Shiseido Relaunches Makeup by Imagining New Texture Language

Shiseido is reinventing its approach to color.
In the weeks ahead, Shiseido Co. Ltd.'s namesake brand will roll out new makeup products and reenter Sephora for the first time since 2009. The relaunch, which comes as J-Beauty gains popularity in the U.S., draws from Shiseido's Japanese roots and is in line with Shiseido president and chief executive officer Masahiko Uotani's vision to expand the global presence of the prestige brands over the next three years. It's also a strategic play at boosting Shiseido's stake in the global color market and, according to industry sources, is expected to pull in as much as $500 million in retail sales for the brand over the next three years.
"Makeup-to-skin-care penetration is 30 to 40 percent normally at a Lauder and a Dior. At Shiseido globally, it's 11 percent," said Jill Scalamandre, president of Shiseido's Global Makeup Center for Excellence. "We’re a skin-care company with a little makeup. Skin care’s still gonna grow, but if you’re growing the entire pie, we want makeup to be 30 percent of it and skin care would be 70 percent of it."
Shiseido is the most established player in the J-Beauty space, bringing in $9 billion for fiscal year 2017, up 18.2 percent from the prior year. Competitors include Kao, which owns Jergens and recently acquired Oribe, and Kosé, which owns Tarte and is working to relaunch Awake, a sister brand to Tarte. The U.S. market is also seeing an influx of J-Beauty indies, including NatureLab and Tatcha.
Shiseido Makeup will include 16 new products, 125 new shades, five new makeup brushes and most notably, a new mode of categorization. Shiseido reimagined the more traditional classifications — eyes, lips and cheeks — to sort the products according to the following textures: dews, gels, powders and inks.
The collection will be sold on starting Aug. 3. On Sept. 1, it will be available at 25 Sephora doors globally, as well as Macy's, Dillard's and Nordstrom in the U.S. Prices range from $22 to $64. A relaunch of foundation will follow next year.
Global director of artistry for Shiseido Makeup James Boehmer, who had previously spent 17 years at Nars, was brought on to develop the new products. The color offerings embody the weightless, cooling nature characteristic of Shiseido skin care and, with the company's roots in mind, were named after various aspects of Japanese culture.
The dews are essentially highlighters that work for the eyes, cheeks and lips. The Aura Dew comes in three shades and lasts for up to 12 hours. The gels include 10 lip balms, one gloss and 28 lipsticks called the VisionAiry Gel Lipsticks, which are comprised of 15 percent water and come in a semi-satin finish.
The powders span lipsticks, eye palettes and blushes, which Boehmer said were developed using air-infusion technology and can be applied using the finger. The shades were named after Shiseido muses, Tokyo streets and Japanese nightlife.
"All of the eye palettes are named for different streets in Tokyo and the streets combined with the color cues give you this expression of Tokyo," said Boehmer. "For example, Namiki Street is known for this famous willow tree, so that’s why it has the green. Hanatsubaki Street is where the corporate headquarters are located and Hanatsubaki means camellia, which is the brand’s logo. Cat Street pops as the high street in Harajuku, so you think about very colorful, very neon. We wanted it to make sense, but also feel like Japan in an authentic way."
The final texture category, inks, was created with Japanese calligraphy in mind and includes products for the lips, eyes and brows. Boehmer identified the KajalInk Artist pencil as the star product. It is a three-in-one pencil that works as an eyeliner, eyeshadow and eyebrow pencil and is waterproof, crease-proof and tear-proof. Its packaging includes a built-in smudger — used to create a smoky eye — and a sharpener.
The brushes, which Boehmer said are a growing business for Shiseido, were inspired by Japanese calligraphy brushes.
"They’re intuitive and easy to hold," he said. "When you touch a calligraphy brush on the paper, it’s sharp, and when you snap it back and forth it’s soft. We were inspired by that in the brushes. This idea of resilience, which gives you more options and more points of contact in the brush."
Since its establishment in 1872, Shiseido has always developed its products in Tokyo, but the relaunch of Shiseido Makeup marks a break from that tradition. Working in conjunction with colleagues in Tokyo, Scalamandre used Shiseido's Makeup Center of Excellence to develop the products in the U.S. She estimated 75 percent of the products were made in-house in Japan, with the remaining 25 percent done by outside suppliers.
"The U.S. is naturally the biggest color market in the world," she said. "That’s where the expertise is. We did it in really strict collaboration with Tokyo. They were so open to everything that we did."
Characterized by longer, science-backed product development, J-Beauty is gaining increased interest globally, thanks in part to the K-Beauty burst. Shiseido and Tatcha are two major players in the space, which includes Kanebo, Pola and Number Three.
"J-Beauty can be a movement and we are Japanese beauty," said Scalamandre. "We define it by its beautiful minimalism. In Shiseido makeup, it’s really about single statement looks. A Japanese woman would never put on a deep smoky eye and a red lipstick. They choose one feature and single statement versus doing the Americana thing and piling it on everywhere on your face. It’s about high quality."
The notions of minimalism and sophistication also translated to the black and red packaging.
"It’s as slim if not slimmer than a cell phone," said Scalamandre. "We really wanted to bring that design element, too. J-Beauty is about simplicity, so we feel it’s coming through our ease of application."
For the creative campaign, Shiseido cast four faces — singer Banks, actress Sonoya Mizuno, multimedia artist Yi Zhou and makeup artist Kara Yoshimoto Bua — and paired each with a texture category. The campaign film and corresponding images were shot by Norwegian fashion photographer Sølve Sundsbø.
The paid media plan — Shiseido's biggest media investment of the year — will include out-of-home, digital and for the first time, streaming music. The influencer strategy includes partnerships with Influenster and StyleHaul, which will span Instagram and YouTube.
Foundation, Scalamandre said, is Shiseido Makeup's biggest category and accounts for about 50 percent of the business.
"That's the bridge between skin care and color," she said. "We don't have good penetration in the color items, but we have the strongest penetration in foundation."
Complexion, however, is not a part of the initial relaunch. The strategy is to first build credibility in color and target Shiseido's underpenetrated segments — lips and eyes — before launching foundations, powders, concealers and primers in the fall of 2019.
"Phase two is in the works," Scalamandre said. "Complexion is gonna bring a new, supercool element."
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