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Adrien Arpel- A Legend in Aesthetics

Adrien Arpel- A Legend in Aesthetics

Jul/Aug 1986

Adrien Arpel started in the cosmetic business accidentally, not with the intention of founding a dynast, but out frustration when she realized there were so few in the industry willing to take the time to teach an insecure beginner (or for that matter, more mature women) just how to become more attractive through the use of proper skin care and makeup. At the age of 17, having missed a college scholarship by a few points, Adrien Arple had to seek employment prior to embarking on a course of higher education. As she attempted to achieve a "pulled together", sophisticated look, as a prelude to job hunting, she shopped New York City's cosmetics departments for advice. What she found was something you all are only too familiar with... mixed, confusing messages.

At one sales counter... the makeup consultant consoled, "you must only wear green shadow," another cosmetic rep advised "brown", a third kindly lady told her that "eye shadow was dead." the result for her -- confusion. So she set out to educate herself, and with that she learned, she started her own business, at the age of 17, with $400 earned as a babysitter. Now at age 44, she reflects on the cosmetic costumer and the industry which has changed over time. Because she spends many hours each day, out in the stores talking with women, and listening to their complaints and needs, she is eminently qualified to answer the question that had Freud so puzzled, "What do women really want?"

What she has discovered is what women don't want, at least not anymore, and that's psychology in a bottle. Adrien believes today's cosmetic customer is really a sophisticated consumer, and just because cosmetic ads feature a gorgeous creature standing by a Rolls Royce flanked by twin Ming vases, the customer knows she isn't going to wind up looking like a clone of this mystical beauty staring serenely out from these ads.

What this savvy woman does want is to look like herself, only better and as Adrien says, "The company that blends a healthy dose of the latest technology and a degree of realism along with a limited amount of fantasy has found a profitable recipe for success."

Adrien knows the industry has internal quality controls and fine products. The industry no longer has to sell only a dream in a bottle. "Women don't expect a magic genie to pop out of a jar, but they do expect results. If we combine our fine products with education, take a little time to teach the customer how to use what she's buying, we've got an industry that will continue to grow."

Adrien believes the key is to provide more at the cosmetic counter than an intimidating, artfully made-up saleswoman, or worse, the strange-looking "Star Wars" lady with the flaming red hair and purple eye shadow--who can only parrot one line and that is "gold is THE color this year. "There's no longer such a thing "THE" color. We can suggest fashion, but we must provide a range of colors and products to fit the range of the contemporary woman's lifestyle. Just as women no longer will be dictated to regarding hem length, no matter how chic the designer, fewer and fewer women are buying the idea that one particular set of makeup colors is right for everyone.

Adrien is a firm believer in the "try before you buy" idea of cosmetic marketing. "A sales staff that is trained to apply makeup directly and artfully on the woman customer is worth its weight in gold eye shadow... and repeat business." Just as a woman wouldn't think of buying a dress without trying it on first, many women are asking themselves why they should invest in expensive makeup without at least learning how to use it, and checking the store mirror to see what it will do for them.

Adrien realized many years ago that this smart, contemporary woman thoroughly understands another important idea, that being that the best makeup won't make up for poor skin. These women know that good skin comes first and herein lies the basis for the current revolution in treatments are a necessary part of skin care and grooming. Adrien attributes her growth in this competitive industry to her understanding of the customer's need for skin care... skin care that's as contemporary and "with it" as she is. She now has one-to-one personal skin care boutiques in some 500 of the finest department and specialty stores. These boutiques cater to the contemporary woman of all ages.... And the numbers keep growing. These same women who enjoy the "laying on of hands" that a salon facial provides, will also buy the skin treatments prescribed for their at home use, so they can give themselves a pro-style, do-it-yourself facial whenever they have a few minutes to spare.". The facial masques of 20 years ago that instructed the woman to lie down for an hour once the cream was applied just doesn't have much clout with the woman who may have only 10 minutes between a tennis lesson, P.T.A. meeting or the end of a hard day at the office and the beginning of a casual date.

Adrien believes in the importance of offering professional salon facials as a way to sell treatment products. Women enjoy the personal luxury, the being fussed over and touched in a soothing, non-intimate way that a facial provides as well as skin care education on a one to one basis which the good aesthetician provides. Thus they are inclined to follow her recommendations for the purchase of skin care products.

Let's not forget that though today's woman is busier and has more responsibilities outside the home than her 1950's counterpart, she is still a woman, and a hard working facial that also soothes the psych is an indulgence most women want, as long as they receive more tangible benefits from a facial than an hours nap. What does a contented facial customer mean to business? When the customer sees her skin so improves, she will be very receptive when her aesthetician shows her these same treatment products she can use at home. Adrien says, "I've always found that a very effective selling tool is to follow each of my facials by a complimentary "try before you buy" complete makeup application and lesson, so the woman knows just how she will look in any product she may decide to purchase. The result? Fewer dissatisfied customers and greater customer loyalty."

What about makeup? Is this new customer forsaking makeup as part of her busy schedule, her quest for freedom? Not al all!!!! If anything, she's wearing more makeup, mainly because she spends more time out of the house, and in more competitive situations. You can't walk into the executive suite looking plain and boring. But women want their makeup routine simplifies, too. Women just aren't Picassos, and they won't take the time to learn complex makeup routines. Why should they, they have better things to do. But they do want to learn how to look better, and they will buy whatever cosmetics can easily help. Today's woman has no time and less patience, but she still wants to look like a terrific creature.

In fact, Adrien feels so strongly that this busy, savvy customer is the one who is spending the money on hard working treatments and east to se cosmetics that when she wrote her beauty books she geared them to the contemporary woman with the overflowing schedule... not necessarily the working woman, but the busy woman, the one who wants some reality along with the glamour. And these are the women that responded to her books. There are a lot of these women out there, not just in the book department, but browsing through all the cosmetic counters... browsing and buying, if the products are geared to their needs.

So, to answer Freud's question, "What do women what?" Adrien's answer is simple: "When it comes to beauty and cosmetics, THEY WANT IT ALL, the technology, the realism, the education to use the products we provide.. And yes, the glamour that fits today's lifestyle. We are not talking about the satin sheets kind of glamour of the 1920's, typified by Jean Harlow. Today's glamour figure works up a sweat playing tennis, works as a mother, and works and plays equally hard, and to win. Women do want it all... To look like a vamp, and to live like a top executive. Let's face it... Most of today's women still want to look like Cosmopolitan cover girls even though they are faithfully reading "MS." and baking their own bread.

But now, we have an edge. We know what they want, and we've got what it takes to give it all to them. If we combine the new glamour with the new realism, the love affair between the contemporary woman, so different from their mother and grandmother... and her ardent suitor, the cosmetic industry, will last far into the future.