NEW YORK, United States — LVMH is facing a $10 million lawsuit brought by makeup artist Sammy Mourabit, who claims that the French luxury group rescinded his contract offer to be the global artistic director of the ailing cosmetics brand Make Up For Ever after wooing him to join the company for one year and promising to pay him a $1 million-a-year salary. The complaint was filed late on April 9 in the United States district court for the southern district of New York.
Mourabit, who is best known for his theatrical editorial and advertising work with photographers Steven Klein and Patrick Demarchelier and celebrity clients including Madonna and Rihanna, is suing for “fraudulent inducement to contract.” He claims LVMH executives repeatedly promised to hire him to with a start date of January 1, 2018, but reneged just months before he was due to take up the role.
Mourabit claims that the terms of a contract for him to replace Make Up For Ever founder and artistic director Dany Sanz were agreed in August 2017. But on October 27, Nicolas Cordier, chief executive of Make Up For Ever, telephoned him to say the offer was no longer on the table, Mourabit alleges.
When asked about the lawsuit Mourabit said: “I left major clients, major personal clients, with tremendous amounts of money lost and I did that for 12 months, turning down opportunities after opportunities, turning down fashion shows because I want to be able to work with them. It’s a bittersweet feeling, it’s sad, I’m still in shock.”
LVMH declined repeated requests for comment.
LVMH’s Make Up For Ever sits in a fast-moving beauty market where buzzy new brands, many of them digital-first and driven by social media, are challenging traditional players. Make Up For Ever is one of the smallest brands in LVMH’s cosmetics division, with annual sales of around €100 million, according to Zuzanna Pusz, associate director of equity research at Berenberg Bank. LVMH does not break out performance by brand.
“It feels like it hasn’t been too much of a focus” for LVMH, said Pusz. Mourabit alleges he was to “breathe new life” into the “faltering and flailing” brand. Cordier exited Make Up For Ever in December, just weeks after allegedly telling Mourabit LVMH was rescinding his contract offer. He was replaced by Rachel Marouani, the brand’s current chief executive.
“It’s a brand that is everywhere but is being overshadowed by flashier players such as Fenty, but also Instagram brands like Anastasia Beverley Hills that command more attention,” said Lisa Payne, senior beauty editor at trend forecaster Stylus, referring to Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty brand, launched in partnership with LVMH. “[Make Up For Ever]’s sticking point is that it struggles to speak above the noise. The Fenty launch is a good example. The hype generated around Fenty’s extended foundation portfolio almost created the impression that it was the first brand to offer such a big foundation shade line, but because of its history as a theatre and TV brand Make Up For Ever has had a 40-piece foundation offering since 2015. Fundamentally, it is a middle-of-the-road brand.”
Make Up For Ever’s cosmetics range targets performers, professional makeup artists and end consumers with a mix of technical and special effects ranges and advertising campaigns featuring the likes of transgender model Andreja Pejić, singer Jessie J and R&B artist Kehlani. Its 40 shades of $43 UltraHD foundation are sold at LVMH-owned beauty chain Sephora and over 2,200 stores globally.
Make Up For Ever was started by makeup artist Dany Sanz in 1984 and was bought by LVMH in 1999. Growth in LVMH’s cosmetics and perfume division, the group’s third largest unit by sales, climbed by 14 percent last year, buoyed by Christian Dior perfumes and Fenty, the company said.
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