic moment where her rollers fell off, the pajamas disappeared and we’re standing there. I was a prince, she was a queen,” Glazman said of his mother. Glazman admitted the power of scent drew him into the industry. “It starts with dreaming; it is a journey,” said Glazman. “To deliver the true experience from beginning to end, it always comes from that place of passion. There has to be a reason and an emotional connection to the product.”
• Also on the panel was Rob Robillard, chief executive officer of breakthrough hair company Living Proof, who discussed the new technology his science-driven company uncovered and how it has everything to do with the beauty world. “There are a lot of very simple beauty problems that have frankly not been solved very well by the industry,” said Robillard. “The best way to solve them is to create novel, new materials.” To that end, the company, founded by five MIT scientists, gained a research team comprising 16 full-time research and development scientists, whose goal was finding new solutions to age-old beauty problems. Living Proof’s first offering is No Frizz, a hair line sold at Sephora and on QVC that utilizes a new molecule, polyfluoroester, to combat frizz, rather than go-to antifrizz ingredient silicone. “The goal was that women wouldn’t notice a slight difference,” said Robillard. “[It was that] we would fundamentally solve all those issues….The goal is to change people’s lives.”