How real are celebrity make-up collaborations?

From the Kay Beauty collection by Katrina Kaif  

Karl Lagerfeld did it. Kim Kardashian West did it. So did Sabyasachi, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, and even Hello Kitty — I’m talking, of course, about make-up collaborations. Brands view collaborating with a celebrity as a foolproof way to both increase sales and drive visibility to their collections. But do they live up to the hype? Is a line of make-up designed by a celebrity really better than regular old products, and do celebrities really ‘design’ them?

The answer to these questions, if I’m being perfectly honest, is a yes, and a no. The truth is, there are different ways in which celebrities can associate with beauty brands, from being involved in every detail of the design, production and marketing (like Padma Lakshmi did with MAC) to just agreeing to have their name and face associated with a finished product.

Rihanna and her Fenty foundations

Rihanna and her Fenty foundations  

More than skin deep

Take pop-star Rihanna’s beauty line, Fenty, for example. While she is an almost 50% stakeholder along with luxury conglomerate LVMH, her involvement extends to every aspect, from branding with her last name, to the development of the products and formulas, and ultimately, the publicity machine that is the launch of a celebrity brand. In a market where familiarity and personalisation are increasingly important, she proved herself to be the ultimate millennial marketing maven — giving her fans the sense that she was letting them into every detail, by sharing her point of view through extensive media interviews and her social media channels.

She talked at length about how she was frustrated by the lack of foundation shades available in most mainstream brands, then proceeded to launch the Pro Filt’R Foundation, arguably Fenty’s most successful product. It featured an almost unheard-of 50 shades, to which the reaction was swift. Fans responded by taking to social media to applaud the brand for finally catering to a larger audience, and then by voting with their wallets once the line launched. Other make-up companies were quick to add more shades to their existing foundation ranges. In a world where everyone has a voice thanks to social media, beauty brands are finding that the best way to secure their slice of the pie is to listen to what their consumers really want, and brands like Fenty have proven themselves to be at the top of this game.

Going old school

Then there are the more traditional types of collaborations, where a celebrity lends their name to an existing beauty brand – MAC is one of the pioneers of this method, and has created lines with everyone from singers to actresses and even cartoon characters. It’s an effective tactic for everyone concerned. Consumers are far more likely to notice a new line if it’s associated with a well-known face than if it were just another seasonal collection. The brand can look forward to heightened exposure and increased sales. And the celebrity knows that they’re lending their name to a risk-free brand with an established reputation for quality, while taking home sizeable pay-cheques, and in some instances, a percentage of the sales, too.

Sabyasachi Mukherjee and his L’Oreal collaboration

Sabyasachi Mukherjee and his L’Oreal collaboration  

While I love make-up, I’m not a huge fan of the celebrity collaboration, especially if it’s a limited edition line that a celebrity is tacking their name onto. I can’t quite shake the feeling that it’s all just a giant marketing tactic — which, let’s be honest, it is. Did I buy anything from L’Oreal’s Sabyasachi collaboration? Nope. Do I think Katrina Kaif created her entire line from scratch and had a hand in every detail, despite what she says? Not really.

But I will tell you what I loved — Masaba’s collection of lipsticks with Nykaa. The formulas were great, but it’s the packaging that had my heart. With her signature tongue-in-cheek take on colour and print, it made make-up seem like fun which, at the end of the day, is really what it’s about.

Doing it right

Another example is Victoria Beckham’s make-up collections for Estee Lauder. For me, a good celebrity collaboration should elevate the brand, and that’s exactly what hers does. I’ve come to expect only the best from EL, but this line was a whole other level of exquisite, with price points to match. Rich, pigmented lipsticks; powdery kohl pencils that melt upon contact with the skin; shimmery, bold shadows; and buttery lip glosses — they were elegant and sophisticated, and made me feel just a little more grown-up. As a result, I’m far more likely to buy Beckham’s own recently-launched beauty line.

MAC’s celebrity collaborations have always been outstanding and get me excited every time. A personal favourite was their recent one with 80s-obsessed designer Jeremy Scott, which captured his colourful personality to a T, down to the boom-box packaging. When done right, these collaborations speak to the heart of what make-up is really about — having fun and feeling good about yourself. When done wrong, it feels like just another outdated marketing tactic employed by a brand trying to fool consumers into thinking they’re getting something special. And I like to think we’re all smarter than that.

In the market
  • L’Oreal Paris x Sabyasachi: a 21 piece limited-edition line of colour cosmetics (From ₹600)
  • Manish Malhotra Haute Couture Makeup with MyGlamm: 2 eye shadow palettes, 12 lipsticks, 18 nail polishes, and more (From ₹450)
  • MAC Shades of Disha Patani: a limited-edition collection of lipsticks (From ₹1,650)
  • Masaba x Nykaa: a range of 12 lipsticks with nail polishes to match (From ₹199)
  • Kay By Katrina: kajal, lip crayon, lip pencil, eyebrow pencil and a lip topper (From ₹550)

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2021 10:09:54 AM |

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