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The Business of Beauty Haul of Fame: The Smell of Success

Scenting ultra-exclusive events is beauty’s next big branding trend.
The business of beauty haul of fame
Scenting ultra-exclusive events is beauty’s next big branding opportunity.

Welcome back to Haul of Fame, the beauty roundup of new products, new ideas and a desperate plea for a nicotine patch made in the image of a zit sticker and shaped like a rainbow or heart.

Included in today’s issue: Devon Aoki, Dr. Barbara Sturm, E.l.f. Cosmetics, Emma Stone, Kate Beckinsale, Moon Juice, Phlur, Pat McGrath, Pharrell, Tommy Dorfman, Tracy Anderson, and frozen hot chocolate.

But first…

Last week, Pebble Bar, the narrow midtown townhouse and unofficial “Saturday Night Live” clubhouse, was throwing its annual holiday rager, where Mark Ronson managed a wall-shaking DJ set alongside a wide-eyed Emma Stone. (More on her later…)

But despite the vodka and tobacco that seeped into my skin like a K-Beauty serum, I still smelled amazing (and Marlboro-free) when I got home at 2 AM. That was thanks to a canny partnership between Pebble Bar and Byredo, which scented the entire joint with their home fragrances and left ample perfume samples in the bathroom. I even spotted a trio of party girls trying to smuggle the brand’s $94 candles into their crammed Mansur Gavriel bags, which apparently are back in, by the exit.

Byredo isn’t the only brand making a big stink lately. On Tuesday, Dec. 5, House of Creed debuted a “large scale public sculpture” in the middle of Miami Beach. The installation by artist Shawn Kolodny was a clump of giant steel bubbles, along with a hidden “special scent machine” that cranked Creed’s newest perfume, Carmina, to anyone breathing on the corner of Española Way and Drexel Avenue. Meanwhile, New York Christmas hotspot Serendipity III collaborated with Literie on a candle to make your home smell like frozen hot chocolate. (How is something you light on fire meant to smell like flavored ice? Magic!) The Robb Report is trying to outdo the wealth porn of the Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog with a $138,000 “scent experience” by Krigler which dropped Nov. 30. The same day, Pardon My Fro dropped a trip of scented body mists for skin and hair. And at Balenciaga’s catwalk show on Dec. 2, BoF vet Lauren Sherman reported a “marijuana smoke-scented runway” greeted megastars like Kim Kardashian and Cardi B. I’ve reached out to the Balenciaga team to find out if the smell was a creative choice or just a lot of audience vaping. No word yet, but either way: kinda epic.

The smell-o-vision strategy for fragrance branding isn’t new, but as the fragrance category grows 1.69% to $8.72 billion in US dollars in 2023, that branding is heating up. IRL smell events are a clever way to make an experience feel more exclusive (and therefore brag-worthy) to those selected to participate. After all, anyone can flick through pics of celebrity parties, catwalk collections and art openings on their phone. But to smell it? You had to be there.

Of course, there are many ways to scent a cat, and online still sells. Witness Phlur, the micro-perfumery helmed by influencer Chriselle Lim and The Center’s Ben Bennett. On Dec. 5, it launched Mood Ring, a new “fruity floral” perfume with top notes of “pitaya pulp, orange and fruit gummies.” Weird? Yes. Smells divine? Also, actually, yes. But even though Phlur can’t scent their Instagram stories to prove it, their ASMR-fueled reels punched over 100,000 views in less than 12 hours. Pretty on the nose.

What Else Is New…

Also in The Center news, Iskra Lawrence’s line Saltair launched 5 tinted lip oil balms for $9 each on Dec. 6. They’re $1 more than the E.l.f. version but $20 less than the Clarins bestseller.

Speaking of E.l.f., Snapchat paired with the cult beauty brand for a virtual lipstick drop. For just 24 hours starting on Dec. 5, users could yassify their Bitmoji with its O Face Satin Lipstick. The Bitmoji is free; the real lip product costs $9.

Tommy Dorfman debuted a holiday store for her lifestyle platform, Club Curran, with exclusively queer-led brands on Dec. 4. She’s loaded it with great beauty exclusives, including a Good Light skincare bundle and a Noto pearlescent highlighter that Tommy models in the subway for the store’s campaign.

Fenty did a surprise drop of Glitty Lid Shimmer Liquid Eyeliner, which is exactly what it sounds like, on Dec 6. It’s in 3 shades and the metallic payoff is excellent.

19/99 debuted a new Precision Color Pencil in VAS, a smoky deep grey, on Dec. 1. It’s a good option for those looking to emulate the Y2K beauty of Kate Beckinsale in “Serendipity” … or Kate Beckinsale in “Underworld,” if you smear it a little more.

More on Y2K stars: Rachel Goodwin, the makeup artist behind Sarah Michelle Gellar’s glitter lids and spider lashes circa “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, did Emma Stone’s “Saturday Night Live” makeup on Dec. 2 using products from Beauty Pie. Considering Stone is a Louis Vuitton ambassador, it’s interesting (and neat!) to see her with an indie brand instead of an LVMH one like Benefit Cosmetics, which might be the obvious fit for Stone because of its quirky charm.

Also in Louis Vuitton news, Dame Pat McGrath prepped models at the brand’s Nov. 30 runway show with Humidifying Face Cream from Humanrace, founded by LV men’s creative guru Pharrell, plus Pat McGrath Labs Divine Skin 001: Rose The Essence. After the Glossier x Starface partnership, a buyable Pat-Pharrell combo would be so rad.

Strangely obsessed with HeartStone, a hand weight duo from Tracy Anderson that launched Dec. 5 embedded with rose quartz to “supercharge your movement practice with dynamic self-love, spiritual healing and infinite peace.” It costs $375, and comes with a workout app “to explore the world of energy-infused fitness.” Also in the metaphysical realm, jars of Moon Juice’s Magnesi-Om sleep supplement were unveiled on Dec. 4. They cost $37.80 but if you would prefer to receive them as a work perk, they’re currently hiring a vp of marketing.

I blame Emma Chamberlain for the rise in puffy handbags — they’re part comfort object, part sculptural score and available at Gen-Z hubs like Coach and Uniqlo. Beauty brands have now taken the clickbait, with puffy makeup cases in holiday promos for Fara Homidi, MAC Cosmetics and Dr. Barbara Sturm. But Aritzia might win it all, with a new Superpuff Pouch that promises to keep your makeup protected in -40°F.

Finally, congratulations to Vogue Japan, for this wonderful winter cover of Devon Aoki getting her lipstick done by daughter Eleanor, who is 6. Makeup artist Ana Takahashi did the final look, in which no Crayola products were actually harmed.

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