The unstoppable buzz around Hermès beauty
“I think you can guess where this is going,” says Gregoris Pyrpylis, Hermès Beauty’s new creative director, of its burgeoning product offering. We’re chatting in the maison’s light-filled Paris headquarters, off the back of the latest launch, Plein Air, which includes a complexion balm, finishing powders, blotting papers and a brush.
The brand’s beauty métier first launched in 2020 with Rouge, a collection of lipsticks that managed to excite both beauty obsessives and cynics. Last year the house added Rose, which comprised eight shades of Rose Hermès Silky Blush, and Les Mains, a range of nail enamels that are particularly striking for their unusual colours– think mustard, taupe and merlot.
Pyrpylis, a former Shiseido ambassador and make-up artist to Alexa Chung, Stacy Martin and Cindy Crawford, is tight-lipped about what the next launch will be, but one imagines that mascara and eyeshadows will come next by process of elimination. “We have a simple approach to beauty, and I don’t see Hermès as a house that would have a huge range. That’s not the goal. We want to offer only the essential parts,” says Pyrpylis. “Even as a make-up artist, I feel overwhelmed [by what’s on offer] – I go into a beauty shop and I don’t know where to start. Our goal is to arrive in every category – complexion, lips, eyes – with an offer that will be very true to the house.”
Despite launching its first fragrance in the 1950s, Hermès’ make-up has arrived comparatively late in the luxury market. The French house had an “exceptional year” last year, reporting €8.98bn ($10.1bn) in group consolidated revenue for 2021, a 42 per cent increase compared with 2020. But Hermès is still very dependent on sales of leather goods, which have typically accounted for nearly half its revenues: perfume is only approximately 4 per cent. Following its expansion into watches and fine jewellery in recent years, this push into beauty has been an obvious way to broaden the brand’s offering. It also stands to capitalise on the beauty market, global sales of which according to McKinsey, are expected to reach $622bn by 2024.
It’s a crowded industry, but Hermès Beauty is distinctive thanks to its Mondrian-style packaging, designed by the house’s creative director of jewellery and shoes, Pierre Hardy. And the products’ scents – including the delicate rosy whiff of its blusher – are created by Christine Nagel, the house’s director of olfactory creation. “It’s truly a synergy,” says Pyrpylis “and that’s part of why I wanted to be part of Hermès, because I don’t believe that one person can do everything.
To create the formulations, Hermès’ research and development laboratory in Vaudreill – where its fragrances have been made for 25 years – worked with select companies outside of France: the Plein Air range was a collaboration with a Japanese company, while the lipstick formulas come from Italy. The range reflects the increasing demand for make-up with beneficial ingredients – the Natural Enhancing Complexion Balm, for example, includes hydrating hyaluronic acid and Baikal skullcap, to protect the skin from environmental aggressors. “People are looking for performance, but also for wellbeing – make-up with skincare benefits,” says Pyrpylis. “This is becoming bigger and bigger – if you go back to the ‘50s, there was no skincare in the production of make-up. In around 2000, people started enriching formulas with skincare. Today, it’s essential.”
Hermès’ beauty range, like many new launches, is designed to enhance rather than conceal the wearer’s features. The complexion balm gives sheer, buildable coverage, while many of the lipsticks leave only a hint of colour. “I’ve always believed in natural beauty, to express the different facets of someone’s personality,” adds Pyrpylis. “This is rooted in the DNA of the house, throughout all of the metiers – to accompany women and men in their everyday lives with elegance and with comfort.”
The products are only currently available from Hermès’ physical and online stores, as well as select department stores such as Harrods and Selfridges. It’s the same level of exclusivity that fuels demand for the brand’s Birkin or Kelly bags, and keeps Hermès fans wanting more and more – no matter what the category.