Introducing the Glossy+ Luxury Briefing, our newest member product uncovering the strategies driving the success of global luxury brands. For this week only you can save 50% on a three-month Glossy+ membership. Become a member here. To kick it off, we’re rolling out the State & Future of Luxury Report in five parts over five weeks. Each will focus on a luxury category across fashion and beauty, and will feature insights from a focus group of luxury marketers, founders, investors and analysts. In addition, we’ve worked with Saks to compile exclusive insights from its panel of luxury consumers. Week 3 focuses on beauty with insights from executives from L’Oréal Group, Puig and Off-White, among others. –Liz Flora, West Coast correspondent, Glossy
Makeup and skin care are becoming the new fragrance for fashion brands
Virtually every luxury fashion label has its own fragrance, but makeup and skin-care lines have long been restricted to a small handful of brands. That’s quickly changing.
Over the past four years, non-fragrance beauty categories have been introduced by a new contingent of fashion brands, ranging from historic luxury houses to avant-garde designers. Social media-friendly with prices accessible to younger shoppers, labels’ new product lines serve as attractive entry points for first-time customers.
Heritage fashion companies including Chanel, Dior, Burberry, Yves Saint Laurent, Armani and Givenchy have long offered makeup and/or skin-care lines. But the pace of new launches has picked up among their peers: Gucci added makeup in 2019, Hermès did so in 2020, and Valentino introduced makeup in 2021.
“Initially, the portfolio was very much focused on fragrance,” said Laura Azaria, L’Oréal Group’s U.S. gm for designer fragrances. Azaria oversees the licensed fragrances for Prada, Valentino, Mugler and Viktor&Rolf, as well as the new licensed Valentino Beauty makeup line. For Valentino, makeup was “an obvious category to go into” after fragrance, she said, noting that Valentino Beauty “embodies a lot of the brand’s DNA” with a focus on bold color.
Valentino followed in the footsteps of YSL Beauty and Armani Beauty with its L’Oréal Group licensing deal for its makeup. Although the licensing model has become commonplace for fragrance, some luxury brands, such as Hermès, are opting for the Chanel or Dior in-house model when it comes to their makeup. Brands have been known to change course, as Burberry shifted its makeup line from in-house to a licensing deal with Coty in 2017.
Aside from historic brands, luxury fashion labels of all ages have been entering new beauty categories: Carolina Herrera, Dries Van Noten and Off-White launched makeup and Stella McCartney introduced skin care in 2022. Victoria Beckham entered the makeup category in 2019, which was also the year Tom Ford expanded from makeup to skin care.
“There are fewer barriers to makeup today than there were in the past. The fact that makeup has become such a digital-driven category has broken some barriers,” said Ana Trias, chief brand officer of Carolina Herrera, Dries Van Noten and Nina Ricci at Puig. Since Puig-owned fashion brands produce their beauty in-house, she oversees both fashion and beauty for those with both.
For luxury brands, fragrance has traditionally been more common because it poses fewer logistical challenges in development, according to celebrity makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench, the beauty curator for Off-White. Off-White launched its “Paperwork” cosmetics collection in June 2022, selling four fragrances, six body crayons and six nail polishes.
“Fragrance is way easier because it takes less time to develop and it’s a matter of taste,” she said. “Makeup has to go through a lot more regulations, and there’s a whole process for color development and [testing] product performance. Competition is tough, so you need to deliver a great, different product if you want to keep up with the market.”
Some younger brands, like Dries Van Noten, have gone straight into makeup alongside fragrance.
“Many fashion brands have launched fragrances before color, but for Dries, color was a very natural way of expressing itself in fashion,” said Trias. The brand’s first beauty products to hit the market included both lipstick and fragrance in colorful packaging evocative of the designer’s fashion aesthetic. “Within the beauty project, color [cosmetics] came even more naturally than fragrances” for the brand, said Trias.
Makeup has visual marketing benefits when paired with a fashion brand. Looks at the brand’s runway shows can serve as a showcase for the products. Ffrench described makeup as “an amazing way to promote a brand as a whole ‘lifestyle’ concept, as opposed to just clothes or just cosmetics, both commercially and aesthetically. Fashion operates on a different scale of reliability, so the vision really feels complete when paired together with beauty.” Off-White’s makeup line was first teased at the brand’s fashion show last year before hitting the market.
Ffrench regularly meets with the fashion team for the creative concept of the makeup. “I wanted to explore an innovative approach to beauty both in the makeup itself and in product design. We’re pushing the limits and our packaging will look very unique,” she said.
Makeup is also joining fragrance as an accessibly priced, entry-level product category for young aspirational shoppers.
Trends such as the #cheapestthing hashtag on TikTok have shown Gen Z’s willingness to seek out the most “affordable” items from top luxury brands. Hermès lip oil, while clearly in the luxury category at $59, is more attainable than a Birkin or Kelly bag. The same goes for Gucci’s $45 lipstick compared to even its least expensive shoe options that sit in the $500 range.
The consumer demographic interested in makeup skews “younger” than fragrance with Dries Van Noten, said Trias. “[With makeup] we have been able to attract a younger consumer and, many times, a new consumer that didn’t know the brand.” As the lipstick is $40 (with a $38 case) compared to dresses ranging from $350-$3,050, “many young people come and discover the brand through the lipsticks” at the brand’s stores in Paris and Antwerp, she said. “Lipsticks have clearly been a category that has allowed us to go beyond the fashion consumer and attract a younger consumer and a Gen-Z consumer who maybe was not ready to come to the Dries shop.”
Makeup is also ideal for visual platforms like Instagram and TikTok, and brands are specifically targeting Gen Z. In March this year, Valentino Beauty introduced its “Very Vs” squad of Gen-Z influencers and celebrities, including Dixie D’Amelio, Tommy Dorfman, Alton Mason, Lori Harvey and Sofia Carson. The brand has also benefited from TikTok virality with its Twin Liner, which first took off on the platform in July 2022 and sold out at Sephora.
“TikTok is where it’s happening for makeup,” said Azaria. “It’s a very different lens, and it’s much more weighted on influence when it comes to makeup.”
Standalone stores are an important channel for fashion brands’ beauty labels to aid in product discovery, but e-commerce is crucial for scaling.
Off-White is currently “working on developing a very special environment in Off-White shops to host our makeup corner,” said Ffrench. “But we need a good balance between physical shops [used] to experience products and online retailers that sell worldwide to reach a global audience.”
According to NPD Group, prestige makeup sales grew by 18% in 2022, while fragrance grew by 11%. “Makeup has become even more profitable than before, due to social media. So it makes sense that fashion brands want to branch out. You buy more makeup than you buy perfumes,” said Ffrench.
The pace of new fashion brands’ beauty launches is likely set to continue, especially as global conglomerates diversify their luxury portfolios among fashion, fragrance and other beauty categories. In February this year, Kering appointed former ELC executive Raffaella Cornaggia as the CEO of its new beauty division Kering Beauté, while LVMH named Stéphane Rinderknech as chairman and CEO of its beauty division in March.
Beauty conglomerates are also moving more into fashion, as ELC acquired Tom Ford last year after licensing the name for the fashion label’s beauty brand that was launched in 2006. This follows in the footsteps of Puig, which has been expanding from its fragrance licensing business into fashion acquisitions and more subsequent beauty launches for its acquired brands. The company first signed a licensing deal with Carolina Herrera for fragrance in 1988, and then acquired the brand in 1995. It took a majority stake in Dries Van Noten in 2018.
Not all fashion brands’ efforts to dive into makeup are automatically successful, even when they have managed a thriving fragrance business. Marc Jacobs Beauty, which was operated by LVMH’s Kendo, has been unavailable since 2022, but its popular fragrances such as those in the cult Daisy franchise are still on the market.
As for which brands could be next with expansion into new categories, there’s been speculation about Prada since it launched a standalone Prada Beauty Instagram account in August last year. The account promotes its fragrances, and Azaria declined to comment on whether the brand will branch into new beauty categories.
When asked whether every fashion label should expand into beauty, experts say it should not be rushed when luxury brand equity is at stake. “They should do it if it makes sense,” said Trias. “There’s a conversation to have around credibility around what the designer can really bring.”
By the numbers: For online luxury shoppers, Instagram and free shipping are musts
Powered by Saks Consumer Insights
In April 2023, Glossy partnered with Saks to survey 3,944 luxury consumers on their current shopping habits. This week, we’re taking a look at the way they buy luxury online, including which social platforms they’re frequenting and what they expect from an e-commerce experience.
For the typical Saks luxury shopper, Meta platforms dominate their social media activity. Instagram is the top social platform of choice with 65% of respondents saying they use it at least once a week, while Facebook came next at 54%.
TikTok, meanwhile, has had less penetration among this consumer group with 18% saying they use it once a week. This was the same percentage as those using Pinterest, and a slightly lower portion than those on Twitter (20%). Out of the survey respondents, 77% were above the age of 41.
When it comes to their online shopping demands, free shipping is an absolute must for this group: Eighty-three percent said they are unlikely to buy from a retailer that does not offer it. The second most important factor for them was a loyalty program, with 32% saying they’re unlikely to shop from a company without one. Saks Fifth Avenue launched its own loyalty program back in 2013, offering points to be earned toward gift cards as well as exclusive access to special offers and events. The results reflect a price consciousness among this group, as 25% said they wouldn’t be likely to buy from brands and retailers that raised their prices in the past three years.
Beauty: A luxury gateway for Gen Z
The Glossy focus group’s take on the state of luxury beauty emphasized its role as an accessible entry point for young shoppers with less disposable income than the older generations.
“There are lots of opening price point products in luxury that Gen Z buys into,” said Sarah Willersdorf, head of luxury at Boston Consulting Group. “Gen Z is interesting because they are a consumer of luxury, but they’re also an audience of luxury.” Beauty joins sneakers, small leather goods and casualwear like T-shirts among the first items they purchase from a luxury brand.
And while brands are increasingly launching makeup lines, fragrance remains a hot category for entry-level luxury spending.
Fragrance is “a great way for a younger individual to purchase from a luxury house, although not really directly. They get that name on a bottle — something tangible that will last — at a price point they can access,” said fashion influencer Charles Gross. “Younger audiences love it because you can get the smallest bottle for $70 and then the largest bottle at $105.”
On the flip side, hip young luxury consumers that can reach the highest price points are looking toward niche brands, including unique, “not easily palatable fragrances” that will set them apart. Gross said when he did a promotion for indie fragrance brand Strangelove NYC, which sells a 100-milliliter eau de parfum for $795, “the site sold out the next day.”
The power over luxury beauty trends has shifted from traditional magazines to social media, said Ian Schatzberg, the founder of General Idea agency.
“Talking about a $35 lip gloss from Dior on TikTok can sell out units more so than any publication,” he said, referencing Dior’s viral lip oil.
While Dior Beauty does not post on TikTok yet, other luxury beauty brands have gone all-in to reach the entry-level Gen-Z consumer.
“In the beginning of last year, a lot of brands were jumping into digital and the influencer space. I think a lot of them were really afraid of becoming sclerotic or missing that entry into it. And you saw a lot of digital strategies that were like, ‘Let’s throw everything in and see what works.’ A lot of companies’ designs even shifted to [target] that younger TikTok audience that has spending [power], even if it [goes to] just one or two pieces rather than large substantial purchases,” said Schatzberg.
One might wonder why luxury brands have bothered to focus so much attention and energy on the generations that don’t hold the wealth to make the big-ticket purchases. But luxury’s problem with Boomers, according to the focus group, is that they’re just not cool enough.
Gen Zers are “certainly, from a customer segment standpoint, not a huge focus,” which is “probably not a surprise. Just given our price points, [reaching the demo] tends to be a challenge,” said Emily Essner, the CMO of Saks Fifth Avenue. However, “they have a huge influence on the culture … on what’s cool, what’s aspirational,” she said. “Our job is to be super relevant to them; it’s to drive aspiration among that population for Saks. When they either grow into a little bit more wealth or they get their first bonus, they’re going to buy whatever it is.”
But the big question is whether that day will ever actually come for the next generation as it did for Boomers.
“You’re seeing more stress and compression around the middle class that buoyed up a lot of the luxury category,” said Schatzberg. As the aspirational middle class is being squeezed on everything from housing to healthcare, the question is whether or not they’ll have the funds to upgrade to handbags, or even be able to splurge on premium fragrances or lipstick, in the long run.