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By Rachel Strugatz
Backstage at a fashion show looks like this: An army of makeup, hair and nail artists, photographers, models, press and craft service people scrambling to complete their assigned tasks in the two-plus hours before showtime. The energy is frenetic and everyone is crammed under bright lights (and wearing headsets). The whole scene looks like a beauty conveyer belt, with models as the product. They play musical chairs to ensure their hair, face and fingers are blowdried, highlighted and manicured before showtime.
Editors and writers clamour around an artist, angling to record the stylist’s inspiration and how they conceived “the look” with the designer. Writers feign interest as this individual very seriously explains why, for example, they’ve decided to use brown eyeliner in lieu of black eyeliner this season, or their revolutionary approach to smoothing or volumising hair. The look is “no makeup makeup” or avant garde and rarely anything in between.
I’m not contesting beauty’s relevance during fashion week; fashion shows will always need models, who will always need their hair and makeup done. But as someone who writes about the business of beauty for trade publications, first at WWD and now at BoF, I’ve always felt a little out of place reporting on it backstage. Admittedly, when I started writing this piece, the theme was going to be why backstage beauty had become passé. But then I talked to Bobbi Brown, who helped me come to a realisation: I'm no longer the target audience for backstage beauty.
According to Brown, who is taking a break from fashion week as she focuses on building her wellness business, influencers have steered backstage beauty into a new phase.
“It’s instant. Whatever you’re using that moment, bloggers are instantly writing about it. It’s relevant and it really does help brands because it gets the information out so quickly. It’s not even about what’s next season – it’s what the makeup artist is using that day,” said Brown.
By contrast, during the 1990s heyday of backstage beauty, Brown said she was paid per model and fashion week beauty press meant praying the editors sitting in the front row write about the show’s key artist and their hair and makeup concepts. The lucky ones would see their look in print months later.
She identified three phases of backstage beauty. The first iteration — 1.0 and Brown’s earliest days as a makeup artist and new brand founder in the 90s — was a time when going backstage before a fashion show was limited to a handful of well-pedigreed editors from titles like Vogue. Next came 2.0, when backstage became less exclusive in the 2000s, with print and online editors from every book allowed backstage — who all wound up writing some version of the same idea about the show’s beauty “look.”
Finally, there’s 3.0, which is where we are today. This evolution started to take shape several years ago as bloggers, now referred to as influencers, gained widespread acceptance — and access. This group has solidified their role as trusted source of information and content by their hundreds of thousands, or millions, of followers who track the every move of these perfectly coiffed individuals.
“Followers follow us specifically to see our point of view and perspective,” said Tang, who focuses much of her content on pushing for more inclusivity in the beauty industry, including her Darkest Shade series that highlights brands with shade ranges that she doesn’t feel are wide enough. “I can see why brands would want to bring certain influencers [backstage] that they know have super engaged audiences who are going to pay attention to what that person is saying or how they feel about a certain thing.”
Unlike many of her influencer contemporaries, Dallas, Texas-based Tang paid her own way to go to fashion week and wasn’t sponsored or compensated by any brands.
Engagement during fashion week — for fashion and beauty — is largely driven by the influencers in attendance. Today, a beauty company’s affiliation with fashion week is a means to create buzz online via hashtags and Instagram stories and posts, which is no different than the way any apparel or beauty label hires influencers to post about and promote their products all year round.
“As far as creating content, there’s nothing better than fashion week to create content … It’s helpful to brands just to get the word out there. It’s advertising and it’s marketing,” said Brown. “What used to be very prestigious and high fashion just became different. Now it’s very commercial. It’s kind of like Zoolander.”
THIS WEEK IN BEAUTY
By Kati Chitrakorn
Estée Lauder and Coty boosted by luxury segment. Estée Lauder raised its annual forecast after reporting better-than-expected quarterly results, sending its shares up 10 percent. According to the company, growth in the Asia-Pacific region, online and travel retail channels, and high-end brands such as La Mer and Origins fuelled a robust quarter. Meanwhile, cosmetics and perfume maker Coty said it expected to post a profit in the second half of fiscal 2019, as it reported holiday-quarter revenue and adjusted earnings that also beat estimates, sending its shares up 29 percent. The company was helped by higher sales in its luxury segment, with strong holiday demand for the Gucci, Marc Jacobs and Burberry brands.
Kardashian sisters awarded $10 million in beauty brand lawsuit. In court documents obtained by TMZ, Kim, Khloe and Kourtney were awarded $10 million in damages, the amount Hillair Capital-owned Haven Beauty claimed it initially spent “saving” Kardashian Beauty. The sisters were first sued for $180 million in 2016, after the reality television stars were accused of breaching their licensing contract by failing to promote their Kardashian Beauty brand adequately. In response, the Kardashians took legal action against Haven, saying that company sold the brand’s products without their consent or involvement. They had also claimed that Hillair had not paid for products branded in their name.
Pop-up stores still valuable for beauty brands. Clinique is the latest beauty company to dive into experimental retail with the opening of its first-ever pop-up this month. The store will be dedicated to its new moisturiser product, Clinique iD. which launched in December 2018. The 10-day pop-up, located in New York City’s SoHo neighbourhood, will also be a test-bed for consumer experiences like virtual reality. It follows a trend where beauty pop-up stores are increasingly becoming less about product, as some don't even carry physical inventory. Instead, they've become event spaces, offering makeup and hair masterclasses, influencer appearances, fitness classes, panels and Q&A sessions.
Instagram bridged the gap between celebrities and regular people. Social media influencers are under immense pressure to meet the same beauty standards as their traditionally famous — and often far wealthier — Hollywood counterparts. According to Apa, an aesthetic dentist with a quarter-million Instagram followers of his own, “every cosmetic procedure has just gone crazy in popularity since Instagram became a thing.” Indeed, influencers have begun to normalise a whole host of cosmetic enhancements, which might have traditionally stayed confined to rarefied celebrity circles, for a generation of young consumers.
Regulations around cosmetics haven't been updated in decades. Independent researchers have found asbestos in glittery products marketed to young girls; they’ve linked chemicals in nail polish to serious health problems in nail technicians; and they’ve traced reproductive health issues and mercury poisoning to hair and skin products used by many women of color. Yet the FDA’s oversight of the cosmetics industry remains astoundingly limited. The FDA also can’t ensure the safety of imported cosmetics, which have doubled in volume in the past decade.
Sleep-related beauty products on the rise. The shift comes as the preoccupation with wellness — a growing market now valued at nearly $1.1 trillion — becomes more intertwined with beauty. On Sephora.com, a customer can find over 170 sleep-related products from traditional skincare items meant to work while one sleeps to more tangential items, like Slip’s silk sleep masks. At Ulta.com, a shopper can find 95 items, including This Works’ best-selling Deep Sleep Pillow Spray and In Transit No Traces cleansing pads. Even Hearst’s Good Housekeeping is showcasing sleep products and therapies in its new Wellness Institute, which opened last month.
The Business of Beauty wants to hear from you. Send tips, suggestions, complaints and compliments to our correspondent in New York, Rachel Strugatz (firstname.lastname@example.org), and in London, Kati Chitrakorn (email@example.com).