It seemed only fitting that Fashion Group International decided to attempt to answer a question that every retailer wants to know at their annual beauty event. The topic of discussion was: who is the new beauty consumer?
One thing is for sure, she’s not who she was five short years ago. She lives online, wants everything to address her very particular tastes and needs and doesn’t want anything reminiscent of her “mother’s legacy” brands.
The event held last Thursday, May 16th at the Roosevelt Hotel was the first without FGI’s longtime leader, Margaret Hayes, at the podium who always kicked things off by admonishing people to take their seats so the program could start on time. Hayes died in February after a long battle with cancer.
FGI is embarking on a new chapter with Maryanne Grisz, managing director events and operations running the day-to-day operations in coordination with FGI’s chairman of the board, James D’Adamo and the rest of the FGI board.
Grisz ably took the lead on this occasion as she welcomed a crowd of beauty, retail and publishing executives which included tables hosted by event sponsors Hearst Magazines and The Estee Lauder Companies as well as ones hosted by board members. LVMH Fragrance Brands and IFF Grisz used the occasion to remind attendees of FGI’s storied history within the beauty industry which includes having industry legends Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein among its prestigious group of founding members.
Grisz acknowledged Hayes by telling the audience the former FGI president “loved this event” because of her decades-long association with the beauty industry as well as her years as a senior executive at Saks Fifth Avenue before joining FGI. “We miss you, Margaret,” Grisz graciously told the crowd before turning the podium over to the event’s co-chairs Karen Young and Caroline Fabrigas.
But the order of the day was looking towards the future of beauty, and Carly Cardellino, the newly appointed beauty brand director of Cosmopolitan magazine, made it very clear in her overview which opened the program that it looks nothing like the past.
Cardellino focused heavily on how digital marketing and messaging is driving the beauty business because that is where ‘Generation Now’ lives. “It’s Gen Z and the millennials,” she told the crowd. Connecting with that consumer on a personal level is key to attracting their interests. But it’s not done in brick and mortar stores, said Cardellino. ‘Likes’ (whether or not you can prove they’ve been able to be monetized) are the new measure of success.
“It’s not like it was with our mother’s legacy brands,” Cardellino said. “It’s legacy vs. niche with brands like Fenty” which are appealing to the very specific tastes and interests of the beauty customer that will succeed. Nothing, she said, is as it was even a decade ago. Cardellino, herself a millennial and young mother, also made a point of throwing in a few swear words into her presentation joking, “I’m supposed to be controversial.” It raised a few eyebrows at the tables where more established (read: older) beauty executives were sitting but did underscore the generational shift that is clearly more than skin deep.
After lunch, moderator Lucie Greene, worldwide director of the innovation group at Wunderman Thompson led a panel discussion with three industry innovators. They were Rinat Aruh, founder of the branding and design agency Aruliden whose clients have included Google, NARS and BVLGARI; Yarden Horwitz, co-founder of Spate, the artificial intelligence trends platform for beauty and food which launched The Google Skin Care Trends Report, and Doug Jensen, vice president, consumer relationship management and corporate marketing analytics for The Estee Lauder Companies.