Thursday September 15, 2011
Down memory lane
By PATSY KAM
Kiehl’s celebrates its 160th anniversary with a limited edition collection.
FOR a brand that started 160 years ago, you would imagine there would be more pomp and swagger to the name that started out as a classic pharmacy.
Instead, Kiehl’s Since 1851, which began as a neighbourhood apothecary in the East Village, New York, stays true to its humble roots, and continues to churn out high quality skincare and hair care which customers have come to regard as important remedies rather than just mere beauty products.
John Kiehl started out as an apprentice at the original pharmacy and eventually began operations under the Kiehl name in 1894. His apprentice, Irving Morse, took over the company in 1921 but kept the Kiehl name and expanded the business from pharmaceutical tonics and medicinal salves to include full-service pharmacy stocking teas, herbs, tinctures, honeys and the first ever Kiehl’s products.
The first counter outside New York was opened in Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills only in 1975. The brand was acquired by L’Oreal USA in 2000 which expanded Kiehl’s over and beyond the historic “Pear Tree Corner” where it first opened shop.
Today, Kiehl’s can be found in 39 countries including Britain, Canada, France, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Australia and Malaysia, with 130 free standing stores and 760 points of sale.
Thanks to Irving’s son, Aaron and his ingenuity, Kiehl’s stores have become more than just a beauty stop. In the 70s, he noticed that the men did not have an interest in cosmetic products. He turned a corner of the store into a museum with vintage Harley Davidson and Indian motorcycles from his private collection. These became great conversation pieces and people would come in just to see the antiques. At one point, there was an actual airplane in the New York store.
Aaron was a graduate in pharmacology and owned his own company, Morse Laboratories, which helped develop the first fluoride treatment, develop penicilin and became a pioneer in the development of chemical ingredient instrumental in fighting tuberculosis. In recognition of his work and Kiehl’s tradition of quality, the Smithsonian Instituition’s Public Health and Pharmacy collection featured 103 Kiehl’s products in 1979, which have since become a part of the Smithsonian’s permanent archive.
Kiehl’s is well known for its unorthodox marketing approach, simple and straightforward packaging, and despite being labeled a “luxury line”, its products are very reasonably priced. The brand follows a generous sampling policy, and relies on word of mouth and product integrity rather than publicity stunts and expensive advertising.
The company’s unique background represents a blend of cosmetic, pharmaceutical, herbal and medicinal knowledge and experience acquired and developed through the generations. This is incorporated into the formulation and manufacturing of Kiehl’s treatments and preparations.
In honour of this tradition, Kiehl’s proudly introduces the Limited Edition New York Heritage Collection which comprises four historical formulations that are still customer favorites today. These are adorned with limited edition black and gold packaging inspired by Kiehl’s New York roots.
The collection features the Original Musk Oil, Ultra Facial Cream and Lotion, and Calendula Toner.
> The Original Musk Oil was dubbed the Love Oil when it first came out in 1963. Kiehl’s lore has it that the oil was formulated in the early 20s by a Russian prince, a relative of Kiehl’s founding family.
According to legend, the formula was stashed away in a vat labeled “Love Oil” in the basement of Kiehl’s flagship store and was rediscovered only in 1958. It is believed to be the first incarnation of the musk scent ever offered to the public.
It was called “original” because there was no scent known to the formulators at the time to be associated with the word “musk.” A scent synonymous with Kiehl’s nearly 50 years after its introduction; the company formulates the popular essence in the same manner for customers to this day.
The Wall Street Journal once named Kiehl’s Original Musk Oil as one of the great unisex fragrances: “After spraying it on her wrist, one tester announced that she wanted to ask herself out on a date.” Price: RM150.
> The Ultra Facial Cream and Lotion made its first appearance in the early 60s and since that time, remains one of the most requested products among patrons and is a “must have” among Hollywood’s professional make-up artists. It is perhaps the most versatile and widely used facial moisturiser in the Kiehl’s line due to its lightweight, silky feel and suitability for both normal to dry and normal to oily skin types.
What’s interesting is that the product is actually adventure-tested!
In 2005, Kiehl’s sponsored the “Greenland First Ascent” expedition, the inaugural climb of peaks rising from the island’s ice-covered glaciers. This extreme location was where Robert Anderson and his expedition tested early samples of the Facial Cream, a 24-hour, light-textured daily hydrator and richer version of the company’s iconic Facial Moisturizer.
In 2010, Kiehl’s was touted to have sold over 1,480,000 pieces of Ultra Facial Cream around the world. Price: RM100.
> The Calendula Toner, formulated with natural whole marigold flowers that today are still handpicked and placed in every bottle by hand, was introduced in the 60s. It became an instant hit due to its soothing and refreshing properties. Calendula, derived from the marigold flower, is sprinkled into this alcohol-free formula to gently tone oily prone skin. The Toner is said to be one of the top five selling products in Asia. Price: RM135.