The Estee Lauder-owned brand is following in the footsteps of its sibling MAC Cosmetics, which has gained its reputation as a professional beauty brand on the backs of supermodels and fashionistas who have spread the gospel by word of mouth. Aveda, which uses natural ingredients in all its products, started sponsoring a handful of shows last season, putting its professionals backstage and its products in show gift bags. But it upped the ante significantly for the Fall-Winter shows last week and expects to build its presence even more during September's Fashion Week, when Aveda expects to spend at least six figures on shows.
"We saw our fashion image eroding after the acquisition by Estee Lauder [in 1997]. And as a hair-care brand that has to convey fashion in hairstyles, we needed to get back in the game," said Chris Molinari, VP-global communications for Aveda. These days, she said, beauty editors are looking to the runway for beauty trends and the presence at shows is a crucial image-making tool among top fashion editors, hair and makeup talent, designers and buyers-all the voices in the industry that get heard by consumers.
The most important thing for the hook-up between Aveda and fashion shows is the "underground" effort to get Aveda hairstylists quoted backstage by beauty editors and put in the editorial pages of magazines, said Linda Wells, editor-in-chief of Conde Nast Publications' Allure. Those mentions, which show up in the months and years following the events, give the products a lot more visibility and cachet and help them grow in a much more organic way, she said. The Kiehl's Since 1851 brand, a unit of L'Oreal, has not advertised, but "over and over again you hear hairstylists say they use Kiehl's Silk Groom," she said.
Sarah Brown, beauty director at Conde Nast's Vogue agreed. "The most important trends in hair and makeup happen backstage, and if your stylists are creating those looks it gives you a lot of credibility," she said.
Backstage at the show of fledgling designer Jennifer Nicholson (daughter of Jack Nicholson) Aveda global professional Liz Crook-Bernstrom applied false eyelashes to young cat-walker Caroline Trentini with Aveda Lash Grip. Amidst the frenzy of last-minute applications, she spoke of the importance of working the shows to "get exposure and editorial staying power" for Aveda's makeup line, which "has not been happening," she said.
Tara Kraft, beauty and hair director for American Media's Star, acknowledged that "Aveda doesn't come to mind as a color makeup, so it's very smart to be out there at the shows reaching out to younger audiences and reminding people about their lines." This season is the first that Aveda is sampling its makeup products in gift bags, Ms. Molinari said.
MAC is backstage at nearly 60 shows in New York as well as shows in London, Paris and Milan among others on the international scene. The brand began reaching out to a small fashion community through a hair salon in Toronto 20 years ago and was discovered by supermodel Linda Evangelista, who spread the word to photographers and makeup artists around the world, according to MAC President John Demsey. "Fashion is part of our DNA," he said, "and supporting the creative process resonates truer [with consumers] in the long run."
MAC last week signed Ms. Evangelista along with actress Chloe Sevigny and musicians Boy George, Missy Elliott and Christina Aguilera as the new spokespeople for the latest version of its AIDS fundraising lipstick, Viva Glam V. At the launch event, Ms. Sevigny acknowledged that her first memory of the brand was "as something that professionals used, and I wanted to get my hands on it." Aveda is clearly looking for the same type of endorsement, especially, Star's Ms. Kraft said, "if they want to be an edgier, fashion-forward brand. America is obsessed with celebrities."