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Archive for January, 2013

This 19th Century Cosmetic Industry Pioneer’s Name is Synonymous with the Creation of Safe Mascara

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

by: Geoff Ficke

If a consumer walks into almost any mass market retail beauty product counter In the world they will encounter a wide array of cosmetic and skin care products under the Brand name Rimmel. The line seems ubiquitous, common, moderately priced and well-marketed to attract the mid-price shopper. And yet, the Brand has an amazing provenance and is an important pioneering innovator in the creation of the modern cosmetic industry.

Born in France, but reared in London, Eugene Rimmel was the son of the manager of a perfumery on London’s swank Bond Street. As a young man he apprenticed in the shop under the tutelage of his father and became adept at creating scents, lotions and cosmetic products that satisfied the needs of the gentry of the day. In the year 1834 he opened his own perfumery, The House of Rimmel.

In collaboration with his father, Rimmel became one of London’s most successful cosmetic formulators. He quickly became the leading creative force in the emerging beauty
product industry
and was especially appreciated for the advances he developed in the areas of hygiene and product efficacy. Eugene Rimmel became the leader in promoting the still nascent habit of regular bathing.

The House of Rimmel became famous for their “vinegar water, pomades and one of the first effective mouth rinses, the precursor to modern mouthwash. However, it was the development of the still rarely used, expensive and unsafe product called “mascara” that made Eugene Rimmel’s reputation.

Mascara was widely known, and users appreciated the cosmetic effect that mascara provided in embellishing and dramatizing the eye lashes. However, the available compounds of the early 19th century were difficult to apply, unstable and very often lead to eye irritation and even disease. Rimmel developed the first commercial, non-toxic mascara.

Rimmel Mascara was an immediate hit. As sales of the mascara exploded so did sales of the Company’s other products. This lead to the organization of international
distributors
and Rimmel became one of the first cosmetic businesses to be sold in wide international distribution. Because the Rimmel mascara was so popular, this silver bullet product became the appellation for mascara in many languages. In Spanish, French, Portuguese, Romanian, Italian, Turkish, Persian and other languages the word used to designate mascara is “Rimmel”.

Not only did Rimmel pioneer safety and hygiene in its research and development, the Company excelled in marketing the Brand. At a time when consumer product Branding and Marketing were primitive, Eugene Rimmel proved to be a master brand builder. He was among the earliest pioneers of the use of direct mail catalogs. A particular effective technique which he developed was to advertise in theatrical play bills wherever Rimmel products were sold.

One of Rimmel’s proudest achievements was being awarded 10 Royal Warrants from European monarchs for his fragrances, toiletry and cosmetic product creations. Great Britain’s Queen Victoria was a particularly avid supporter of The House of Rimmel.

When Eugene Rimmel died in 1887 the New York Times proclaimed him to have been “The Prince of Perfumers”. He was succeeded in managing the Company by his sons and the family held continual control until 1949. Since then the business has been owned by a series of multi-national corporations. Today the world-wide owners of Rimmel are Coty, Inc.

Today, the importance of Eugene Rimmel’s pioneering efforts has lost significance with contemporary consumers. Rimmel cosmetics seem to be a brand name of no unique value, no personality that we can relate to. The mass market products carrying the Rimmel name compete with a host of other low to mid-priced cosmetic lines. This dilutes the historic provenance and importance that this visionary entrepreneur applied to building his Company and his legacy.

This Italian Fashion Giant also Lead One of the 20th Century’s Most Exciting and Daring Personal Lives

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

by: Geoff Ficke

Emilio Pucci, the Marquis of Barsento, was born in 1914 to an ancient family of Florentine nobles. He would live and work for most of his life in the Pucci Palace in Florence. A keen athlete and sportsman he was a member of the Italian Winter Olympic team at the 1932 Lake Placid, New York games.

As a young man he studied at the Universities of Milan and Georgia in the United States. He won a skiing scholarship to Reed College in Oregon and then furthered his education at the University of Florence, earning a doctorate in Political Science in 1937. It was during his student years that he became involved in Fascist politics.

During World War II Pucci enlisted in the Italian Air Force and became a bomber pilot. He rose through the ranks and was decorated numerous times for valor. He had become a close confidant of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s daughter Edda. As the war turned against the Fascists, Edda’s husband Count Galeazzo Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister had attempted to intervene with the Allies to remove Mussolini from power in 1943. Ciano was imprisoned and tried by the Fascists.

Pucci attempted to smuggle Edda Mussolini across the border to sanctuary in neutral Switzerland. While he was successful in saving Edda, he was captured by the Nazi’s as he tried to use Count Ciano’s secret papers to barter for Ciano’s life with Nazi SD General Wilhelm Harster. The attempt failed and the Nazi’s tortured Pucci in an attempt to discover where Ciano’s secret document trove was hidden. Pucci did not break under the abuse.

The Nazi’s decided to try a different tact. They sent Emilio Pucci back into Switzerland to advise Edda Mussolini that she would be killed if she released Count Ciano’s papers to the press. Pucci sat out the last months of the war in Switzerland and returned to Italy after surrender.

In 1947, skiwear Pucci had designed for a lady friend that she was wearing on the slopes in Zermatt was photographed randomly by Harper’s Bazaar. The magazine was so impressed by the fit, color and design that the editor approached Pucci about shooting a full collection that he would have to create. This was the beginning of his iconoclastic fashion career and fame as a couture pioneer.

Pucci’s sleek designs caused a sensation. He was experimenting with early stretch materials which increased skiing performance times but also flattered athletic body types. He followed this with a line of swimwear that became the rage at chic resort wear shops. All of Pucci’s designs featured bold colors co-mingled in crisp geometric patterns. He quickly designed a line of silk scarves which complemented designer suits and dresses.

Stanley Marcus, President of Dallas, Texas based Neiman Marcus approached Pucci and suggested that he design a line of silk blouses and dresses. Throughout the 1950’s his fame grew, international fashion awards were garnered and sales exploded. Marilyn Monroe became a fan and was often photographed in his form flattering dresses (She was buried in a Pucci dress). Fashion icons from Sophia Loren to Gina Lollabrigida to Jackie Kennedy all wore Pucci. Contemporary pop-icons such as Madonna wear Pucci designs today.

In the 1960’s Braniff Airlines decided that they needed to elevate their image and separate their brand from the many bland corporate looks favored by the many  competitors of that time. In one of the first campaigns of total branding by an airline Braniff re-designed every element of their service from the outer skin of their plane fuselages, to their terminals, lounges and staff uniforms. Pucci created the first of his seven stewardess uniform designs that took the industry by storm for their unique color, variety and fashion flourishes. The Pucci-designed Bubble Helmet, designed to protect the stewardess hair in inclement weather, became a sensation. Famously, even the Barbie Doll collection licensed Pucci’s Braniff uniforms for the Stewardess Barbie.

Always an active participant in politics, Pucci served in the Italian Parliament as a delegate representing the Florence-Pistoia region. He was elected in 1964 and served until 1972.

The distinctive Pucci geometric colored-motif logo was licensed for use in many luxury goods categories. I was very fortunate to be the American distributor for Pucci Fragrances in the early-1980’s and on several occasions enjoyed the opportunity to meet the gentile, elegant Senor Pucci. He was always a supremely dignified presence as his annual collections were unveiled at Villa d’Este on Lake Como.

In 1992 Emilio Pucci passed away. His name, brand and unique geometric color palette lives on after being purchased by luxury goods giant LVMH. Today Pucci couture can be found in Pucci and Rossignol boutiques as well as at many fine international department stores and resort shops. His was a life of adventure,

Advertisings First “Whisper Campaign” Created the Modern Antiperspirant Deodorant Industry

Friday, January 18th, 2013

by: Geoff Ficke

Until the early 20th century body odor was addressed in basically one of two ways. The uneducated and impoverished simply did not address their hygiene. The upper-classes bathed on average once each week and most undertook a “toilet” once or twice each day. This consisted of standing at a wash basin filled with hot water and administering a simple sponge bath with a soaped sponge and then a full body rinsing wipe down.

The first modern deodorant product was Mum, introduced in the 1880’s. This product was packaged in jars and applied to the armpit and elsewhere on the body by rubbing onto the skin with one’s fingers. Many people considered the application of the cream in such a manner to be unpleasant and the product possessed and unusual unpleasant odor.

The far larger quandary facing the marketers of products designed to mask and correct unpleasant body odors was that almost all women of the day were simply unaware that they projected offensive odors. They just did not consider their hygiene to be offensive to others, and importantly, their paramours. Body odors were considered natural, even if rancid smelling.

Early in the 20th century a young woman in Cincinnati, a surgeon’s daughter named Edna Murphey tried to sell an antiperspirant product that her father had developed to keep his hands dry while performing surgery. She labeled the deodorant Odorono. Though determined, Ms. Murphey was not very competent or successful at marketing.

The team of door to door sales women Ms. Murphey assembled did not move Odorono at sales levels she had planned. Pharmacists refused to carry the item as they were not receiving calls for such a product to address sweat or perspiration. In desperation, she took a booth at the 1912 Atlantic City Exposition to demonstrate the features and benefits of Odorono. Initially sales were tepid. Fortunately for Ms. Murphey, the expo lasted all summer and 1912 was a particularly hot year. By the end of the fair she had sold over $30,000 worth of Odorono and seemed to be on her way to success.

Sales did grow for several years then hit a wall. Odorono needed professional help and so Ms. Murphey hired the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency to handle her account. JWT opened an office in Cincinnati and assigned a young copywriter named James Young to manage the office and the Odorono account.

Mr. Young immediately confronted the problem that Ms. Murphey had not able to overcome: the commonly held belief of the time that blocking perspiration was unhealthy. Mr. Young’s first ad copy highlighted the scientific provenance of Odorono and positioned the problem of “excessive perspiration” as a medical malady in need of correction.

Sales again accelerated but in a few years began to stutter again. James Young knew that he had to do something radical to save the Odorono account and his fledgling advertising career. He decided to present the problem of body odor and perspiration as a social faux pas. His first ad, which appeared in Ladies Home Journal in a 1919-edition was titled “Within the Curve of a Woman’s Arm”. It was a masterstroke.

The image in the ad was of a woman in a romantic situation with a man. The copy directly and pointedly stated that if the lady wanted to keep her man she had better not smell or stink. In fact, a smelly gal might not even realize she is offensive and this could lead to males avoiding her. The ad caused shock waves and Ladies Home Journal even lost subscribers because of the content.

However, the controversy brought attention to Odorono and the newly addressed problem of feminine body odor. In 1920 sales of the product soared to $417,000.By 1927 Company sales had hit the $1 million mark and in 1929 Edna Murphey sold her business to Northam Warren the makers of Cutex Nail Polish Remover.

This is widely considered the first commercial use of a “whisper campaign” in advertising used to scare female consumers into buying a product to combat sweat and natural body perspiration. Competitors began to mimic the model created by James Young and the technique became a common strategy utilized in the advertising and consumer product marketing industry.

James Young went on to enjoy a career as one of the most famous and successful advertising copywriters of the 20th century. He rose to become Chairman of the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency, helping it to grow into the largest in the world. His “whisper campaign” was instrumental in launching Odorono and thus laying the first brick in the creation of what is today an $18 billion industry: deodorant antiperspirant products. His creation of the “whisper campaign” is still studied in University marketing courses to this day.

The Art of Candle Making Reaches its Apex In Paris at This Cathedral of Artesian Scents

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

by: Geoff Ficke

For many years I was intimately involved in the Perfume business as an international distributor, developer and producer of finished Branded fragrance items and raw materials. One of the necessities essential to achieving success in the essential oil industry is to spend considerable amounts of time in Provence, France. This hardly qualifies as hard duty.

In addition to tending to my firms requirements to source packaging and novel perfume formulary I enjoyed wonderful networking opportunities. From producers of rare specialty plants to famous “noses” I met some of the most creative talents in the luxury cosmetic world. They were always suggesting new stores and ateliers for me to visit to discover fresh, unusual, and often ancient, techniques and recipes for concocting some of the most wonderful aural experiences the world has to offer.

One of these visits led me to discover a nearly four century old purveyor of candles. These are not candles as you might envision. Tapers, votives, or glass encased, over-scented illuminations. The candles crafted by Cire Trudon are works of art.

Founded in 1643, Cire Trudon established quickly itself as the “apothecaire” to the Court of Versailles. Claude Trudon, originally a Parisian grocer, developed a wax production method utilizing the highest quality beeswax and then washing this material thru gypsum. Mr. Trudon imported the finest cotton wicks and this lead to a final candle that was the whitest, cleanest burning in Europe.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, before electrification of homes, candles were the preferred light source for use in illuminating space. Royalty and the upper class used copious volumes of candles to bring light to their palaces and lodges. A by-product of this type of lighting source is smoke and discoloration of furniture, frescoes and tapestry.
The Cire Trudon candles minimized these deficiencies and became the preferred purveyor of spatial light initially to the French, then quickly to royalty across Europe.

Napoleon Bonaparte was a great fan of Cire Trudon candles and gave them exclusively as gifts. When his son was born he received but a single present from his Emperor father: a Cire Trudon candle embellished with three solid pieces of gold sculpted as his head.

Cire Trudon avoided the calamity that befell so many candle manufacturers when electrification and the light bulb were introduced. The Company had long before become a cult favorite of the rich and famous owing mainly to its collaboration with the fragrance houses based in Grasse, Provence. The firm’ products tell stories through the wonderful, poetically conceptual scents that have been crafted over the ages by these perfumers.

The Cire Trudon range consists of 22 classic scents. Each tells a story. One of the most famous is “Solis Rex” (Sun King). The floor boards of the Palace of Versailles smell of fir bark and cedar wood. That this amazing aura is captured so magically in these candles is testament to the craft and creative genius of the perfumers of Grasse and the candle makers of Cire Trudon.

Cire Trudon also provides modern consumers proper guidance in the lost art of properly burning the ancient, simple candle. The first burn of a new candle should last about two hours in order to properly release fragrance. When extinguishing a candle use a metal wick dipper to gently push the wick into the wax. This will eliminate smoking which interferes with the scent. Two hours is the ideal time to burn a candle, not all day.

When in Paris a visit to the Cire Trudon store is to step back into time, a time when artisan craftsmanship was paramount. Cire Trudon candles are sold in fine stores around the world. However, they always seem more illuminating when experienced in their original home venue.