Hot Trend Interview: What Happens when the Worlds of Fashion and Beauty Collide

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Worth £17bn annually, the UK beauty industry is a hotbed of creativity and entrepreneurship that continues to experience growth and safeguard jobs, when other parts of the economy have suffered during the downturn.

A significant slice of this is attributed to the premium make-up, skincare, men’s and women’s fragrances markets, valued at £2bn* and growing by 5% year on year.

Yet, UK beauty still isn’t recognised for the important role it plays.

In fact, our industry has long been considered the less interesting sibling of fashion, especially in political circles. A bit demeaning when you consider the contribution we make to the nation’s coffers.

A point that was made very clearly by Caroline Neville, President of the Cosmetic Executive Women at a recent reception at the House of Commons attended by MPs, peers, industry leaders and beauty industry entrepreneurs.

CEW’s intention is to bring the successes of the UK beauty industry to the attention of policymakers and influencers with a view to kick starting a campaign to export more products and secure a larger share of the global beauty market.

What’s interesting is that although beauty and fashion have long been considered two separate markets, there is a growing trend that will see them become more symbiotic.

This week, I caught up with Elizabeth Selvey, Beauty Buying Manager for Selfridges, who has an interesting perspective on the marriage between fashion and beauty from her previous position as Accessories Buyer.

She spoke to me about some recent initiatives Selfridges has undertaken to consolidate its position as a fashion and beauty destination.

“Our customers shop at Selfridges for the latest products, knowing that we house some of the most anticipated launches across both fashion and beauty. We’ve recently installed some beauty fixtures in our swim shop {SPF and summer nail colours} and fragrance in our menswear department,” she explains.

Selfridges frequently runs events highlighting both fashion and beauty. This summer’s hero campaign was the launch of its Denim Studio.

“The store turned denim for the duration and even though this is primarily a fashion department launch, it really resonated in the beauty halls. Ciate and nails inc offered denim manicures. We launched Comme des Garçons Blue with a blue takeover of the fragrance hall.”

Here are some other fashion-beauty collaborations running in Selfridges now and into Autumn:

  • In June, Selfridges launched a week long House of Rock n Kohl in the Concept Store –a real mix of fashion and beauty with speakers including Sali Hughes, Lisa Eldridge, Caroline Issa and Laura Bailey. “It was a real marriage of fashion and beauty,” comments Elizabeth.

  • The Bright Young Things fashion initiative to highlight emerging talent. This will also hit the beauty halls and a lot of brand partners are involved with seeking out emerging beauty and make-up talent.

  • Lancome and Alber Elbaz bring a great fashion link to Lancome. {NARS has also done a great collaboration with Thakoon –two brands married together that share a similar identity}

Elizabeth says: “Beauty has always been a way to bring high end designer brands to a consumer in an affordable way. I think that with established colour brands it is a great way to reinforce a brand’s ethos or aesthetic.

“This year will see more fashion brands dipping their toe into the beauty world.”

What we are seeing in Selfridges is not a one-off, but part of a trend for beauty/fashion collaborations.In the last 12 months:

  • Fashion website Net a Porter branched into beauty with an edited assortment of beauty brands designed to complement its fashion offer

  • Leading high street fashion retailer, Marks & Spencer, is taking beauty more seriously with the launch of its M&S Your Beauty concessions selling premium, niche and own brands

Perhaps the real value is to stop seeing beauty and fashion as separate and instead to focus on what can be achieved when the two come together.*The Premium Market Report 2013