Selfie culture and its impact on beauty brands in Asia – Campaign Asia

Asia leads the world in selfie-taking, according to a 2014 study by Time magazine. Four of the top 10 “selfiest” cities are in Asia, a find hardly surprising given that over half of the world’s social-media users reside here. Selfie culture has become so dominant in Asia that two global smartphone giants, China’s Huawei and South Korea’s Samsung, compete with front-facing camera specs and ownership of spin-off category terms like “groufie” and “wefie”, respectively.

Naturally, the obsession over achieving the perfect selfie has culminated in beautifying image technology as vanity gains new social currency. With Samsung’s recent default “Beauty Face” mode for its front-facing cameras, Huawei’s built-in front-facing camera filters and the billion-dollar valuation for China’s selfie-editing app Meitu, Asian selfie culture has spawned its own beauty industry.

As Asia’s popular culture leader, South Korea wields the biggest influence on beauty standards. Korean cosmetics account for nearly a quarter of China’s cosmetic imports, and Korea’s cosmetic exports have enjoyed astronomical double-digit growth annually since 2010. In the fast-growing Asian beauty market, the archetypical Asian selfie-taker becomes a key target audience. The cute ‘v-line face, enlarged eyes, and fair-skinned look’ popularised by Korean female celebrities is consistently imitated in Asian selfies. Correspondingly, Asian and Western beauty brands such as Mamonde and L’Oreal have sought celebrities who epitomise this ideal, like Park Shin Hye and Fan Bingbing, to be Asian brand ambassadors. These celebrities, needless to say, are prolific selfie-takers.

Selfie culture and the beauty industry are rooted in a desire to look good. As the most socially significant, and foremost means of self-presentation today, selfies reflect deeper desires for interpersonal connection, individual visibility and greater control of self-image. Beauty brands in Asia have cleverly responded by using selfies themselves and selfie-bait to establish a personal rapport with consumers. Selfie-styled campaigns like Shiseido’s 2015 Japan campaign with Lady Gaga’s selfies inspired selfie-taking, which seamlessly integrated the consumer into the brand image. Edit9, a Korean face-pack brand, rode to Instagram selfie fame with charming sticker-like masks that guaranteed user-driven buzz. Big-name Western beauty brands like Estée Lauder and Clinique have managed to succeed in China partly due to savvy campaigns pushing brand stickers on Nice, China’s Instagram replacement app, thereby fuelling selfie-taking. Above all, such tactics drive makeup sales, rising by 13 percent globally in 2016 as more consumers turn to makeup for a selfie-ready, instant beauty fix.

While the #NoFilter and #NoMakeup selfie trends may seem antagonistic to the beauty industry, makeup philosophy in Asia, led by K-beauty ideals, has long centered on natural beauty. Unlike in the West where heavy makeup of the Kardashian kind is extolled, in Asia, makeup is seen as an enhancer of natural beauty. Korea’s invention of the cushion compact was so revolutionary—over 50 million units sold globally in less than a decade—mainly because users could now achieve the “mul-gwang pi-bu” K-beauty ideal (literally, water-bright skin) nearly effortlessly. Meanwhile, by converting Western consumers to natural beauty, the  #NoFilter and #NoMakeup trends may be fuelling the growth of Asian beauty brands. With Asian beauty brands expected to account for 80 percent of global cosmetics revenue gain by 2019 and Asian makeup sales to surpass US$150 billion this year, according to a report by Euromonitor International, it appears that beauty brands in the region are on the right track.

Selfie-compatible campaigns have helped beauty brands in Asia thrive in a saturated market. By creating opportunities where consumers intuitively want to take a selfie and share it, these brands elevate the consumer from a traditionally passive role to an active brand participant. In the all-important brand-user conversation, the consumer is now protagonist. 

By perpetuating a homogenised beauty standard however, Asian selfie culture undermines the impetus behind selfie-taking and applying cosmetics: self-fashioning and self-discovery. It also intensifies industry competition. Instead of traditionally dictating appearances, beauty brands should reposition themselves as agents that empower consumers to define their own looks. Laneige’s ‘Beauty Mirror’ app and L’Oreal’s ‘Makeup Genius’ app, which allow user to virtually try on makeup in selfie-mode and share different looks on social media, are great examples. The disposability of selfies is used to showcase product diversity and educate on product usage. It harnesses the accessibility and spontaneity of selfies to market products as user-friendly—all of which encourage purchase.

The beauty industry’s compatibility with and swift adoption of selfies demonstrates that it is poised to lead the evolution of selfie technology into virtual, animated and interactive imaging. Mobile beauty apps are already a booming industry: ModiFace, the world’s leading mobile beauty firm, has more than 40 million downloads for its apps. Such developments will strengthen brand-consumer partnerships through facial mapping, data capturing, the creation of user-driven content, and greater selfie-sharing and brand responsiveness. As a medium, selfies are a valuable big-data cache for beauty brands constantly seeking to refine product ranges and anticipate consumer needs. There is additionally huge potential for collaboration between the beauty, consumer electronics and tech industries, where smart furniture like selfie-mirrors and selfie-lights are gaining traction. For beauty brands today, seflies embody new media, marketplace and incubator.

Rachel Ng, Flamingo Singapore

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Is the mica in your makeup bag ethically sourced? – ITV News

As part of our research we spoke to leading cosmetics manufacturers:

Estée Lauder say less than 10% of its mica comes from India and says “child labour is unfortunately still prevalent” in the supply chain there.

Clarins says its mica comes from “suppliers with their own mines in areas where child labour is strictly regulated by laws”.

The owners of Maybelline, L’Oréal, say there’s “a risk of child labour” in the Indian mica supply chain but says its own supply chain of Indian mica is “now almost completely secured”.

L’Oréal said in a statement: “In the face of the economic and social challenges, L’Oréal has committed to remaining in India and has implemented a responsible procurement policy to ensure the traceability and transparency of its supply chain. Thanks to these efforts, our supply chain of Indian mica is now almost completely secured.”

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Code Rouge

For the headquarters of a counterfeiting operation that had pulled in $1 million in five years, the house at 2685 Woodbridge Ave. was unremarkable: a two-story clapboard on a block of modest homes in suburban Edison, N.J. Only a black Lorex security camera perched above the front door suggested otherwise.

Outside, on a Monday morning in December 2014, more than a dozen agents waited in their vehicles. Operation Big MAC included representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the New Jersey Department of the Treasury, the Edison police department, and other agencies. Even the obscure U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement branch of the U.S. Postal Service, had gotten involved in the case, helping conduct surveillance on the home for months.

On cue, the agents raided the house. Inside they found Jorge Robles, Ana de la Mota, their daughter Rossy, and their inventory: some 2,000 pieces of knockoff makeup labeled as premium MAC-brand cosmetics. Agents also found shipping boxes and labels, along with 15 mobile phones and a dozen iPads and laptops. Seizure letters from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) were on a nightstand. In the basement, an investigator lifted a ceiling tile and pulled out a small purse. Inside was a rubber-banded wad of $22,000 in cash.

Cosmetics companies have been fighting counterfeiters for as long as they’ve been in business, but the scope of their efforts isn’t widely known. The Estée Lauder Cos., the $30 billion company that owns MAC, Clinique, and other brands, has waged an especially aggressive campaign. Since 2003 its global security team has been led by the former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York office, and it employs 42 full-time agents around the world. They infiltrate flea markets, make test purchases on EBay, and gather evidence for civil suits against counterfeiters. Increasingly, they’re coordinating with local and national governments. That includes pointing Chinese police to the country’s dingy fake-makeup factories and advising U.S. prosecutors on criminal investigations here—including the Robles case in New Jersey.

Global seizures of counterfeit perfume and cosmetics jumped 25 percent from 2011 to 2013, according to a recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, making them a growing sector of the $461 billion annual trade in pirated and counterfeit goods. In 2015 the Department of Homeland Security, whose purview includes customs and thus counterfeits, began Operation Plastic Beauty after helping to bust a scheme on Long Island, N.Y., to make ersatz Vaseline, ChapStick, and other personal-care products, then sell them in Chinese-made counterfeit packaging.

The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination (IPR) Center, which is led by Homeland Security Investigations and coordinates 19 federal and four international agencies to combat piracy, recently began collecting statistics on injuries caused by counterfeit cosmetics, which appears to be the first database of its kind. The health risks are nasty. The products often come from moonshine-style operations, with mud-caked floors and open vats of dye, and can contain paint thinner, mercury, carcinogens, and dangerous levels of bacteria. Eye shadow made with arsenic can seal your eyelids shut.

Even so, counterfeit makeup appears to be selling in higher and higher volume. Last year governments made more than 1,500 seizures of fake Estée Lauder products, totaling more than 2.8 million items, most of them MAC makeup. Given standard customs interdiction rates, the trade could easily amount to more than 10 times that figure. And the reputational damage to Estée’s 29 brands—which had revenue of $11.2 billion in the year ended August 2016—concerns the company even more than lost sales.

Not so long ago, counterfeit goods took a simple and well-worn path. Take New York, for example, where Bruce Foucart, the former director of the IPR Center, started his career in 1990. Back then, shipping containers of bogus watches, sunglasses, and the like arrived in ports, and then pallets of contraband made their way to warehouses in Brooklyn or the Chinatown neighborhood in Manhattan. “A guy set up his tabletop in the Bowery and sold his stuff until it got seized,” Foucart said. “And then he went back, got another batch, and changed his location.” Cat and mouse.

Over the past decade, the market has atomized—in large part because of the rise of sourcing websites such as Alibaba, China’s sprawling online bazaar, where shoppers can buy everything from individual toilet seats to an entire 20-foot container of canned sardines. It’s also possible to buy counterfeit goods in bulk—including makeup. A recent search on Alibaba found more than 22,000 listings for lipstick, including many sellers openly hawking MAC knockoffs. One vendor, a Guangzhou manufacturer, even sells an entire MAC-themed pop-up mall kiosk for $500. The upshot is that becoming a dealer in the U.S. no longer requires having shady contacts in Asia or smuggling suitcases through airports: Anyone with a few thousand dollars can buy contraband wholesale online and resell items individually on EBay and, or through more traditional channels such as flea markets, beauty salons, and mall kiosks.

Unlike buyers of, say, knockoff watches, who generally know they’re not getting a real Rolex for $50, the vast majority of people who purchase counterfeit makeup think they’re getting the real thing, Foucart said. Prices tend to be close to the genuine retail value. Shoppers often think they’ve found legit goods from a fire sale, he said, or from a company insider who’s reselling items first obtained at an employee discount.

The gels and powders of makeup itself are not difficult to fabricate, Estée Lauder says. And to criminals, the price-to-size ratio of cosmetics is more appealing than for bulky items such as Blu-ray players: The contents of a $21 vial of MAC-brand Liquidlast Liner measure only 0.084 ounce. Getting thousands of such items to the U.S. doesn’t require an entire shipping container. Foucart said criminals increasingly spurn freight in favor of FedEx, DHL, and other international couriers, preferring to spread a container-load of products across 100 large boxes. “You can fit so much through the mail,” Foucart said. “It’s less of a risk for the bad guys to lose product.”

At ports and airports, CBP agents inspect packages for tip-offs such as handwritten shipping labels—especially those marked as samples, because counterfeiters know commercial samples don’t require duty—and packages whose weight and size don’t align with their stated contents. If counterfeit products are inside, the agents impound the shipment and send a letter asking if the intended recipient wants to contest the seizure, which rarely happens. But the CBP has only so much manpower and time to identify and inspect suspicious packages. The result is that tracking a cosmetics counterfeiter in 2017 is often, to use the needle-in-a-haystack formulation, like finding a FedEx box in an airport hangar full of FedEx boxes.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to become a mass distributor of Chinese counterfeit cosmetics. I know. I tried.

Last year, 83 percent of Homeland Security’s counterfeit seizures originated in mainland China or Hong Kong. Eager to infiltrate this underworld myself, I created an account on Alibaba. I queried sourcing agents in Taiwan, Zhejiang province, and Hong Kong, asking if they could replicate MAC’s iconic lipstick, which retails for $17. At first, they were eager to help. But when I asked for packaging identical to MAC’s signature all-black look, the suppliers became wary. “I am so sorry, we can’t produce without authorization,” wrote a vendor from the southeastern Chinese city of Jinhua. “Maybe you can design your own brand. :-)”

I had better luck on TradeKey, a marketplace with corporate offices in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which was the target of a 2011 civil suit by Cie Financiere Richemont SA, the owner of luxury brands Cartier and Alfred Dunhill. I posted a request for bids on 50,000 pieces of MAC Retro Matte Liquid Lipcolour, at $3 a pop. The real thing retails for $21.

Within 72 hours, I received e-mails from middlemen in Johannesburg, Mumbai, and Cameroon. There was little doubt, though, where the product would actually be manufactured: China. One afternoon, my phone buzzed. A man with a vaguely Eastern European accent who identified himself as “Mr. Andrei” wanted to help. I confirmed the size of my potential order and heard him lick his lips. He offered to send a sample.

Three days later a FedEx package arrived, bearing a tube of plum-colored High Drama lip gloss. The package had been sent from London in a MAC U.K. shopping bag. Mr. Andrei had promised that the product would be manufactured by an “official distributor” in Hungary, but the actual packaging read, “Fabrique en Italie.” From a phone number I traced to a Russian trading company, Mr. Andrei called me a half-dozen times a day for two weeks, pressing me to close the deal, before I backed out.

I sent photos of the sample to Estée Lauder’s security team. Someone there told me the product appeared to be genuine. That’s common, apparently: A supplier will often send a bona fide sample before swapping in counterfeit goods for the final bulk order.

During the years of the Great Recession, Jorge Robles and Ana de la Mota started a small business in New Jersey, purchasing name-brand cosmetics at going-out-of-business sales and reselling them at a markup. By late 2009, they’d started to run out of fire sales. In search of supply, de la Mota typed “MAC cosmetics” into a search engine. She found a Chinese sourcing website and a husband-and-wife team in that country eager to do business.

Robles and de la Mota, then about 45 and 39, respectively, began ordering one 50-pound box of counterfeit MAC goods every week or so. Had the products been genuine, each would’ve had a retail value of roughly $10,000; they paid about a third of that and resold the items at half off retail. They peddled on Amazon under the handle “Baby Castle.” Their daughter Rossy, then about 17 years old, hosted sales parties with cocktails and free makeovers. The family also supplied wholesalers in the Bronx and Manhattan, who in turn distributed the makeup to hair salons and made cash deposits into the couple’s bank account, from $500 to several thousand dollars at a time. (De la Mota declined to comment for this story. Robles did not respond to a letter, and Rossy could not be reached for comment.)

The couple leased a Mercedes SUV, moved to a bigger house, and dined at the Cheesecake Factory. On social media, de la Mota posted photographs from fashionable vacations: the Pont des Arts in Paris, St. Mark’s Square in Venice, a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. The marriage was rocky—they twice split up, de la Mota later told investigators—but they kept getting back together. They were a great team. And the money was too good.

In the counterfeiting world, the family was relatively small-time. In December 2013, for example, nine members of a New York-based syndicate led by Ming Zheng, also known as “Uncle Mi,” pleaded guilty to importing counterfeit perfume, handbags, and footwear with a combined retail value of $300 million. But the family’s trafficking was substantial enough to occasionally get intercepted by U.S. authorities. From 2009 to 2014, CBP seized 16 packages headed their way, out of roughly 240 total shipments, according to DHS documents.

Over Skype, Robles and de la Mota asked their Chinese suppliers how to respond. They learned simple workarounds: Vary the spellings of their names, ship to different addresses, rent hard-to-trace post office boxes, and get family members involved. The couple began having packages sent to relatives in neighboring towns, as well as to Busanka, a Dominican restaurant in nearby Port Reading, N.J., that de la Mota’s brother-in-law owned.

But the couple didn’t cover their tracks well enough. In September 2013, DHS Special Agent Brad Greenberg was stationed in Newark and looking for a new case when he began flipping through Customs seizure records for his region. He noticed a pattern—letters had been sent to six addresses in a tight radius in New Jersey’s Middlesex County, alternately addressed to “Ana Rocio de la Mota,” “Rocio de la Mota,” “Ana Robles,” and “Ana de la Mota.”

Greenberg called the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for help. The little-known agency is actually the country’s oldest law enforcement branch. Benjamin Franklin founded its forerunner in 1772, and since then postal inspectors have investigated crimes as diverse as child pornography, extortion, post office robberies, and the 2001 anthrax attacks. Brian MacDonald, a rookie inspector, was interested. He and Greenberg set to work, running shipping addresses through proprietary databases to generate basic biographical details on the Robles family and a list of likely associates. Facebook and Instagram filled in the rest.

In February 2014, an undercover agent posing as a hair-salon owner met de la Mota at her home. For $500, the agent purchased 68 pieces of supposed MAC-brand eye shadow, lip gloss, and lipstick. De la Mota advised the agent to resell the makeup not too far below the suggested retail price, to avoid drawing attention. And if the agent wanted to buy in bulk—say, more than 1,000 pieces? De la Mota told her to talk to her husband.

Greenberg drove the samples to Estée Lauder’s headquarters in midtown Manhattan. There he met with the company’s security and trademark protection team, which Lew Rice heads. A former top DEA agent, Rice had battled cocaine cowboys in Miami and worked undercover to take down Frank Lucas, the Harlem drug lord Denzel Washington portrayed in the movie American Gangster. Tony Dandridge, a former New York City Police Department detective on Rice’s team, examined the products, and a company representative signed an affidavit declaring them counterfeit.

Dubbing the case Operation Big MAC, Greenberg and rookie inspector MacDonald initiated surveillance on the family’s home. For months, two to four vehicles at a time would park nearby, watching business associates pick up inventory. Agents also tailed the couple as they drove around town. They went to school, the gym, and restaurants, but never seemed to hold 9-to-5 jobs. And yet over four years, investigators tallied $629,000 in cash deposits to the couple’s bank account, plus an additional $100,000 in Amazon sales. Their cash sales likely stretched into the tens—perhaps hundreds—of thousands of dollars, as well. They wired about a third of the revenue, about $300,000, back to their Chinese manufacturer.

Big Beauty is reluctant to talk about its counterfeiting problems, preferring not to advertise that its brands have been hijacked. Several cosmetics companies, including Avon Products Inc. and L’Oréal SA, declined to speak on the record. They can even be reticent with law enforcement. Many high-end makeup products come with anticounterfeiting measures—holograms, watermarks, and radio-frequency identification, or RFID, chips—and in some cases companies have refused to tell the government how they work, fearing the details could enter the public record at trial and then be circumvented. Such features are a big investment: The market for cosmetic and pharmaceutical anticounterfeit packaging totaled $35.7 billion in 2014, according to a study by Allied Market Research.

The promise of free trade has been a double disappointment for cosmetics brands. China produces most of the world’s counterfeit makeup, but its emerging middle class is lukewarm on Western beauty products. Unlike carrying a Louis Vuitton handbag, wearing high-end lipstick doesn’t project a brand name, making it less valuable to conspicuous consumers and limiting price premiums, said Tom Doctoroff, the Asia chief executive officer for ad company J. Walter Thompson Worldwide and the author of the 2012 book What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism, and the Modern Chinese Consumer. South Korean and local “mass premium” brands, meanwhile, are gaining market share. Chinese consumers often shop on the gray market—arbitrageurs reselling legitimate items on e-commerce portals such as Taobao and Tmall. Cosmetics companies dislike the practice, but it’s legal, and their sometimes ham-fisted attempts to combat it can backfire. In November 2014, four women of Chinese descent filed a class-action lawsuit against Sephora, accusing the retailer of banning people with Asian names from an online sale on the assumption that they were resellers. (Sephora said at the time that the allegations had no merit.)

EBay Inc., whose website is a main distribution channel for counterfeits in the U.S., has a mixed record on education and enforcement. The e-commerce site’s “verified rights owner program” lets 40,000 corporate partners flag knockoffs. Ryan Moore, an EBay spokesman, said that less than 0.025 percent of the company’s listings in 2014 were identified as potentially counterfeit. EBay, he said, is “an internet industry leader” in intellectual property enforcement.

That’s not so, said Angie Willis, a nurse in Indiana who began reselling MAC products on EBay 16 years ago after she became disabled. She bought large containers of pigment—loose, colored powder for $18.50—repackaging them into 5-gram sample jars she sold for $2.50, or sometimes more if the color was a limited edition. (U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations require that cosmetics be sold in their original container with ingredient labeling, and EBay eventually removed Willis’s listings.) She said she netted thousands of dollars a week, but by the late 2000s the proliferation of knockoff MAC products on EBay was stunting her sales. Willis wrote a buying guide on the site—“MAC COSMETICS—HOW TO SPOT FAKES by EXPERIENCED SELLER”—that garnered more than 1,200 likes. She updated it for years, until the counterfeits got too good for even her to spot. Willis still clicks on the “report item” button when she sees an obvious fake, but she said she typically waits months for EBay to take action, if it does at all. “I wouldn’t buy too much of anything on EBay when it comes to cosmetics,” she said.

Even the luxury sector’s watchdog is in turmoil. In April, the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, a trade group in Washington, accepted Alibaba Group as a new member and announced that Jack Ma, the company’s founder, would address its spring conference. It was a bit like the Newspaper Association of America feting Craig Newmark, founder of classified-ad-killer Craigslist, for his contributions to print journalism.

IACC members mutinied. Designer Michael Kors quit the group, calling Alibaba “our most dangerous and damaging adversary.” When Gucci America and Tiffany Co. followed suit, the coalition suspended Alibaba’s membership. After the Associated Press reported that IACC President Bob Barchiesi hadn’t disclosed that he owned Alibaba stock, the trade group hired an independent firm to review its corporate governance measures.

Ma fired back at a June conference in Hangzhou, saying, “The problem is that the fake products today, they make better quality, better prices than the real products, the real names.”

By the fall of 2014, Operation Big MAC’s agents were closing in on Robles and de la Mota. The case would be brought in state court, and New Jersey prosecutors wanted to charge the family with money laundering in addition to counterfeiting. Greenberg and his team established a paper trail for $500,000 in illicit transfers, the threshold for a first-degree charge and a 10-year mandatory minimum, and then obtained search and arrest warrants. They raided the family’s home on Dec. 22, 2014.

The family couldn’t arrange bail. When the couple stopped answering e-mails, their Chinese supplier began calling the house. Besides Rossy, they had other children whom authorities hadn’t charged, and these children, on their own prerogative, told the supplier that their parents had been hospitalized after a car accident. With that ruse, Greenberg says, they hoped to string the supplier along and help their parents flip their Chinese contact in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Greenberg had the same goal. China’s Ministry of Public Security has, at best, a mixed track record with assisting counterfeiting investigations, so Homeland Security typically attempts to lure Chinese suppliers to American soil to make an arrest. But counterfeiters are wary of leaving the legal safety of the mainland. Soon, the couple’s source stopped calling their house. Greenberg suspects another American customer learned of the arrests and tipped off the supplier. The outcome was frustrating, he said—like collaring a street-level drug dealer while the kingpin slips away. In the past two years, Operation Plastic Beauty has seized more than $8 million of knockoff cosmetics and won 25 convictions. It’s not nothing, but the authorities know they could be doing more.

Robles pleaded guilty to second-degree counterfeiting, and a judge sentenced him to five years in state prison. De la Mota and her daughter pleaded guilty to third-degree counterfeiting and got probation and pretrial intervention, respectively. In May, I paid a visit to the family home. The security camera was still there. Everything else, including the Mercedes SUV, had been carted away by federal agents. De la Mota wasn’t home, and I left my card with a relative. When I returned an hour later, a modest sedan was parked in the driveway. I rang again, but no one answered the door.

I then made the 20-minute drive to Busanka, the restaurant de la Mota’s brother-in-law owns, where several packages had been delivered. Authorities had recently busted its proprietors, too. State auditors assisting Greenberg had learned that the owner, Henry de la Rosa, hadn’t been properly collecting sales tax. (In April 2016, de la Rosa was sentenced to three years’ probation and ordered to pay restitution of about $53,000.) When I arrived, the late-lunch crowd was sitting on stools emblazoned with Dominican flags and watching Spanish-language TV. De la Rosa was taking orders for carne de res frita and longaniza. He insisted to me that he hadn’t known what was in the packages and that he’d never handled them.

I asked him: What did he think of Robles and de la Mota? “They f—ed me real bad,” de la Rosa said. His cheeks were turning pink. To be specific, choosing among the 52 shades on MAC’s color palette for blush, they looked an awful lot like Pinch O’ Peach.

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Is the mica in your makeup bag ethically sourced?

As part of our research we spoke to leading cosmetics manufacturers:

Estée Lauder say less than 10% of its mica comes from India and says “child labour is unfortunately still prevalent” in the supply chain there.

Clarins says its mica comes from “suppliers with their own mines in areas where child labour is strictly regulated by laws”.

The owners of Maybelline, L’Oréal, say there’s “a risk of child labour” in the Indian mica supply chain but says its own supply chain of Indian mica is “now almost completely secured”.

L’Oréal said in a statement: “In the face of the economic and social challenges, L’Oréal has committed to remaining in India and has implemented a responsible procurement policy to ensure the traceability and transparency of its supply chain. Thanks to these efforts, our supply chain of Indian mica is now almost completely secured.”

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Black History Month: 8 Women Who Broke Barriers in Beauty

Widely recognized as the first self-made female millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker, née Sarah Breedlove, developed a line of innovative hair-care and skincare products for African-Americans that bolstered them with hygienic pride. Though she initially started out hawking the products of her financially-savvy mentor Annie Turnbo Malone (who many dispute as the true first Black self-made millionairess), the self-proclaimed hair culturalist and marketing magician broke away by developing her own product range and achieved ultimate success within a dozen years by expanding her product reach from door-to-door, by mail-order catalogue and “hair culture” colleges. In 2016, Sundial Brands, manufacturer of SheaMoisture, reintroduced her culturally-rich legacy to the millennial set by rolling it out to a multitude of Sephora doors.

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Five Incredible Beauty Dupes To Save You £££’s!

Being a huge fan-girl for Dior, I like to get my hands on as many of their beauty items, as humanly possible. They offer one of my favourites ranges of beauty products and I do believe that they are all worth the price. Dior Show is a great lash plumping mascara for anybody who likes a more dramatic look, just like I do. It is on the pricier side, sitting at £25.50 so be prepared to be blown away when I tell you that my dupe only costs £2.49… It not only provides that much needed volume, it is actually way better than my beloved Dior mascara! My new holy grail product can be found at Aldi, introducing to you, the incredible Lacura Magic Curl Mascara! Shook? Me too!

This post has been published on The Huffington Post’s blogging platform. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and should not be taken as those of The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post does not allow bloggers to acquire products, access or accommodation for review in the site’s name.

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Key Takeaways From L’Oreal’s 2016 Annual Earnings

L’Oreal released its 2016 annual results  on February 9th. The year ended on a strong note for the company having been boosted by positive growth (~4%) in the global beauty market. The company outperformed the performance of the global beauty market . In Q4, most of its markets including North America, Western Europe (except France), and some of its New Markets such as Eastern Europe, Hispanic Latin America, Japan, and Korea performed well. However, markets such as France showed a decline in all the channels, and the company faced challenges in Hong Kong, China, and India. L’Oreal’s luxury segment, L’Oreal Luxe, still remained its best performer with its innovative products and iconic line of products, while the mass markets recovery continued due to the adaptation of the segment to the contemporary market demands. Though the Active Cosmetics slowed down a bit, it was still a growth driver. With L’Oreal’s recent acquisitions of three brands under this category, its strong leadership position in this segment might continue to flourish. L’Oreal’s Professional segment continued on its weak note but it is expected to show signs of improvement as the hair color market starts gaining momentum and the new product launches by the company last year starts picking up sales. Along with this, there has been management restructurings for further boosting the performance of the Professional division. L’Oreal’s e-commerce sales impressive growth continued like the previous quarters in both its mature and New markets. The year 2016 was one where L’Oreal boosted its market dominance and growth with the help of organic and inorganic growth along with its digital initiatives. L’Oreal is the most advanced beauty company when it comes to digital progress.

The Body Shop Might Be Sold Off Soon

However, one of the biggest highlight of the earnings call was that L’Oreal has started looking for strategic alternatives for its The Body Shop brand. With over 3,000 stores across 66 countries, The Body Shop, which was once a celebrated brand, has been suffering in its performance lately. In 2016, The Body Shop witnessed a 5% decline in its top line to reach €920.8 million. The slowdown in sales in strategically important regions such as Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong were attributed to its weak performance.

L’Oreal Maintained Its Dominance In Most Of Its Important Markets

The company gained market share in each of its three strategic areas: namely its growth accelerated in North America due to the recovery of its Consumer Products division, L’Oreal Luxe’s stellar line of products such as Lancôme, Urban Decay, Yves Saint Laurent, and now the newly acquired IT Cosmetics contributed to its impressive performance, and its Active Cosmetics revenues nearly doubled as a result of its new acquisitions towards the end of 2016. L’Oreal is currently the market leader in the U.S. and the Western European beauty markets with around twice and thrice the market shares of its closest competitors in the respective regions.

Additionally, the company gained market shares in regions of Eastern Europe including Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. In Asia, countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and Australia, South Korea, and Taiwan performed impressively.

In China, the second largest beauty market globally, L’Oreal’s Luxe segment grew by double digits though the Consumer Product division was a bit slow owing to the glitches faced by its 2014 acquisition, Magic Holdings. However, it still maintained its leadership position in the e-commerce channel in China.

2016 annual lrlcy

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Have more questions on L’Oreal? See the links below.

  • What Is L’Oreal’s Fundamental Value On The Basis Of Its Forecasted 2015 Results?
  • How Has L’Oreal’s Revenue And EBITDA Composition Changed Over 2012-2016E?
  • L’Oreal: Year 2015 In Review
  • What Is L’Oreal’s Fundamental Value Based On 2016 Estimated Numbers?
  • L’Oreal’s Q1 2016 Earnings Results
  • How Did The Top Two Beauty Companies Perform In The Fragrance Segment Over The Last Five Years?
  • How Can L’Oreal’s Digital Investments Help The Company?
  • Who Relies More On Debt: L’Oreal Or Estee Lauder?
  • What Are Some Of The Trends Expected To Drive The Future Of The Beauty Market?
  • Why Might L’Oréal Be Acquiring Luxury Perfume Brand Atelier Cologne?
  • How Is L’Oreal’s Revenue Composition Expected To Trend?
  • How Is L’Oreal’s Skincare Business Expected To Trend?
  • Why Does L’Oreal Want To Acquire The Skincare Brand, Société des Thermes de Saint-Gervais-les-Bains?
  • Here’s Why L’Oreal’s Digital Progress Places It Way Ahead Of Its Peers
  • How L’Oreal Stands To Gain From The Growth Of The Global Hair Care Market
  • Here’s How L’Oreal Is Gaining Competitive Advantage With Its ‘Beauty Squad’
  • L’Oreal Makes Haircare Go Digital With Its Latest Launch
  • Why Did L’Oreal Decide To Acquire Three Active Cosmetics Brands From Valeant For $1.3 Billion?
  • Here’s How L’Oreal And Founders Factory Are Taking Their Partnership Forward
  • What To Watch For In L’Oreal’s Q4 2016 Earnings


1) The purpose of these analyses is to help readers focus on a few important things. We hope such lean communication sparks thinking, and encourages readers to comment and ask questions on the comment section, or email

2) Figures mentioned are approximate values to help our readers remember the key concepts more intuitively. For precise figures, please refer to our complete analysis for L’Oreal

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RESEARCH: Lego Named Most Powerful Brand, Apple Tops Brand Intimacy Report, Estée Lauder Top Luxury Vendor – Portada


Check out our new round up for brand marketers, where you’ll find the week’s most relevant insight and research.  If you’re trying to keep up, consider this your one-stop shop

SaaS firm Snaplytics released its quarterly metrics report for Q4 2016: 54.8% of followers will open brand stories and 87.5% will complete the full story after opening. Thirteen stories are posted monthly on average per brand with 11 snaps per story, of which 61% are videos.

Satisfaction is the emotion consumers most associate with positive brand experiences, according to recent research from InMoment.

 Nielsen released report A Fresh Look at Multicultural Consumers to help retailers understand the influence multicultural consumers wield across the meat, produce, seafood, deli, and bakery categories. Results: Multicultural households spend a higher share on Fresh as a percentage of their total food spend compared to non-Hispanic White households.

According to a new Accenture study, new “languages of loyalty” are driving customer relationships in the digital age, especially among millennials. The firm argued that marketers should provide digital-driven incentives through tokens of affection, personalization, exciting experiences, the use of influencers and brand partnerships.

Market-research agency MBLM released its 2017 Brand Intimacy Report. The report reveals that the top brands must build deep relationships with consumers through strong and personal engagement. Apple, The Walt Disney Company, Amazon, Harley-Davidson, Inc. and Netflix came in at the top.

Technavio has announced the top six leading vendors in their recent global personal luxury goods market report. This market research report also lists 14 other prominent vendors that are expected to impact the market during the forecast period. Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, LVMH, Richemont and Swatch Group came in at the top of the list.

According to a new report published by Allied Market Research, titled, “Confectionery Market by Type: Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2014-2022 the global confectionery market was valued at $184,056 million in 2015, and is projected to reach $232,085 million by 2022. The chocolate confectionery segment dominated the market in 2015 with more than one-third revenue share.

According to research firm Gartner, global smartphone sales to end-users hit 432 million units in the fourth quarter of 2016 — a seven per cent increase over the like period in 2015, and  smartphone sales to end-users totalled nearly 1.5 billion units in 2016, an increase of five per cent from 2015.

NPD Group reported that sales of prestige products climbed 6% last year for a total of $17 billion spent in the third year of consecutive growth. Color cosmetics sales climbed 12% and represented 82% of all growth, sales of skincare products gained by 2%, and luxury fragrances grew by 1%.

Danish toy manufacturer Lego was named the Most Powerful Brand in the World by consulting firm Brand Finance. Ferrari came in second.

Gretchen Gardner @gardnergretchen

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Mass haul of counterfeit cosmetics found in China

Fake luxury-branded cosmetics worth $120m have been seized in China.

The haul came after seven underground dens were raided earlier this month in the eastern city of Taizhou, revealing a stash of more than 1,200 boxes filled with counterfeit makeup featuring the labels Chanel, Christian Dior, L’Oréal SA’s Lancôme and Estée Lauder.

Chinese media reported that 15 people have been arrested, of which 13 have been charged.

The fakes came to light following reports early last year that bogus products bearing the US health and beauty brand Amway were being sold online, which lead to an investigation by police.

Last year, the police raided a warehouse storing the spurious online store’s merchandise and turned up 100 boxes of fake Amway products worth almost $30,000. The sting had a domino effect leading to the identification of other counterfeit operations.

One man is said to have admitted his role in running the racket of underground workshops, where raw materials were bought online and then mixed to make the beauty products. The packaging, which was purchased further south in Guangdong province, had QR codes copied from the genuine products.

The fake cosmetics, which were distributed throughout China, were sold online at 10 times the production cost and any complaints were dealt with by refunds in the hope police would not be notified.

This is not the first time Chinese conmen have been found producing fake beauty concoctions. In 2012, police seized more than $3m-worth of fake cosmetics that included batches of counterfeit Botox.

A report in 2015, noted that there were 56 raids in the Guangdong province alone confiscating fake beauty products worth $11m. The report said that counterfeit cosmetic operations required just a filling machine, a sealer and at most two workers. It said there were cases where licensed manufacturers were bribed for the anti-counterfeiting packaging designs.

A UK Intellectual Property Office report, published in 2012, said there was an increasing number of cases involving counterfeit cosmetics, with the finger pointed at operations coming out of China.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Hong Kong cosmetics chain Colourmix was fined more than $20,000 for possessing 481 bottles of fake makeup remover labelled with the Bioderma brand. The counterfeits were found during a police raid in 2015 and featured spelling mistakes, misprints and incorrect expiry dates. A magistrate described Colourmix’s quality assurance system as “seriously lacking” and “failing to achieve even the basic gatekeeping”.

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Chinese police seize US$120 million of fake cosmetics – Channel …

Chinese police have seized a huge haul of counterfeit cosmetics, including ones labelled as Chanel, Christian Dior, L’Oreal SA’s Lancome and Estée Lauder.

File photo of cosmetics display. (Photo: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)

SHANGHAI: Chinese police have seized a huge haul of counterfeit cosmetics, including ones labelled as Chanel, Christian Dior, L’Oreal SA’s Lancome and Estée Lauder, with a combined street value of around 827 million yuan (US$119.89 million).

Police forces in the eastern city of Taizhou busted seven underground dens earlier this month and seized over 1,200 boxes of the counterfeit make-up, local authorities said late on Wednesday via an official Sina Weibo microblog.

Police identified the counterfeit cosmetic gangs last year after reports of fake Amway products being sold online.

The cosmetics bust underlines the challenge brands face in China, where counterfeit and knock-off products can range from personal care items to food products, medicines and even cars.

The country has been trying to step up a crackdown on fakes, with authorities opening more than 170,000 intellectual property infringement and counterfeit product cases last year and arresting nearly 20,000 suspects.

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