Thursday September 20, 2012
French luxury cosmetics company looking East
AS Asia’s economy continues to prosper and consumers become more sophisticated, it’s only logical that French luxury cosmetics company Clarins should look East and reap the benefits from the world’s most populous continent.
“The Asian economy is doing well. Comparatively, it is progressing much better than other countries where the economy is almost at a standstill. As a global skincare brand, it’s important to tap into consumer markets that have plenty of growth opportunities,” explained Clarins group CEO Philip Shearer during an interview in Paris recently.
Economic factors aside, Clarins is most likely to strike it big in this part of the region because Asians love cosmetics and are big spenders on skincare products.
“Skincare holds the largest share market in Asia. We would like to focus on Asia because women in this region place strong emphasis on beauty and skincare,” said Shearer, 55.
He was attached to L’Oreal in the early 90s when he had served as president of the Luxury Goods Division in Tokyo, Japan. During his two-year tenure, he spent a substantial amount of time analysing the market, especially concerning Asian women’s skincare regimens and demands.
“Asians form a sophisticated market when you consider their concept of beauty, consumer needs and disciplined skincare routines.
“The demands of Asian and European women are also different due to climatic changes. Asian weather is much more humid compared with European countries, which have four seasons. As such, the texture of the products have to be lighter and more absorbent for the Asian market,” said Shearer, who was formerly group president for Estee Lauder Corporation prior to joining Clarins in 2008.
“Clarins was born out of a professional brand. Our founder Jacques Courtin-Clarins was a spa operator who specialised in creating beauty products for women. Our plus point is we listen to women’s skincare concerns and incorporate our expertise to meet their demands. And as a plant-based skincare brand, we also practise sustainable development and a Fair Trade policy with local farmers,” he explained.
The fruit of Clarins’ labour is seen in products such as Shaping Facial Lift (a serum that helps restore refined facial features) and White Plus (a whitening range) which have been a huge hit in Asia.
To further cement its position in the Asian market, Clarins recently launched the Double Serum Total Age Control Concentrate, a dual-phase serum formulated using 20 extracts from the botanical world. The revolutionary product was specifically formulated with a lighter texture to cater to Asian women.
The serum is the first of its kind, combining powerful anti-ageing ingredients in hydric and lipidic form.
From plant to product
Behind each beautifully packaged Clarins product is a long scientific procedure to ensure sustainable development throughout the manufacturing process. In 2007, the company created a Responsible Development (RD) department to concentrate on creating safe and environmentally friendly formulas, protecting biodiversity, encouraging innovation and designing products with low environmental impact.
That same year, Clarins Laboratories added a feather to its cap when it garnered the Good Laboratories Practice accreditation by the French health agency for their cellular culture unit. It also has the eco cert which guarantees products are obtained from organic sources.
So far, its RD department’s efforts seem to be bearing fruit. In June 2008, the company saved over nine tonnes of plastic after it stopped using the outer packaging on delivery dispatches. Last year, its greenhouse gas emissions dipped by 20% after the company opted for renewable energies and high-performance equipment.
Clarins’ group supervisory board president Christian Courtin-Clarins, 61, said the concepts of fair trade and sustainable development go hand-in-hand to create job opportunities and safer products, as well as protect nature.
“Our company has survived for 56 years because we stick to our values which revolve around Communication, Listening, Authenticity, Respect, Innovation, Nature and Service,” said Christian, who recently was awarded the prestigious French Legion of Honour for championing various causes, ranging from environmental, educational charities to arthritis research.
Earlier this year, Christian travelled with Lauren Bush, co-founder of anti-hunger programme Feed Projects, to poverty-stricken Honduras to alleviate childhood hunger.
Clarins’ production plant in Pontoise, 40km north-west of Paris, is home to three activities – research and development of skincare and make-up products; manufacturing; and storage of raw materials and packaging components.
The process of creating a product revolves around four steps: conception, development, production and commercialisation. And let’s not forget that each new product needs to score well in the sustainable development field before being launched as well. With so many aspects to think about, it isn’t surprising that it usually takes about nine months to develop a cosmetic product. Some formulas take seven to 10 years of development!
Despite the extended time, Christian doesn’t seem perturbed. As one who is committed to the cause, he understands the importance of improving products that have a lesser impact on the environment.
“We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors but we borrow it from our children. We have to give a green world to our kids. While we work to make a living, what matters is how we reach out to help others,” said the father of four in his parting note.