Armand Petitjean worked as an executive at Coty and poached a number of its employees when he started Lancome in 1935 (the name was inspired by the Chateau de Lancosme). The company began with six fragrances that same year Kypre, Tendres, Nuits, Bocages, Conquete, and Tropiques, each themed for a different continent which were an immediate success. A skincare cream, Nutrix, came next in 1936, and a rose-scented lipstick, Rose de France,25 followed soon after. In line with Petitjean’s strong aesthetic sense, Lancome cosmetics had beautiful, expensive packaging with silver-or gold-plated refillable lipstick cases. Unfortunately, by the time the sixties came around, this sort of luxe and elegant makeup was seen as a bit old-fashioned with the new vogue for cheap and cheerful plastic cases. In 1964 L’Oreal bought the company, adding it to its roster of brands. Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones was appointed CEO in 1988 and reestablished Lancome as a leading luxury beauty brand with a quintessential French elegance, hiring actress Isabella Rossellini as the face of the brand (the first official ambassador for a beauty brand) and tripling its advertising budget. The impact on sales was massive, with US sales growing thirty percent from 1983 to 1988.26 Today Lancome is one of the most recognizable global beauty brands still using the rose logo inspired by the roses surrounding the ruins of the Chateau de Lancosme and particularly known for its skincare products, mascaras, and foundations, and a roster of strong, inspiring, and diverse spokeswomen.
A 1930s advertisement showcases Coty’s unique approach to beautiful packaging.
Couture houses don’t just set the fashion for what clothes we’ll all wear next season; they are also crucially placed to be the tastemakers for makeup, skin-care, and perfume. Companies like Chanel or Dior can afford to be daring and fashion-forward in the products they produce, and the styles they set trickle down. Makeup, skincare, and perfume are hugely important parts of their business: With a lipstick or an eye shadow palette, people are able to buy into the glamour of a luxury brand something that they might not otherwise be able to afford.
Lancome innovation and packaging throughout the ages.