Backstage and Beyond

For all the poise and decorum on the runway, a lot of the magic really happens behind the stage. The backstage action occurs due to a carefully crafted team of hair stylists, Makeup artists (MUAs) and hair and beauty brands that do more than make the models pretty. They have the hard task of complimenting the collection and still utilising the platform to gain some exposure. Getting the balance right is crucial because beauty at Fashion Week and events fall under the same scrutiny as the collections; either inspiring trends for the next few months or ending up on the list of shame. Yet more often than not there’s little money actually changing hands backstage. So, where is the worth for the hair and makeup industry in these partnerships? And is there something we can learn and adopt here at home?

Create the demand

According to the How Beauty Brands Tap Backstage and Beyondarticle published in the Business of Fashion, it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that Beauty companies were recognised at Fashion Weeks. The driving force behind the limelight shift was MUAs looking to build their personal brands. Bobbi Brown’s ‘Bobbi Brown Essentials’ empire started off this way in 1991 and so did NARS in 1994. François Nars chose to reach out to his networks who were firmly rooted in the Fashion Week circuit, such as Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino and Versace, to help launch and establish NARS’ presence at Fashion Week. According to NARS President, Barbara Calcagni, adding advertising campaigns and editorial work to their fashion week presence played a major role in moulding Nars into ‘one of the top image-makers in the industry’.

However, beauty brands have to go further than just providing cosmetics. To develop the level of credibility in the industry and among their audience, they need to partner with skilled players in the industry to seal the deal. Personalities such as creative design director at P&G Beauty, Pat McGrath, and Christian Dior Makeup’s creative and image director, Peter Philips, are proof that partnership can lead to growth. Their collaborations with the brands have created looks that inspire media coverage and add a stamp of authority on the beauty industry. The kind of authentic talent that will make you want to buy that MAC powerpoint eye pencil because the winged eye at the Oscar de la Renta show just made you feel alive again (even though we all know attempting to do matching winged eyes is a myth).

Best of Fashion Week: Pat McGrath (Courtesy of Buro247)

Best of Fashion Week: Pat McGrath (Courtesy of Buro247)

Best of Fashion Week: Peter Philips (Courtesy of Buro247)

Best of Fashion Week: Peter Philips (Courtesy of Buro247)

Supply this new demand

So you’ve got them hooked on the notion that your creation is the must-have of the season. Now what? The hair and beauty products team up with these stylists to make these designs and trends readily available to the consumer. The integration can move past backstage activities to the production of collections that play off both parties’ strengths. Nars, for example, partnered with Scottish fashion designer, Christopher Kane who is recognised to have headed a revival of British high fashion. NARS had already done six seasons of runway makeup for Kane before the launch of the Çhristopher Kane for NARS’summer 2015 makeup collection whih featured cheeks, eyes and lips products.

According to Calcagni, the 10 shades in the NARS collection was directly inspired by Christopher’s signature colour themes of nudes and neons his philosophy being that they co create a refreshing new look, and created shades and formulas that reflected this. The partnership proved successful and several shades sold out immediately they were released.

Christopher Kane SS16 Collection (left and right - Photo: Indigital) with the NARS - Kane Collection in the centre (Photo courtesy of NARS)

Christopher Kane SS16 Collection (left and right – Photo: Indigital) with the NARS – Kane Collection in the centre (Photo courtesy of NARS)

Another way to look at these partnerships is to offer the entire runway service to the consumer. That is any customer should be able to have the exact beauty look they’ve seen on the runway, be it a manicure, hairstyle or makeup trend. The American hair care brand owned by L’Oréal Group known as Redken  reached out to celebrity hair stylists Guido Palau and Rodney Cutler, who have worked with some of the most watched shows such as Marc Jacobs and Prada, to help them on and off the runway. The duo were made Creative Directors for Redken and with the Redken team, they create captivating styles for several shows at the event. However, they have the additional task of translating Redken runway standards and creation to the Redken salons.  Stylists at the salon are trained to help clients achieve Fashion Week looks from the runway, customized in a way that best suits them, and using the same Redken products.

Guido Palau (Photo: David Sims) with his runway designs (Photo: Indigital)

Guido Palau (Photo: David Sims) with his runway designs (Photo: Indigital)

Plan the partnerships

If the past successes can be used as the norm, we’ve seen that the right products and skill sets + creating the trend to set + avenues laid out to help the consumer access the neatly packaged product = partnership as a powerful marketing tool. But is it easier said than done? Could the Suzie Beauty’s, Pam Nail Polish’s, Pauline Cosmetics’ and Ciku Beauty’s team up with the likes of Muthoni Njoba, Bellesa Africa and Sunshine’s Beautiful Brides to create worthwhile partnerships? For starters they’d have to work out the planning, execution and maintenance of these partnerships to make sure it doesn’t last as briefly as one fashion event. Fashion PR and marketing tool, Fashion and Beauty Monitor, seems to know a thing or two:

Know your strategy before engaging in a partnership: whether you are coming in as the product or the artist, there are brand ideologies you always want to maintain. Fashion and Beauty Monitor suggests that each party should know their desired objectives such as how you interact with your clients and where you want to see the brand headed to before you embark on the partnership.

Ensure you’re activity is visible: whatever form of partnership you chose to create for the Fashion Event you’re involved in, know that you’ll still have to promote yourself on and offline. The organisers of the fashion event may list your logo on the banner but their focus is the overall production. They won’t always focus in on your message or the details you crafted for the show.

That’s why bringing your own media is encouraged. It could be adding certain journalists to the press list or working with beauty bloggers to ensure that you get the runway close-ups of the hair and makeup and get people talking about this fashion show perspective as well. Social media activation is also highly important and something that is discussed ahead of time, be it with the designer you’re working, with the fashion event organiser, or the beauty teams forming your partnership. Define who your social media team is, and what the media strategy will be.

Always think quality, not quantity:

You don’t have to be at every fashion event, especially if it doesn’t fit your beauty brand objective. Partnerships tend to be long-term and to make them successful you have to look at not only what you are getting out of it, but what you can give back. It’s a give and take and both parties have to be satisfied and have a feeling of involvement.

Keep talking with your partners

New opportunities will pop up in the course of your partnership and continuous dialogue will help all parties in the agreement to explore development opportunities and progressing tactics. It keeps the partnership dynamic and affords allowances for the players in the partnership to keep ahead of the curb.

When in doubt, hire a pro

Not everyone has the right contacts in the industry to make headway in the industry. That’s where consultants come in. Fashion PR firms, such as Diana Opoti PR, are connected to all the key players and could help the partnership make all the right moves to stand out.

The beauty industry is well covered in Nairobi when it comes to the stylists and is slowly growing when it comes to the beauty product production. But perhaps it’s time for the industry to become proactive instead of reactive. Working to create beauty trends that clients would be happy to run their credit card for, instead of waiting to replicate the foreign markets beauty ideals. The runway backstage could be scene of strategic partnerships that could be quite lucrative as powerful marketing tools. If international brands can see the potential of the home market and are setting up shop… think of the possibilities the local players in this beauty industry could achieve if they worked together.


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