Cosmetics from Burberry and Topshop

Given the current surge in spending on beauty in the UK, it’s surprising George Osborne didn’t introduce a vanity tax in the recent emergency budget. According to the market research firm Mintel, sales of beauty products increased by 30 per cent from 2004 to 2009, from £7.4bn to £9.6bn, while sales of clothes and footwear grew by 9 per cent during the same period.

No wonder then that despite a new government pulling tight on the purse strings, a pair of British fashion labels from either end of the price spectrum are launching cosmetics ranges: Burberry, whose beauty line debuts next week, and Topshop, whose Make Up range launched in May.

“I think there are still challenging times ahead,” says the latter’s owner, Sir Philip Green, of the economic outlook. “But when you are trying to build a global brand, you look at the categories that you think can add value, a place where we can do something slightly differently. I added all of that up and I thought that [make-up] is a market we should probably be in. And I think we are one of the only high-street brands that could do it.”

Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief creative officer, is equally upbeat about the new Burberry Beauty range. “We didn’t start with any market research. We started [the range] from instinct and what we felt was missing from the market,” Bailey says. “Any time we did a campaign, a shoot or a show, it was really tough to find any make-up that felt natural and effortless and didn’t feel like it was making a massive statement.”

Green and Bailey’s optimism notwithstanding, recent beauty history is speckled with examples of successful fashion brands that have failed to conquer the British beauty industry. In 1998 Versace Make-up was launched in the UK but was discontinued in 2009; Prada Beauty (a skincare range with some colour cosmetics) was closed in 2007 after its debut in 2000; and two Calvin Klein cosmetics collections, Calvin Klein Colour and ck Calvin Klein beauty, also failed to find success and were swiftly closed.

Imogen Matthews, a beauty market analyst, says, “Fashion brands are often able to make that transition from clothes to fragrance, but with make-up it is harder. Women will still want to go to the brands that specialise and are seen as beauty experts, such as MAC.”

Yet according to Amandine Ohayon, general manager of Giorgio Armani Beauty, which launched in the UK in 2000, “there is currently a growing consumer demand and interest in brands that are traditionally known for their fashion, which have launched their own beauty ranges. Giorgio Armani Beauty achieved its fastest growth – 32 per cent – between 2008 and 2009.”

Another recent success story is Dolce & Gabbana The Make Up, launched in the UK in 2009 by the licensee Procter & Gamble. Luigi Feola, global vice-president at Procter & Gamble Prestige Luxury Brands, is confident about its future: “Dolce & Gabbana fragrances have been one of our most successful fragrance initiatives ever – the business has more than tripled since 2005, and there is strong consumer demand for a broader beauty offering. If we didn’t think there was sufficient demand [for make-up], we would not be doing this.”

Both Topshop and Burberry have decided to approach their make-up as they would an item of clothing, hoping for the same winning formula. “They all cross over,” explains Green. “In terms of understanding the marketplace, we know who our customer is, so from that perspective it’s just making sure we plug into the customer properly.”

At Topshop, the mantle of make-up maestro was handed to the brand’s lingerie, swimwear and blouse designer, Lizzie Dawson, 28, who divided the project into a core range of 97 products and a trend section with 15 (all priced between £4 and £10); the packaging is in a Banksy-esque graffiti style and features bright pigments and shades.

The Burberry range includes 95 products and one brush (priced between £15 and £34; £39 for the brush). “I looked at it as an extension to fashion,” says Bailey. “I approached it in the same way as I approach designing a dress.” The packaging is heavy, with magnetic seals that echo the clasps on a Burberry bag. As Bailey says, the aim was, “iconic packaging that makes you want to keep the product around”,

This is a good idea, says Vivienne Rudd, senior European beauty analyst at Mintel. “With [the beauty range released by] Calvin Klein, there was a disconnect between the image of the clothing line and the colour cosmetics,” she notes. “Topshop and Burberry are bringing out large ranges, but to keep interest they will have to keep refreshing them.”

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