FRENCH TWIST

Lancôme turns 80 this year, but, as LIZA HERZ re­ports, the sto­ried brand con­tin­ues to re­de­fine beauty ideals.

Fashion (Canada) - - Anniversary -

IT’S AN IN­STA­GRAM CLICHÉ: THE

photo snapped while wait­ing to board a flight. #wheel­sup #jet­setlife. Ex­cept in this pic­ture, no one is pos­ing in ripped jeans and Valentino Rock­studs, clutch­ing a latte and a pass­port. In­stead, three women stand smil­ing in front of a prop plane in pris­tine skirt suits and hats. This im­age is from 1946 and our happy ad­ven­tur­ers are Lancôme

ready to spread the mes­sage of Parisian beauty to the world.

Decades be­fore YouTube beauty tu­to­ri­als and our so­cial me­di­aen­abled ob­ses­sion with French girl style, for­mer Coty ex­ec­u­tive Ar­mand Petit­jean cre­ated the house of Lancôme, 80 years ago, when he no­ticed a lack of French beauty com­pa­nies able to com­pete with dom­i­nant Amer­i­can brands.

Lancôme—the name is a tweaked ver­sion of le Château de Lan­cosme— made a splash when it launched at the 1935 World’s Fair with five fra­grances, each in its own faceted bot­tle. And be­cause Petit­jean be­lieved that “only women know how to talk about a woman’s beauty,” soon skin­care, foun­da­tion and lip­sticks were added to the line, and beauty am­bas­sadors trained in mas­sage, the­atri­cal makeup ap­pli­ca­tion, prod­uct tech­nol­ogy and sales were dis­patched to bring Lancôme’s of­fer­ings to an ea­ger and un­lac­quered global au­di­ence in need of Parisian beau­ti­fi­ca­tion.

The am­bas­sadors spread the gospel of Lancôme and French al­lure with cov­etable items, like 1951’s saucily named Clé de Co­quette (key of the flirt) lip­stick, through 98 coun­tries be­fore the brand’s U.S. de­but in 1974, when things re­ally took off.

In 1982, Is­abella Ros­sellini be­came the com­pany’s first celebrity global brand am­bas­sador, bring­ing Euro­pean el­e­gance and smoul­der to an Amer­i­can mar­ket sat­u­rated with smi­ley blondes. Her 1990 tele­vi­sion com­mer­cial for Tré­sor per­fume even shaped the world­view of none other than fu­ture Lancôme muse Caro­line de Mai­gret, who re­calls watch­ing Ros­sellini “cry­ing, laugh­ing, com­pletely neu­rotic” and think­ing “Wow.

a woman.” “Lux­ury has al­ways been about im­pos­ing a cer­tain idea of fem­i­nin­ity,” says Françoise Lehmann, in­ter­na­tional gen­eral di­rec­tor at Lancôme, “and that is not at all Lancôme.” Last year’s sign­ing of Os­car win­ner Lupita Ny­ong’o, the brand’s first black am­bas­sador, is ev­i­dence of that. And its most re­cent hires, Lisa Eldridge and de Mai­gret, fur­ther “em­body this way of deal­ing with beauty, which is about shar­ing, not im­pos­ing…. Both are very au­then­tic, very ap­proach­able,” Lehmann adds. “Lux­ury has to evolve in this di­rec­tion.” It seemed nat­u­ral then to give de Mai­gret her own col­lec­tion.

Forty-year-old de Mai­gret, who’d been qui­etly toil­ing away in the mod­el­ling trenches since the mid-1990s, be­gan to de­fine French girl cool in her mid-30s. A Karl Lager­feld favourite and co-au­thor of the much-un­der­lined hand­book

for her

she is as fa­mous wardrobe as for »

ABOVE: LANCÔME AMBASSADRICES IN 1946; L’AB­SOLU ROUGE BAUME ($36) IN “205” CARO­LINE DE MAI­GRET ambassadrices MES INCONTOURNABLES DE PARISI­ENNE MAKEUP ESSEN­TIALS PAL­ETTE ($120); DE MAI­GRET THINKS COM­PACTS WITH TINY MIR­RORS AND WEE SPONGES WERE...

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