Can’t Live Without: Vitamin C

We grow up hearing that vitamin C is good to our health and the best thing to prevent a cold. It’s true that eating fruits and vegetables that contain the vitamin is important, as applying it to the skin (but don’t squeeze a lemon and use as a face mask, it doesn’t work like this…). The compound, usually known as ascorbic acid, is almost a youth elixir since it stimulates collagen production, fights free radicals and protect from UV rays. Plus, it helps to lighten dark spots and even out the skin tone.

Over the years, I’ve tried many products with vitamin C in the formula. Among my favourites are most of SkinCeuticals serums as C E Ferulic and Phloretin CF, and the Aox Eye Gel, probably the best for the eye area. I also like Redermic C10, from La Roche Posay and used SVR’s Hydracid C20 a lot. I remember it gave that fabulous glow… Now I’m looking forward to try Paula’s Choice Resist Anti-Age Vitamin C Spot Treatment that promises to reduce wrinkles, fade brown spots and firm skin.

So, along retinol, vitamin C is something that I can’t live without!

My Favourites

redermic c10 420x240

Redermic C10 – La Roche Posay

phloretin_cf_large

Phloretin CF – SkinCeuticals

ce_ferulic_large

C E Ferulic – SkinCeuticals

aox_eye_gel_large

AOX Eye Gel – Skin Ceuticals 

anti-age-hydracid-c20
Hydracid C20 – SVR

Who’s Who: Garren

Just like most supermodels, Garren doesn’t need a surname to be instantly recognized (FYI is Defazio). He is responsible for the hair of almost every model in the pages of Vogue, has created the iconic looks of Linda Evangelista, and takes care of Amber Valletta, Carolyn Murphy, Natalia Vodianova and Karlie Kloss.

Garren also cut the bob that changed Victoria Beckham’s style (and was copied everywhere) and turned Madonna in a platinum blonde back in the 1980s. Nicole Kidman, Blake Lively, Scarlett Johansson, Gwen Stefani, Keira Knightley, Emma Stone and even Audrey Hepburn have all seated in his famous chair.

When he is not at the salon at 5th Avenue, Garren is travelling around the world to style hair at major shows and campaigns, plus the main editorials of American and Italian Vogues. His collaboration with photographers like Steven Meisel, Patrick Demarchelier, David Sims, Steven Klein and Mert & Marcus produced some memorable looks. Worth adding that he had the chance to work with two legends: Richard Avedon and Irving Penn.

Evidently, such experience and prestige comes with a price: at least $700 for a haircut, which doesn’t make it easier to get an appointment, as the clients know what his scissors can do to boost their self-esteem… Maybe, you can start by trying his signature line with shampoo, tonics and hair fragrance, or following Garren on Facebook or Instagram to check what he has been up to. Inspiration is guaranteed!

How to Create a Brand? Step 7 – Branding

Last but not least: let’s talk about branding! There are many strategies to create the brand identity and I have posted about successful cases, following the concept of archetypes (foundation of my work as brand strategist). In a nutshell, branding is related to build, manage and differentiate a brand in order to have the client perceive it in a certain way.

A brand born with a defined, well-constructed identity will arrive in the market with confidence, establishing an effective communication with potential clients. Imagine having a compass that constantly points out to your north. That’s how the branding strategy works, always keeping you in the right direction. It can be developed in parallel to other steps of the brand creation, however, it’s better to have it done before planning the first collection. It’s also highly advisable to get help from marketing and design professionals that will work together to guide you and turn ideas into reality, as the process involves the creation of logo, lettering, tags, layouts, colour palettes, style references, tone of voice and even the potential employees desired profile. Everything must be aligned and in synch.

Branding is like a “therapy” for the company and will address essential questions such as:

  • Who I am?

What’s the brand meaning and what does it stand for? Who are the founders and how their journey has influenced the business? What are the values, the mission and the vision?

  • Where I am?

What’s my segment? Who is my target audience? How do I position myself? Who are my competitors?

  • Where do I want to go?

What are the business goals? And the strategies and actions to reach them? How do I want to be perceived in xx years?

Once these questions are cleared, it will be much simpler to define an identity and prospect the future. A mood board can be a relevant tool in the process. Make sure it is in sight, so you have a constant reminder!

Summing up, be aware of the common traps of the industry and don’t try to copy other brands only because they are successful. Of course you can use them as a reference and inspiration, but revealing your uniqueness is the ultimate goal in this oversaturated market. As I said before, don’t be afraid of innovation and disruption and, most of all, to be true to yourself. It can be a huge cliché, but never fails.

Remember that basic law of Physics? Two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, so go after yours!

The complete series is here:

Pleasure to Meet: Fresh

The first product from Fresh  that I tried was the Sugar Lip Treatment, that I got as a sample at Sephora and immediately fell in love with. I hate the feeling of dry lips and have tested tons of lip balms but  this really stood out as the moisture effect lasts for hours! The tinted versions are perfect to replace lipstick or gloss (mine is Rosé).

Then, I bought the Seaberry Restorative Body Cream and was also love at first sight, I mean, application! The lotion has omegas 3,6,7 and 9, some antioxidants and is easily absorbed. So now Fresh is one of my favourite prestige brands and my wish list just grows…

If you don’t know it yet, the company, part of LVMH, was founded 22 years ago in Boston by Lev Glazman and Alina Roytberg, who just wanted to create a line of artisanal soaps (the best-seller Oval Soap Collection). Because they were very curious and interested in testing natural ingredients, one thing led to another and soon ranges made with sugar, soy, milk and rice were available.

All of them are hits and keep the brand philosophy of promoting sensorial experiences that are both indulgent and efficient. One of the best examples is the Crème Ancienne, a formula inspired in the first certified lotion to renew the skin, used in the 2nd Century by physician and emperor Marcus Aurelius. Lev and Aline went all the way to the Czech Republic and searched in monasteries to find the right ingredient list. Can you see why the products are real indulgences?

In the US, Fresh has its own stores in cities like New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Las Vegas and is available at Sephora, Barneys and Neiman Marcus. Here in London, there are shops in Marylebone, Covent Garden and inside Harrods, besides the e-commerce. Check it out: www.fresh.com/UK

Wish list

fresh-sugarose
Sugar Rose Lip Treatment SPF 15

fresh-brownsugar
Brown Sugar Body Polish

fresh-seaberry
– Seaberry Restorative Body Cream

fresh-lotus
Lotus Youth Preserve Face Cream

fresh-elixir
Elixir Ancien

fresh-umbrianclay
Umbrian Clay Mattifying Skincare Set

Vintage Time: Sun In

Sun-In was one of these products that you asked every friend or relative that travelled to the US back in the 80s or early 90s to bring. The spray gave a sun-kissed look to the hair without the need of staying in the beach for hours (and frying your skin). I was 11 or 12 when my mother brought it from a trip to Orlando. You needed to spray it sparingly and then blow dry, so the heat would activate the bleaching effect.

I never cared to learn what was in the formula, but researching for the post, found out the obvious: it’s peroxide. This means that it contained a recipe to damage your hair after a while… Anyway, who cares about that when you are a tween?

I really thought that Sun In was resting in peace along with other 80s fads (that dirty blonde and bad perm look…) since there are so many modern techniques to lighten your colour. Surprise! It is still available and you can purchase at Amazon, now with improved formulas, containing lemon extract and nourishing oils. But I’m sure the fun factor is hidden somewhere in 1990!

How to Create a Brand – Step 6: Marketing & Communications

Have you ever thought about how many brands we are exposed to on a daily basis? And how many do you really pay attention to? Very few, right? Probably they stand out because of  great marketing and communication strategies, the theme of today’s post.

In a brief, marketing exists to make consumers relate to the product benefit, be it functional or aspirational. When it is well developed, a client will have a good experience from the moment he acknowledges it to the post-purchase behaviour. An initial strategy can be built along the business plan and can use the famous 4 Ps: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. We already talked about them in previous posts, but let’s get back to the key points:

  • Product: at this stage you must know your product, target and differentiation point. If not, go back and rework it until the positioning is clear.
  • Price: the value is directly linked to the product. What are the tangible and intangible product benefits? How does it stand in terms of competition?
  • Place: each sales channel (physical store, e-commerce, wholesale…) has advantages and disadvantages as you are probably aware now. The current goal is to offer a seamless experience as the lines between real and digital are disappearing. There are good opportunities to invest in non-traditional models and be ahead of the game, even with a small budget.
  • Promotion: website, social media, ad campaigns, newsletters, PR actions… When you are a startup is almost impossible to invest in all of them. The good news is that you don’t need to and thanks for digital communication the investment can be significantly modest. A user-friendly website and social media presence in selected channels i.e. where your audience is, are standard. You may also hire a PR company to create a launching event or to connect with the press and the influencers. Facebook and Google ads can also help spreading the word about the brand, so as some practices on Instagram, Twitter etc. (Note: in a future post I’ll talk exclusively about social media strategies)

When developing a marketing plan, keep in mind that underestimating it is a common mistake and that a lack of budget is not an excuse. You may have the most beautiful and well-made item but if no one knows about it or feel the urge to buy it, what’s the point? Having a freelance consultant to build the strategy and a team, or even one assistant, to ensure that it is running smoothly will add valuable points to the brand image.

By the way, this is the subject of next week’s post!

If you missed a chapter:

Brands We Love: Revlon

My all-time favourite nail polishes are from Revlon. The wide colour range and lasting effect (better than Chanel, in my opinion) puts them among my top choices, but I must confess there is also an emotional attachment with the brand because it had Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer as the stars of the campaigns when I was a teenager. Since it was the supermodel era and I was a fan…

After some complicated period of slower sales, lacklustre ads and not so much innovation, the brand started to regain space after bringing Gucci Westman to act as creative director (she stayed for seven years, until 2015) and Halle Berry, Olivia Wilde and Emma Stone to be ambassadors. The colourful and sexy ads, plus a good improvement in the product offer made me put Revlon on my wish list again.

Getting back to nail polishes, did you know that they were a market breakthrough? When it was founded, by brothers Charles and Joseph Revson, along with chemist Charles Lachman, they presented a breakthrough formula, using pigments instead of paints. It was an instant hit and even during the Great Depression (it was introduced in 1932), they built an empire. During the II World War, Revlon created lipsticks and other makeup items for the military forces, helping women in the workforce to keep small beauty routines and a healthy self-esteem.

In 1973, another milestone: the launching of Charlie, the fragrance targeted at young professional women that skyrocketed sales (a growth of $100 million in just one year!). At the same time, Lauren Hutton signed a $400.000 contract (a fortune back then) to star in the Ultima line campaigns. It was so publicized that Newsweek put her on the cover!

From the 1980s, Revlon faced increased competition with brands ranging from Cover Girl to Estee Lauder. However, it kept a place inside millions of make-up bags thanks to the cost-effective classics such as “Cherries in the Snow” and “Revlon Red” lipsticks and polishes (the company came with the idea of offering the same colour in different items), the Color Stay range, Just Bitten lip balm and Photo Ready foundation. It’s hard to not have at least one amongst your favourites!

My Favourites

revlon-cherries

Cherries in the Snow nail polish

revlon-red

Revlon Red nail polish

revlon-topcoat

Quick Dry Top Coat

revlon-justbitten

Lipstain + Balm Just Bitten Desire

Dream Spas: Amangiri, Utah

Amangiri is a perfect retreat if you dream about holidays in a quiet and isolated place but still don’t want to compromise on comfort and luxury. The resort is literally in the middle of the desert in the south side of Utah, close to the Grand Canyon. With only 34 suites and breathtaking views, it is ideal to unwind and recharge.

The Aman Spa offers treatments inspired by the native Navajo culture and focus on restoring the “Hozho” i.e. beauty, harmony, balance and health. One of the high points is a sauna session followed by a bath in an outdoor pool to reinvigorate. Don’t come back without trying the deep relaxation of “Floatation Room”, a water meditation and colour therapy treatment that happens whilst the person floats. Are you already relaxing?

Massages, scrubs and wraps along with yoga and Pilates are also available, all overlooking the desert. If you are in the mood for some action, try riding and rafting in the Colorado river, which is close to the hotel.  Regardless of all the activities, enjoy the great energy of the Grand Canyon, one of the most striking places I’ve ever been!

How to Create a Brand? Step 5 – Collection Development

Material research, theme definition, order placement, delivery dates… The collection development goes way beyond drawing beautiful sketches (by the way, an uncommon task in a designer’s everyday real life) and it is one of the crucial stages to be sorted out as it is linked to internal and external factors that can jeopardize the whole business.

Let’s talk it through! The start point is the collection research: from the theme to textiles, including tools, accessories and colour palette. Creating a moodboard and write some sentences with main ideas are very helpful at this moment. From there, it’s time to streamline how many pieces will be developed and how they are going to be coordinated. Having the advice of a buyer or a merchandiser can work wonders to avoid overproduction as they have trained eyes to analyse the market. Point to consider: how to avoid waste of material? Why not investigate and invest in upcycling programs? By the way, it’s never late to make an extra effort to be an environmental conscious company.

In parallel to those steps, focus in the product-mix offer. It’s really important to have a coordinated collection, with colours and prints that “talk” with each other, so the client will always have options to build different looks or to buy something that is complementary to other (hello, link selling!). Another important issue: cash cow items. They are the key products to guarantee revenues, usually with a low cost and high margin. You can offer them in every collection, with maybe a few tweaks.  T-shirts, tops, scarves and small leather goods are the most popular.

When the development is finished, you are ready to review the calendar and organize dates to take orders from wholesale and/or place orders to retail and set delivery time. Focus on special dates (Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Black Friday) and plan carefully what is going to be offered. Last but not least: sales season. As the practice of reducing prices throughout the season is becoming more and more common, pay extra attention to this and define the most convenient dates to your business. Don’t fall in the trap of following everybody else, since what’s good for the competition is not necessarily good for you!

In the next post: marketing and communication. How to promote your brand in the most cost-effective way?

Rewinding the series:

Go Network Yourself

If the simple mention of the word “network” makes you cringe, I get it. I used to behave like that until recently. Networking for me meant being in an uncomfortable situation where you met someone from the same industry and tried a shy approach, already thinking it wasn’t going anywhere. Does it ring a bell?

So, it’s time to leave this concept behind. Networking is one of the best opportunities to meet potential employers, clients or collaborators. I’m the living proof that once you pass the fear phase, things happen as I got two clients in a matter of weeks! Think about how many times you learned of an open position or was referred by a contact. See, networking is essential!

Started to change your mind but don’t know how to act? Here are some powerful tips:

– Internet is great but meeting in real life is even better. Go to every event, workshop, talk and Meetup that puts together professionals from your industry. Once there, walk around, smile and show an inviting attitude. Have a drink if needed and leave the mobile inside your handbag, so there’s no excuse to hide behind it. Oh, and keep your cards on hands all the time.

– Probably almost everyone is also self-conscious or shy in these situations, so relax! Speak naturally about your career and background but focus on your goals (Change of areas? Learn specific skills?), so people will have a clear vision of your skills and objectives.

– You admire the talker’s work or are a fan of one of the attendants? Take a deep breath and go talk to them! If he or she is busy, stick around and as soon as possible, make a compliment about his work or presentation (who doesn’t like it?), briefly introduce yourself and start a conversation. Never, ever say directly that you are looking for a job in the company or that you’d love to work for the person. Being subtle also means being professional.

– Of course networking online is a good think, particularly on LinkedIn. Just be careful to send a personalised message when asking to connect (“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” sent to someone you don’t know is simply terrible!). Follow them on Twitter or Instagram, engage in discussions and show your interest. Nevertheless, please, be reasonable and don’t become a stalker or one of these annoying people that begs to be blocked!

– Keep in mind that the most important thing is to show a genuine interest in exchanging experiences and growing your contacts. It may be intimidating at first sight but once the activity feels natural, things start to happen. Simple as that!

Note 1: if you are in London and wants to meet other fashion professionals, join our Meetup. I created the Fashion Branding – London thinking about everyone who is in the same situation, so let’s meet!

Note 2: my fear of networking went away after I attended a talk about it and met the great Mary Jane Boholst, from Conscious Cocoon. She offers a coaching service focused on growing businesses through networking.  The program is tailored to the client’s needs and can range to a few sessions to a 12-month training. Learn more at www.conscious-cocoon.co.uk