I’ll never forget the first time I saw makeup artist Lucia Pica backstage during fashion week in NYC. She had color swatches all across her forearms in a painterly fashion that indicated that we were in the presence of a true artist, makeup just happened to be her paint of choice. In those days, the backstage areas of fashion shows were like well-kept secrets and our privileged access was documented on Flip cameras. Lucia’s artistry has been imprinted in my mind since that first show, so when I learned that she was named Chanel’s Global Makeup Artist & Colour Designer, I was thrilled.
In the fall of 2016, Lucia’s first color collection, Le Rouge No 1, focused on red, her favorite color, in a time when Anastasia Beverly Hills released the Modern Renaissance palette and classic red lipstick wasn’t as popular as it once was. And yet, the collection sold out. The innovative line’s singular focus was unlike anything a beauty brand has released in recent memory.
In spring 2017 Chanel released their next beauty collection, Travel Diary, inspired by a California road trip. Photos from the journey offer a direct correlation between the inspiration and the colors of the collection in a tangible, transparent way that is rarely seen within style circles. Lucia’s capsules for Chanel have a clear direction and distinct point of view in a way that is refreshing and approachable, while still elevated. Her work has been a breath of fresh air to a staid legacy brand.
I haven’t always kept such a close eye on Chanel’s beauty line. My first experience with the brand was while I worked the Lancome counter at Dillard’s in college. The packaging embossed with the iconic logo was alluring, but I could never be swayed to pay such high price tags when MAC had more street cred. Fast forward to a shopping trip to Bergdorf Goodman while I lived in New York, cruising around the quiet beauty floor. I purchased three of my four Chanel beauty products from Bergdorf’s Chanel counter, including a cake eyeliner compact that I’ve misplaced. The nail polish I was given as a birthday gift from a coworker. Outside of those instances, I’ve entertained the idea of a Chanel product or two, but have never been interested enough in them to purchase.
It seems as if I’m not alone. In addition to launching an Instagram account solely for Chanel beauty, the brand has also launched a community (aka user-generated content) account, @welovecoco, supported by pop up experiences. In addition, Ulta recently announced that an edited assortment of products would be available in select locations. It’s no surprise that “millennials”, aka my generation, have changed their shopping habits, and specifically when it comes to beauty, we prefer the freedom of experiencing and discovering products in an environment like Sephora or Ulta instead of at individual department store counters. Would I have been more likely to purchase a Glossimer or the Soleil Tan De Chanel if I could have swatched it in Sephora? Absolutely. Even Tom Ford has a full gondola in select Sephora stores.
For Ulta, Chanel is the ultimate get. When NARS & MAC both announced that they would be available in Ulta stores, I was surprised, but the Chanel announcement has me flabbergasted. Ulta’s store strategy has been to open in locations where Sephora isn’t – rural locations, often in strip malls, outside of major urban areas. The JCPenney locations were Sephora’s direct answer to Ulta’s strategy, albeit without Ulta’s drugstore offerings. The thought that Chanel products could be within mere feet of Makeup Revolution or elf products is mindblowing.
Only time will tell if Chanel will expand the products available at Ulta or the number of stores where it will be available, but it’s an exciting time for beauty lovers regardless. As the market becomes more saturated some brands will be left behind, but I for one am rooting for Chanel.