Luxury meets Art

La Prairie President and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Rasquinet and Group Chief Marketing Officer Greg Prodromides talked to Martin Moodie about the convergence of luxury and art with the La Prairie Skin Caviar Eye Lift launch, taking time to also comment on the evolving role of the travel retail channel.

Luxury meets Art

La Prairie President and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Rasquinet and Group Chief Marketing Officer Greg Prodromides talked to Martin Moodie about the convergence of luxury and art with the La Prairie Skin Caviar Eye Lift launch, taking time to also comment on the evolving role of the travel retail channel.

Martin Moodie: What inspired this convergence of art and luxury?

Patrick Rasquinet (pictured below, centre): The answer lies within our history and heritage. If you go back to the conception of the skincare range of La Prairie in 1978, the first packaging was already inspired by this minimalist design or style, or Bauhaus style. The next phase was the creation of these cobalt blue jars that were inspired by Niki de Saint Phalle [a French-American sculptor, painter, and filmmaker]. We were the first skincare products to be sold in a glass blue jar – at the time skincare was mainly sold in white or pink plastic jars. So art was already integrated, if you want, in the development of our product and in this art of packaging.


On the packaging we use a specific font called Helvetica, which is also inspired by this minimalist style and allows the content to express itself and not be hidden by the font.


Greg Prodromides (pictured left below): We love typography. It tells us a lot of stories. That was really the founding premise of Helvetica as a typeface – it’s more about the content rather than the form. With some other typefaces it’s all about the form and the shapes and you don’t even read the content. We believe that this relationship between the shape, the form and the content is very much in line with our brand.

Patrick Rasquinet: So this is the art of packaging. Then you have the art of formulation because we truly believe that our formulations are also a piece of art. It’s not only about delivering efficacy because this is obvious – we are obsessed with efficacy – but also delivering the most exquisite sensorial experience. I truly believe that our scientists, our formulators, are also artists.


So it is a fusion of science and art. Everything that we do makes us believe that we have something to do with art. We came to the conclusion that art would be the best way to express our brand and our values and would be a beautiful angle to tell stories. This is why we started our cooperation with Art Basel three years ago – Art Basel being Swiss and being the world leader in terms of contemporary art fairs.

Patrick Rasquinet: So this is the art of packaging. And then you have the art of formulation because we truly believe that our formulations are also a piece of art. It’s not only about delivering efficacy because this is obvious – we are obsessed with efficacy – but also delivering the most exquisite sensorial experience. And I truly believe that our scientists, our formulators, are also artists.


So it is a fusion of science and art. Everything that we do makes us believe that we have something to do with art. And we came to the conclusion that art would be the best way to express our brand and our values and would be a beautiful angle to tell stories. This is why we started our cooperation with Art Basel three years ago – Art Basel being Swiss and being the world leader in terms of contemporary art fairs.

We believe that contemporary art also shares something with us. This is the notion of audacity. When you go through the galleries and through the Unlimited exhibition section of Art Basel [Unlimited is a zone within the exhibition dedicated to large projects, that showcases installations, sculptures, vast wall paintings, photographic series, video projections, and performance artworks that transcend the traditional art fair stand offering -Ed] you understand immediately that some of these people are really audacious in their thinking and in what they create.


We believe that all of our innovations are also driven by audacity. There are so many things in common. I think the audience of Art Basel is very close to the audience we are addressing, too. They are very demanding clients, very discerning, sophisticated, into culture, travelling a lot so, again, there is a relation with travel retail. We have a lot in common and this is why we decided to cooperate with Art Basel and why we started two years ago to partner with the three editions of Art Basel in Miami, Hong Kong and Basel.

La Prairie Group Chief Marketing Officer Greg Prodromides (second from left) and President and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Rasquinet (second from right) with young Swiss photographic artists (from left) Senta Simond, Namsa Leuba and Daniela Droz

Until now, your association has been entirely with visual art. Will it stop there? I loved the term you used, “the beauty of the gaze”. That’s a poetic phrase. Your launch film was full of poetic vignettes. Could you see yourself moving into the written word of, say, poetry or other artistic forms?

Greg Prodromides: Culture in the generic sense is extremely important in luxury for sure, but for our brand culture is clearly extremely linked to art – all forms of art.


So we have done a lot of visual art. We have collaborated with visual artists, plastic artists, architects. We will continue expanding the spectrum of people in various crafts of art and medium of art.

Words are extremely important to us also. I personally believe that words are as important as images, especially, when you want to express something unique, something singular, hence sometimes the importance of poetry. And the verb, the importance of the verb. I think it is very important to have this richness and this singularity in the way that we express ourselves as a brand. It opens such a field of possibilities from an inspiration point of view.

Where did the concept of ‘the beauty of the gaze’, which is part of this new art partnership, come from?

Greg Prodromides: It starts with the eyes, which are really the mirror, the passage, of the soul. But in terms of the gaze, we were particularly inspired by Proust and what he wrote. Yes, it’s poetic and a bit metaphorical but it is so true. It is about having new eyes. And new eyes does not necessarily mean new eyes literally. It’s about having a new gaze on things. So that was the inspiration.


There is also a difference between the female gaze and the male gaze; this is not the same type of gaze. That’s why we wanted to focus, to make it more about the female gaze. Working with artists also helped us. As you can see, the artists give us something back. It’s not only art. It’s about being a storyteller and they also help us shape our stories. So working with these three female artists enabled us to shape the story around the female gaze and what it brings – the emotion, the power, this defining quality.

One of the other commonalities between the three artists and La Prairie is their Swissness. Tell us about Swissness and why is expressing it so important?

Patrick Rasquinet: We very often talk about the Swissness and the Swiss heritage of our brand. Swissness expresses a few values. The first one is purity. Swissness is very often associated with purity, with precision. Somehow related to precision you have this notion of time, of timelessness, which I think is really a beautiful value, and very close to what we offer to women – to empower them to hold time in their hands. The other dimension is an element of secrecy, of mystery.


Swissness is not Switzerland. Swissness is about the evocations and the perceptions.

Can I ask you to sum up the product launch? It has been important in its own right but done in an ambitious and unusually creative way. Are you happy with the launch and what are your ambitions for Skin Caviar Eye Lift?

Greg Prodromides: Yes, we are happy but we’re never happy at the same time! It’s always a pleasure for us to meet the press people, to meet some of our clients, and spending time with the artists when everything is done. But honestly the innovation never ends. You can never say “I’m happy”. No. We don’t think like this. You know in between now and the [Skin Caviar Eye Lift] launch in two months, I’m sure we're going to have another five ideas we will try to introduce. It never really ends but we love it.

Travel retail’s star in the ascendency

La Prairie Group enjoyed a stellar year in 2018 with sales rising by what parent company Beiersdorf called an “outstanding” 38.5% year-on-year (compared to 5.0% in organic terms and 1.6% in nominal terms for Beiersdorf’s Consumer Business Segment). Travel retail, though, fared even better in percentage terms. The brand performed strongly in European travel retail but it was Asia, led by China and South Korea, that really stole the show.


Those results reaffirm a mounting focus on the channel in recent years, according to La Prairie President and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Rasquinet. “Initially, we really considered travel retail to be a kind of window to the world,” he says. “Our clients are very discerning, very demanding people who travel a lot. Travel retail became a natural place of meeting with our clients, as well. But I think the role of travel retail has evolved. For me, it’s becoming an integral part of the client experience, and what we call the omni-channel experience where we also have digital elements.”

That’s especially the case in Asian airports, says Chief Marketing Officer Greg Prodromides. “Some of the airports don’t look like airports anymore,” he says, “they look like luxury boutique malls. So it becomes a natural place for luxury – to the extent that sometimes the expression of luxury is nobler in airports than in the local markets.


“Clearly an evolution is happening. It is driven mainly by Asia right now. These airports are a beautiful place in terms of expression. So travel retail is more than a sales channel. It becomes a communication channel because it allows us to communicate a story for the brand.”


And communicate it to an attractive and nomadic population, a constantly changing crossroads of humanity that populates airports such as Istanbul, Incheon, Hong Kong, Changi or Beijing every day. Travellers, yes, but many of them existing La Prairie customers from local markets and others in a suitable environment to be introduced in the right way to the brand.


“Absolutely,” says Rasquinet. “So there has been a shift in the way we see this channel as well the way we want to operate in it. As you have seen recently, we are now shifting to a boutique model in airports. The first one was at Zürich Airport, where we’ve been since around 2004, and we just renovated it.


“We have a few other boutique models, as in Singapore [Changi Airport] and Beijing [Capital International Airport] that we just opened. So this is really the direction in which we want to go to express our brand and our environment in the same luxurious way.”

The Moodie Davitt eZine | Issue 263 | 20 June 2019