NEW YORK — Makeup artists are moving from the fringes of the cosmetics industry to the mainstream.
Traditionally relegated to making up models and setting color trends, many makeup artists have gone into manufacturing the cosmetics they made their living applying. In the process, the new entrepreneurs have altered the dynamics of the color cosmetics market.
The idea is not new. Max Factor parlayed his Hollywood dominance into a major company in the Thirties and Forties. But there have been so many makeup artists moving into the executive suite recently that the market has a new point of view.
In the last year or two, at least half a dozen makeup-artist lines, such as MAC, Bobbi Brown and Trish McEvoy, have become the fastest-growing segment of the otherwise flat $2.2 billion color cosmetics market.
“Professional makeup-artist lines are a major wave in the industry,” said Steve Bock, senior vice president and divisional merchandise manager of Saks Fifth Avenue. “They tap into a trend that the majority of the industry did not see coming.”
Industry sources estimated such lines have been showing at least 25 percent sales growth annually for the last few years and are expected to achieve a wholesale volume of at least $100 million next year.
Brown is a case in point. Just five years ago, Brown’s work was painting faces. She got a break in 1991, when Bergdorf Goodman agreed to stock her new line of 12 lipsticks.
Today, the Bobbi Brown Essentials line has around 100 items and is sold in 40 specialty doors. Industry sources project the company will have a wholesale volume of $20 million next year.
And while MAC and McEvoy continue to expand, other players such as Vincent Longo, Makeup Forever, Francois Nars and Carol Shaw are getting into the act.
In response, retailers are embracing the concept as a way to breathe life into a sleepy category.
Saks, for example, now sells the Brown line in six doors. According to Bock, Bobbi Brown is expected to rank among the top eight brands in Saks next year.
Makeup Forever, an 1,800-item professional line from Paris with a more theatrical bent, is distributed in Saks’ Las Vegas and Short Hills stores.
“This is becoming a sizable portion of the industry,” agreed John Stabenau, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of Neiman Marcus. “The customers are definitely responding to it.”
In addition to carrying Brown in all 27 doors, Neiman’s has recently added McEvoy to a Dallas door.
“Bobbi Brown has been doing exceedingly well for us,” Stabenau said. “One of the main reasons is Bobbi herself. She is known publicly as a makeup authority. She responds quickly to trends and to consumer demand. It is one of my top-selling brands.”
Stabenau added that so far Neiman’s has had similar results with the McEvoy line.
Retailers are bullish about the lines, even though the makeup artists eschew many mainstream marketing tactics. Few, if any of them, advertise nationally or use gift-with-purchase promotions. While many offer treatment products, the bulk of their businesses is generated by color cosmetics.
Rather than focusing on seasonal shade promotions to fuel their color businesses, these lines generally concentrate on a year-round palette of wearable colors that meet the needs of a broad range of skin tones and ages.
Service is another selling point. Instead of traditional beauty advisers, most of these companies employ professional makeup artists behind the counters who concentrate on teaching proper application techniques.
Professional lines provide consumers with a full line of professional-quality makeup brushes and applicators, something not typically found in standard brands.
“These lines are proof positive that a simple approach to color is very viable,” Bock said. “They are uncomplicated and aren’t dressed in major promotions. While promotional lines are often the bread and butter of our existence, an approach like this, that is very up-front, caters to a wide audience. We can all learn from these companies. It is a different way of doing business.”
“People today are interested in knowledge and learning how to [apply makeup]. These lines do a tremendous job of educating consumers on proper makeup application and shade selections,” agreed Howard Koch, divisional merchandise manager of Parisian, which has been selling Trish McEvoy in six of its 34 doors since September, and in August put MAC in one of its doors.
“Another hot selling point about these lines is that they are truly multiracial and transgenerational,” he added. “They don’t cater to one or two demographics. They have something for everyone.”
At stores like Henri Bendel and Barneys New York, makeup-artist lines are the core of the cosmetics department.
Each Bendel’s door has a mix of professional lines, including MAC, McEvoy and Brown. According to Ed Burstell, cosmetics and fragrance buyer at Bendel’s, the store will start selling Hollywood makeup artist Carol Shaw’s Lorac line early next year. One component of Lorac is a collection of nine lipsticks named for Shaw’s celebrity clients who wear them: Demi (Moore), Anjelica (Houston) and Geena (Davis), for example.
“This is a definite way of doing business in the Nineties,” Burstell said. “Consumers are so educated that they are no longer believing in one breakthrough after another. They have been bombarded for years and years with claims, and this has left the door wide open to an authority who can take a more realistic approach and who can truly give advice.
“Who better to create a makeup line than someone who does nothing but work with product and people?” he asked. The Barneys cosmetics floor stocks Makeup Forever and several other smaller professional lines from Asia and Europe. Last month it launched French makeup artist’s Francois Nars’s collection of 12 lipsticks.
“These lines are closer to what our consumer wants,” said Joyce Avalon, divisional merchandise manager at Barneys. “Our customer is looking for something unique. I think the problem with the color businesses of many traditional lines is that the companies get too far removed from what consumers are looking for.”
Jacobson’s and Nordstrom, who have a more traditional customer base than Barneys, are also jumping on the bandwagon.
Nordstrom carries McEvoy in 18 doors and has MAC in 48.
Jacobson’s has been selling the McEvoy line since March and now has it in seven of its nine doors.
“Trish has been a total success for us,” said Irene Price, cosmetics and fragrance buyer for Jacobson’s. “It was designed to transcend age, lifestyle and race, and makes makeup fun and simple. It is also reasonably priced. We see this as a long-term success and expect her to be in our top five selling brands in most of the stores where she is.”
Frank Toskan, founder and creative director of MAC cosmetics in Toronto, is credited with laying the groundwork for today’s trend nearly 10 years ago when he founded the company.
“MAC definitely opened the way,” Barneys’ Avalon said. “It was a good four years before it took hold, because back then I think consumers were more insecure and wanted to stick to a name that had more recognition. Now, because of MAC, people are much more comfortable about stepping out.”
Toskan expects MAC, which was once considered an obscure niche line, to hit $60 million at retail this year.
MAC is distributed in 78 department and specialty store doors including Nordstrom, Bendel’s, Marshall Fields, Parisian, Dillard’s and The Bay in Toronto. There are also 16 freestanding MAC stores in the U.S., Canada and England.
Toskan literally cooked up the first batch of MAC goods in his Toronto kitchen. A photographer and a makeup artist, Toskan was frustrated at the lack of professional makeup products available and decided to make his own.
Prices for the 800-item color line range from $8 for a small eye shadow to $22 for full-coverage foundation.
Brown — who continues to practice her craft for fashion shows, editorial and TV — has expanded her original lipstick line into a full range of color cosmetics. It is Bergdorf’s number-one selling line, according to the store. A five-item treatment line is due next spring. Unlike some of the new lines, which offer a massive choice of color, Brown established her line as an edited collection of shades and products to simplify the selection process. There are fewer than 100 color items.
“There is too much choice out there, and I think that most consumers find it very confusing,” Brown said. “I wanted to eliminate the colors that don’t apply to most people and have the ones that really work for a broad range of people.”
Prices for Brown’s color items range from $14 for a lip or eye pencil to $35 for a foundation.
McEvoy’s wholesale volume has been estimated by industry sources at $10 million for this year and is expected to more than double next year.
After years of selling her cosmetics line and makeup lessons at her Fifth Avenue office and a dozen small specialty boutiques and perfumeries, she landed three Henri Bendel doors last year.
This year, McEvoy products have expanded into a total distribution of 60 doors, including Bendel’s, Parisian, Jacobson’s, Nordstrom and Neiman’s.
According to McEvoy, the company plans to open another 50 doors next year with the same accounts, for a total of 110.
The line consists of more than 250 stockkeeping units of color cosmetics in mostly neutral hues and such specialty items as the Face Essentials Kit, a compact that contains a blush, eye shadow, highlighter and eyeliner for $35.
Prices for the line range from $14 for a lipstick to $40 for a compact of Cream Powder Foundation.
The latest newcomer is Vincent Longo, who launched his eponymous line in October in New York’s MCM Salon. The 100-item collection of makeup is also sold via an 800 number.
Longo, a professional makeup artist for more than 14 years who still works with celebrities and models, has centered the collection around custom-blended products, custom-created compacts and a choice of formulas. Eye shadows, for example, are available in four finishes: matte; frost; Perla, with its sheer, shimmery finish, and sheer.
Single domes cost $4.50. Custom-created duos are $15 and custom-created quads are $24. Prices for the rest of the line range from $9 for a liner pencil to $20 for one of 24 pre-made foundations. The company offers salon consumers a range of custom-blended foundations and powders for $25 each, and a compact of six custom-blended lipsticks for $90.
Based on initial sales in the salon and via the mail, Longo projects a first-year volume of about $1 million.
The company hopes to expand distribution to five to 10 specialty store doors in 1995, Longo said.
“I started the line because I felt that women needed customized foundations and powders, since they are the most difficult to buy. There are so many different skin tones and textures,” Longo said. “I also think that women have been looking for choice without too much complexity for a long time now. That is what I have attempted to give with this line.”
While the jury is still out on the impact these lines will have on major brands such as Estée Lauder, Clinique and Lancôme, many retailers feel their success is helping fuel the color cosmetics business.
“I think brands like these present serious competition for the major players on the one hand, but on the other hand, I think they are bringing a new customer in the store who might then buy things from other counters,” Price said, referring to nondepartment store shoppers.
“By and large, I think these lines are bringing in a new customer who probably did not shop all that frequently in our stores before,” agreed Saks’ Bock. “I think they might cannibalize established lines at first and then in turn help traditional lines by exposing them to a new customer.”