In the space of a calendar month, it is possible that Estée Lauder Companies have completed three of the most important acquisitions that the premium beauty and fragrance industry has seen since its partnership with Tom Ford in 2005. A departure from established brands, the coming year will see Rodin Olio Lusso, Le Labo and Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle join the conglomerates burgeoning brand portfolio, bringing with them the much needed cliental of the millennial age.
Founded by Linda Rodin in response to her disillusionment with complicated skincare regimens and the anti-ageing market, Rodin Olio Lusso has garnered a cult following within the fashion industry, establishing itself as the epitome of modern ‘back to basic’ luxury. The success of such a niche brand resonates with the fragrance heavy weights, Le Labo and Frédéric Malle, as they rely as much on their exclusivity as they do their uncompromising quality. Curated by Malle, Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle is founded upon the ideology of returning to the lost art of perfumery that has fallen victim to the superfluous range of fragrances marketed today. Each signature scent is developed by an individual nose, who begins from the premise of an‘olfactory sketch’, in which the sense of smell evokes memories that envelope the body of the wearer. This is not dissimilar to the manifesto of Le Labo’s elusive creators, who not only believe in the power of the ‘hand’ in each bottles inception, but that ‘fine perfumery must create a shock- the shock of the new combined with the intimately familiar’. For many a faithful Lauder customer, this will certainly be the case.
Whilst each brand retains an individual identity that Malle himself has assured will be ‘respected’ (which has indeed been proven by the case of Jo Malone); it is questionable to what extent the integrity of their ethos to reject marketing over the product will be upheld when according to reports at WWD, President and Chief Executive Officer Fabrizio Freda has said that their purchase is itself an attempt to ‘maintain steady annual growth’. No doubt such growth will be the by product of globalising the products outside of exclusively American, French and British markets, but with the exception of Rodin Olio Lusso, surely this can only be to the detriment of their existing customers and brand image. Indeed, it is the very heart of the fragrances’ creation and appeal that they are representative of a woman who desires the exotic and exceptional other. This is a customer whose ‘essence’ cannot be expressed via a bottle of Youth Dew, but rather one that wishes to be the Carnal Flower amongst wallflowers.
There is however a reason why after 68 years Estée Lauder still reigns supreme over the likes of LVMH – it is because it evolves with its customer. In recognising the allure of the ‘niche’ that is founded upon quality rather than quantity, perhaps we will see Lauder reinvigorate the beauty industry for the better. If not, at least we will all smell fantastic.