The history of beauty


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The history of beauty

  1. 1. RESEARCH & IDEASThe History of BeautyQ&A with: Geoffrey G. JonesPublished: April 19, 2010Author: Sean Silverthorne Fragrance, eyeliner, toothpaste—the beauty As I researched this story, I realized both manufacturers and perfumers that will provide abusiness has permeated our lives like few other the huge size and the importance of this product for But surprisingly little is known about industry—and the remarkable paucity of This is also an industry subject to suddenits history, which over time has been shrouded authoritative literature about it. Or more shifts in fashion and fads, which disruptin competitive secrecy. HBS history professor precisely, while there are numerous books on incumbent positions and provide opportunitiesGeoffrey Jones offers one of the first various aspects of the beauty industry, from for new entrants. Brand loyalties are oftenauthoritative accounts in Beauty Imagined: A glossy coffee-table publications on cherished weak, especially for "fun" products like lip andHistory of the Global Beauty Industry. Key brands of perfume to feminist denunciations of eye cosmetics, although less so for foundation,concepts include: the industry as demeaning to women, there because it is more expensive and needs to be a • The emergence of the beauty industry was were few studies that treated beauty seriously, good match with skin tone. associated with an unprecedented as a business. So I saw both a challenge and an Achieving sustainable success in the beauty homogenization of beauty ideals throughout opportunity to research the story of how this industry is another matter. It is fiercely the world. industry grew from modest origins, making competitive, with thousands of product • Entrepreneurs combined a passion for the products that were often deemed an affront to launches each year. Even the largest, most beauty industry with an ability to public morality, to the $330 billion global professionally managed global companies find understand the societal values and artistic industry of today. it hard to predict the success of product trends of their eras. launches, and can stumble badly. One estimate • The industry is subject to sudden shifts in Q: Why has this industry been so is that 90 percent of new fragrance launches fashion and fads, which disrupt incumbent neglected by business school faculty? fail. Getting the word out to consumers, and positions and provide opportunities for new A: I think there are two reasons. First of all, getting product through the distribution entrants. this is a difficult industry to research. channels to consumers, provide further major Historically, it has been quite fragmented, with challenges for new ventures. Creative talent, many small and often family-owned firms astute marketing skills, and the ability to Beauty Imagined: A History of the Global whose stories are hard to reconstruct. The understand and respond rapidly to consumerBeauty Industry is the first serious attempt to industry as a whole is well known to be fashions and preferences are all needed totrace the history of the $330 billion global secretive—after all, its foundations rest heavily succeed. There are fortunes to be made bybeauty industry and its large collection of on mystique. building a successful new brand, but it takes anfascinating entrepreneurs through countries And then there is the frequently observed enormous amount of work and good luck toincluding France, the United States, Japan, and gender bias in business school faculty. I suspect succeed.Brazil. Whats taken so long? male faculty, who comprised the majority in According to author Geoffrey Jones, the most schools until quite recently, regarded this Q: You artfully portray a vivid,Isidor Straus Professor of Business History at industry as a feminine domain and rather passionate cast of entrepreneurs. Which doHBS, the fragmented, secretive, often frivolous, and felt more comfortable writing you consider the most influential? Do youfamily-owned businesses that have constituted about software or venture capital than lipstick have favorites?the industry have been difficult for scholars to and face powder. As female faculty built A: The book emphasizes the role ofunlock. Couple this with the fact that most careers in business schools, they may also have individual entrepreneurs in building thisbusiness historians are male, and you have a been disinclined to conform to assumed gender industry. They varied enormously in theirmajor industry that still has lots to reveal. We stereotypes by working on beauty. The fashion backgrounds and characters, but most shared aasked Jones to discuss his research and his new industry, which is also huge, suffers from the passion for the beauty industry, combined withbook. same lack of attention from management an ability to understand the societal values and researchers. artistic trends of their eras, and to translate them Sean Silverthorne: What inspired your into brands.interest in the beauty business and its Q: You write, "Beauty emerges as an François Coty stands out as a creativehistory? industry which was easy to enter, but hard to genius in the formative stages of the industry in Geoffrey Jones: My initial interest in the succeed at." How so? the early 20th century. Born as Joseph Mariebeauty industry was triggered by my earlier A: It does not take a great deal of capital François Spoturno on the Mediterranean islandhistory of the consumer products giant nor technological expertise to launch an of Corsica, which was also the birthplace ofUnilever, published some years ago. This entrepreneurial venture in many beauty Napoleon, he was a complete outsider to thecompany had a long-established business in products—although for such a venture to have traditional Parisian perfume industry. He wentsoap and other toiletries, but spent decades after any hope of success, high levels of imagination on to transform it. Assuming an adapted versionWorld War II striving without great success to and creativity have always been required. If you of his mothers maiden name as he strove toexpand its business into other categories of the have a concept for a new brand, and the create a brand that symbolized style andbeauty industry, such as skin care and perfume. necessary finance, there are contract elegance, he got his first order by smashing aCOPYRIGHT 2010 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE 1
  2. 2. HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL | WORKING KNOWLEDGE | HBSWK.HBS.EDUbottle of his perfume on the floor of a 30s, shows that a large company has the power scents. A hundred years later, the application ofprominent Parisian department store, in a to challenge stereotypes should it wish to do so. new technologies to extract essences fromsuccessful gambit to get customers to smell it. flowers and plants, and to create syntheticHe created two entirely new classes of perfume, Q: What was the impact of television fragrances, had transformed perfume.soft sweet floral and chypre, and was the first both in helping define beauty and in Historically, perfumes were reminiscent of oneperfumer to sell his wares in elegantly designed developing the industry? individual "note"—to employ the musicalglass bottles, rather than in the pharmaceutical A: During the late 1940s, television spread metaphor used in the industry—which tried tobottles used previously. An ambitious believer rapidly across the United States, and soon replicate nature. The new perfumes had a vastlyin globalization, he even sent his energetic afterwards elsewhere. Television offered increased range of scents; were far moremother-in-law to open up the American market remarkable new opportunities to take brands abstract, with three notes; and offered scents notin 1905. The American business proved so into peoples living rooms, and it drove found in nature. Meanwhile, a marketingsuccessful that its U.S. sales reached the advertising budgets sharply upwards. revolution had turned perfume into a brandedequivalent in todays terms of half a billion Charles Revson was a master of using the product, sold at different price points indollars by the end of the 1920s, before the Great new medium to grow brands. Revlons fortunes different distribution channels, and increasinglyDepression eviscerated what had become the were made through its sponsorship of The gendered. While historically men and womenworlds biggest beauty company. $64,000 Question game show that began had used the same scents, they now began to Coty was a larger than life character, but he broadcasting on CBS in 1955. Later it emerged like to smell differently, with scents nowwas hardly alone in this industry in that respect. that the show was rigged, a scandal that even reminding genders of their roles in the world.The cast of influential and colorful characters led to congressional hearings, but this had no As for decorative cosmetics, the story ofincludes Madam C.J. Walker, the daughter of discernible impact on either Revson or his lipstick is really interesting. While the use offormer slaves in Louisiana who developed a company. lipstick, like many cosmetics products, reachessystem for straightening African-American hair, Television also proved a medium that new back far into human history, in the early 20thwhich was so successful that she ranks as entrants could use to challenge incumbents. century it was still a product associated withamong the first American self-made female During the late 1950s, Leonard Lavin used actresses and women of dubious morality.millionaires. And then there was the television advertising to grow the tiny Thereafter the use and acceptability of lipstickever-feuding Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Alberto-Culver hair care business into a expanded. There was technologicalArden, who transformed beauty salons from significant national player. innovation—the first metal lipstick containerplaces considered the moral equivalent of More recently, home shopping channels was invented in Connecticut in 1915, and thebrothels to palaces of opulence and style. And such as HSN and QVC have become important first screw-up lipstick appeared six years our own time, Luiz Seabra stands out as the places to launch new brands. However, the By the time the United States entered Worldfounder of Brazils biggest beauty company, impact of television was not limited to War II in 1941, the government declared theNatura, which is dedicated to environmental marketing. Color television drove innovation in production of lipstick to be a wartime necessity,sustainability with a broad social vision. makeup, which was subsequently diffused from such was its impact on morale. actors to the wider public. And as the United Q: How much does the industry influence States became a major source of television Q: What does this book tell us about theour notions of beauty, and how much do programming worldwide, it proved a major impact of globalization today and goingaccepted or popular notions of beauty force for diffusing American ideals of lifestyle, forward?influence product development? fashion, and beauty worldwide. A: As I have suggested, the emergence of A: The human desire to attract reflects basic the modern industry was associated with anbiological motivations. Every human society Q: What do you think were the most unprecedented homogenization of beauty idealsfrom at least the ancient Egyptians onwards has significant products that marked its throughout the world. During much of the 20thused beauty products and artifacts to enhance evolution? century, homogenization was further reinforcedattractiveness. However, beauty ideals have A: I would begin with soap. The technology by the impact of Hollywood, the advent ofalways varied enormously over time and to make soap was known for several thousand international beauty pageants, and so on.between societies. years, but the product was rarely used for Beauty was associated with Caucasian features, The book shows that as the modern industry personal washing, especially by Europeans who as interpreted by the twin capitals of beauty,emerged in the 19th century, it facilitated a largely avoided washing with water after the Paris and New York. Although the momentumworldwide homogenization of beauty ideals. Black Death in the Middle Ages, believing it to for homogenization was strong, it was strikingBeauty became associated with Western be dangerous. Then, as public health concerns that markets stayed differentiated by inheritedcountries, and white people, and with women. rose during the 19th century and water began to cultural and social preferences.These assumptions reflected wider societal be piped into peoples houses, a number of And globalization today is working in a fartrends. Western societies as a whole underwent brilliant entrepreneurs built a demand for soap more complex fashion. The geographical spreadgrowing gender differences in clothing and as a branded product by linking its use to of megabrands and globalization of celebritywork. And this was the age of Western godliness, securing celebrity endorsement, and culture certainly suggests furtherimperialism. The industrys contribution was to later suggesting that the use of some brands homogenization. During the early 1980s,turn these underlying trends into brands, create would bring romantic success. Using soap for Chinas consumption of beauty products wasaspirations that drove their growing use, and washing became associated with Western close to zero. It is now the worldsthen employ modern marketing methods to civilization, and even as an essential entry ticket fourth-largest beauty market-and the top brandsglobalize them. for immigrants seeking to become true in cosmetics and skin care are the same as in the I see beauty companies as interpreters of Americans. United States.prevailing assumptions and as reinforcers of The transformation of perfume also marks However, there was also a new sensitivity tothem. The debate is how much autonomy an important stage in the evolution of the difference and diversity, representing a newbeauty companies have to shape ideals. modern beauty industry. In the early 19th pride and interest in ethnic and local beautyUnilevers current Dove marketing campaign, century, perfume was made in small batches, ideals. The tremendous growth of skinwhich uses senior women as models to make rarely applied to the skin, and drunk for health lighteners in India and East Asia is one sign ofthe point that one can be beautiful beyond ones reasons. There was a narrow range of available this trend. While global companies areCOPYRIGHT 2010 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE 2
  3. 3. HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL | WORKING KNOWLEDGE | HBSWK.HBS.EDUconcerned that the core claims—and usually the manufactured for everyday use.20 As usual,core technologies of brands—have to be the Q: What are you working on now? early adopters were young. In 1925 the conceptsame worldwide, there is now also a concern A: I am writing a book on the origins and of a "generation gap" was invented to describethat the forms in which such claims were growth of green entrepreneurship worldwide the difference between mothers and daughtersdelivered, whether in jars or creams, should be over the last six decades. This idea originated regarding the use of lipstick in America.21 Byrelevant to local consumers in each market. out of my research on the beauty industry, in the end of the 1920s, three thousand differentMoreover, as global firms experiment with which I explored the growth of interest in face powders and several hundred rouges alonetaking new beauty ideals around the world, they "natural" products. This is now one of the were being sold on the American market.22are becoming agents of diffusion for different hottest segments of the global industry, with Hollywood was also playing a pivotal ideals. LOréal, for example, primarily estimated sales of $7 billion. During World War I the American industry wassold French brands before the 1990s. During In recent years, natural products companies able to pull ahead of the French firms whichthat decade it purchased American brands such like The Body Shop and Bare Escentuals, the initially dominated the cinema industry. By theas Maybelline, Redken, and Kiehls and San Francisco company that has built the 1920s the industry, now concentrated inglobalized them. And over the last decade it has minerals-based cosmetic market, have been Southern California, was able to benefit fromacquired Shu Uemura in Japan, Yue-Sai in snapped up by global players paying large the size of its home market and its control ofChina, and Britains Body Shop. Global firms premiums. However, what really interested me distribution markets to dominate both theare, in this sense, now orchestrating diversity, is the time it took to make this market take off. American and international markets.23 Movienot homogeneity. As early as the 1950s, entrepreneurs like theaters reached almost every American town, Jacques Courtin-Clarins and Yves Rocher diffusing new lifestyles and creating a new Q: Both men and women played huge began to experiment making cosmetics from celebrity culture around movie stars thatentrepreneurial roles in the development of plants rather than chemicals, decades ahead of exercised a powerful influence on how beauty,the industry. Was one gender better than the perceived demand. They, and their counterparts especially female beauty, was defined.24other, generally, in creating success? in other industries such as food and cleaning Max Factor forged the direct link between A: It is tempting to speculate that since so materials who talked about the dangers of cosmetics and Hollywood. His work for actorsmany of the products in the industry have been chemical ingredients and the need for resulted in the principle of "Color Harmony,"and continue to be aimed at women, being a environmental sustainability, were often which established for the first time that certainfemale entrepreneur would make one better at dismissed as crazy, or at best irrelevant. Today, combinations of a womans complexion, hair,interpreting womens desires than a male many of their ideas are mainstream. and eye coloring were most effectivelyentrepreneur. The industry has indeed seen a This transition is the core of the book I am complemented by specific make-up shades. Asveritable roll call of influential female now researching. It will look at entrepreneurs he grew in fame alongside the movies, he alsoentrepreneurs. Over the last five decades alone, and firms across a broad span of industries, and played a significant role in legitimatizing theone can think of Estée Lauder and Mary Kay in globally, that saw greenness as both a profitable use of cosmetics. In particular, he beganthe United States; Simone Tata, who virtually and a socially necessary business opportunity, referring to his cosmetics as make-up, a wordfounded the modern Indian beauty industry; and and that have led, rather than followed, long used by actors but not widely used moreBritains Anita Roddick, the founder of The regulators and public opinion in pursuit of their generally because of the disreputable image ofBody Shop. Among influential female business goals. actors.25 Now, for perhaps the first time inleaders today are Avons Andrea Jung and Western culture, actors could be thought notLeslie Blodgett of Bare Escentuals. Yet for every successful female business Excerpt from Beauty just beautiful on the outside but beautiful and respectable on the inside, too. That was a bigleader, one can find male equivalents, including Imagined: A History of the change for people until recently regarded asthe misogynist Charles Revson who built Global Beauty Business barely above prostitutes.Revlon as an industry leader between the 1950s By Geoffrey Jones Max Factors store in Los Angeles alsoand 1970s; the British-born Lindsay began to make wider sales. In 1916 heOwen-Jones, who turned the French hair care Beauty amid introduced Eye Shadow and Eyebrow Pencil forcompany LOréal into todays global beauty War and public sale, the first time such products hadpowerhouse over the last two decades; and Shu Depression: The been available beyond the theatrical make-upUemura, the Japanese makeup artist who American color line. Advertisements prominently featuredcreated an exquisite, and now global, brand. cosmetics market screen stars, whose studios required them to A further complication in reaching a also expanded endorse Max Factor products.26 A distributiondefinitive answer to whether there are gender during these years. company was contracted to penetrate theadvantages in this industry is that women are Still barely drugstore market, and in 1927 nationwidemore likely to enter the beauty business than acceptable in 1914, distribution of Max Factor cosmetics began.others, as the obstacles to entry for female product innovations The date coincided with the premiere of the firstentrepreneurs have been and continue to be made their use both talking movie The Jazz Singer, at which Maxhigher for women than men in other industries, more accessible and Factor and his family were in attendance. 27like construction, for example. So there is a lot desirable. The firstof female entrepreneurial talent pooling up in metal lipstick container was invented bybeauty, while male entrepreneurial talent is Maurice Levy in Connecticut in 1915. The firstspread more evenly across industries. screw-up lipstick appeared six years later.19 In Footnotes The books position on this question is that 1916 Northam Warren created the first 19. Jessica Pallingston, Lipstick: Agender is not a main determinant of success in commercial liquid nail polish when he launched Celebration of the Worlds Favorite Cosmeticthis industry, but that status as an "outsider" of the Cutex brand of manicure preparations. A (New York: St. Martins Press), p. 70.some kind was important. This helps to explain new form of mascara was invented by an 20.,why so many successful figures in the past were Illinois chemist T. L. Williams, whose accessed April 15, 2007.immigrants, or Jews, or—indeed—female. Maybelline Cake Mascara, launched in 1917, 21. Pallingston, Lipstick, p. 164. became the first modern eye cosmetic to be 22. Kathy Peiss, Hope in a Jar (New York:COPYRIGHT 2010 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE 3
  4. 4. HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL | WORKING KNOWLEDGE | HBSWK.HBS.EDUHenry Holt, 1998), pp 121-2. 25. Fred E. Basten, Max Factor: The Man 23. Gerben Bakker, Entertainment who Changed the Faces of the World (NewIndustrialised: The Emergence of the York: Arcade, 2008), p. 46. About the authorInternational Film Industry, 1890-1940 26. Peiss, Hope, p. 126. Sean Silverthorne is editor-in-chief of HBS(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 27. Basten, Max Factor, pp. 59-61. Working Knowledge.2008). Excerpt reprinted with permission of 24. Lois Banner, American Beauty Geoffrey Jones, Beauty Imagined: A History of(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), p the Global Beauty Industry, 2010. Copyright ©16. 2010 by Geoffrey Jones. All rights reserved.COPYRIGHT 2010 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE 4