#CNI Lux Day 2: The Language of Beauty
Marisa Berenson was born into style. As the granddaughter of the Italian-born designer Elsa Schiaparelli, even Berenson’s christening photograph was in Vogue. At sixteen, she was ‘discovered’ by family friend and Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, and promptly climbed the ladder to model stardom. Muse, actress and Hollywood pin-up are all fair descriptions of Berenson, now 74, who has translated the power of screen and stage into a skincare line.
“I was propelled into the world of fame and beauty at the age of 16, but not really prepared for it, because I was brought up in boarding schools,” she told Suzy Menkes at the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference. A trip to India – “it was the 70s and everyone was searching for peace and love and wellbeing” helped her “build more of my being and find myself”. She became vegetarian and learnt to live a holistic way of life. During these seven months, she discovered prickly pear oil – the first product she would develop.
It was when she met her partner Jean-Michel Simonian, the luxury developer behind the La Mamounia spa, later in Marrakech, that her brand became serious. The pair collaborated on a new spa at the Marrakech Sofitel, for which Berenson designed the décor, and started to experiment creating lotions and potions for the treatment rooms. Her antioxidant-rich prickly pear formula was the star of the show and formed the base of each spa ritual.
As a model, beauty is essential to her wellbeing because she cares about the longevity of her career, but she clarified, “Every woman and every man I know cares about looking good and staying healthy for the longest time possible. Now we are so aware of everything we put in our body and put on our skin.”
On the topic of technology and innovation, she maintained: “The human being itself is the greatest authenticity”. Nurturing one’s soul is Berenson’s own mantra and one that has become the heart of Marisa Berenson Sublime Care skincare. Now, she is looking for financial backing from a big company to take our “small, niche brand to another level”.
Representing the corporate side of the industry, Simona Cattaneo, chief marketing officer of Coty Luxury, has been in the business for years and is well-positioned to offer advice to small brands like Berenson’s. Formerly head of beauty at Burberry with stints at Dior and L’Oréal, she was poached by Coty to head up its luxury beauty division and lend the US beauty empire valuable knowledge on how to translate the essence of a fashion house into a beauty line.
“Customer wisdom and social networking has led to new customer behaviour that challenges the convention of luxury, so how do we catch this new customer in a crowded and noisy world?” Cattaneo asked the conference. Beauty has a head start on fashion, because its lower price makes it the entry point into luxury brands for consumers. And, she said, beauty has played a key part in history, self-expression and culture, so everyone can relate to it.
Brands must, Cattaneo advised, “move from storytelling to story leading” through breaking codes and brand innovation. But also “fight for inclusivity”. Where luxury is often considered exclusive, the beauty industry must put an end to prejudice and cross generation divides to be inclusive both in a universal and local way.
Personalisation, she said, has been harder for beauty than fashion, but now thanks to technology, customers can be creators of products like fragrances. This one-to-one communication is crucial. “We must move the transactional relationship with customers to emotional one,” she advised. “Because authenticity drives respectability,” something that Berenson should be careful not to dilute if she chooses to join forces with a luxury beauty conglomerate.
The fourth annual Condé Nast International Luxury Conference is in Lisbon, on the 18th and 19th April. For more information, visit the website