Today we meet Aurore, founder and CEO of L’Armoire à Beauté. She shares with her signature wit her views on cosmetics, big brands and their relationship with their consumers, organic products, beauty shopping and… French pop (and tattooed) artists!
What is the L’Armoire à Beauté concept?
L’Armoire à Beauté is the corner that gathers the best new cosmetics and lifestyle brands in pharmacies.
We stay on top of new trends via our seasonal model, and our range of products is designed to complete the traditional offer, thus allowing us to guide customers who can be a bit lost in the middle of the thousands of products available in pharmacies.
Tell us about you, and how you got here.
I’ve wanted to start my own business ever since I graduated (from Sciences Po and ESSEC). First, it was a line of organic powdered cosmetics free of preservatives, then a line of essential oils for aromatherapy. I also developed a line of tattoo care products for Matt Pokora [French pop star]… But I’m not so sure I’m 100% proud of that one anymore!
Right before I launched L’Armoire à Beauté, I learned a lot working for the European leader in selective care, Clarins. Then I went to the Americans, to work on the European launch of Dr. Brandt skincare in 2005. In 2008, I joined the direction of export at Kibio, a new organic brand that had just been bought by Clarins and was distributed in direct sales and pharmacies.
How did you come up with the idea?
When Clarins decided to shut down the Kibio project in 2013, I was quite frustrated (and that’s quite a euphemism). How could a big group with such legitimacy and power fail the launch of a new brand? In 2014 I had my third kid, then decided to create a service to help new brands emerge and pharmacists create more attractive cosmetic offerings, and help them stand out.
Do you think the future lies in conveniences stores, or online shopping?
I think the future is precisely the end of this dichotomy. As a consumer, I already expect to find all the info I need online, discover and try new products in stores, buy and have my purchases be delivered wherever I want…
In my opinion, the main challenge for physical stores is to not disappoint by being a poor copy of online offerings. Moreover, a store needs to make me discover things I didn’t know about and would never have thought of, and even better, in a pleasant atmosphere… In this respect, the sensorial aspect of it all is crucial to me.
What does one need to make it in the beauty industry? Do you reckon it is necessary to have a long experience in the field?
I see two qualities that matter more than experience.
- Curiosity: to launch a brand that will stand out, you need more than developing 12 products around one new revolutionary ingredient that’s supposedly 700 times more efficient than the last one. Clients don’t care anymore! You need to be proactive about new trends, polish new textures, beauty gestures, routines, have a real brand universe… You have to dig that up all the way from the USA, Korea, in deep Brittany, in history, and never get sick of the chase!
- Empathy for your consumers: you need to look into their habits, analyze what lies under their every move… it’s almost a sociologist’s work to really thoroughly identify what is at stake for them, refine your comprehension of what they want; to actually understand them. And the work is never over.
What is your long term vision for L’Armoire à Beauté?
We want to be the reference for premium beauty, well-being and health. We want to be a guide for women, showing them the best products, personalizing their routines and offering the most objective advice we can.
What could be better, what should change in the way people consume cosmetics and how brands address their clients?
Consumers have a growing problem with ingredients derived from chemical synthesis. I was already working with organic products ten years ago, and I see a huge change, especially with younger consumers for whom organic and very natural products are absolutely standard. I believe consumers should continue to put pressure on brands, so that they work on cleaner formulas.
There are a lot of things that need to change in the way classic brands address women. The most pressing one is how they consider their customers, with the so-called “revolutionary” innovations, etc. Women are getting tired of standardized communication strategies, extremely polished visuals, 16-year-old models used to promote anti-aging products… I think that change will come when there are more women in charge in the industry.
Funny story: I remember someone telling me what his boss had said, in a big cosmetic firm. “We’re not going to let these old females decide for themselves, are we?” Ah, ah —well, why not, actually?!
What does this year at Look Forward mean to you?
It’s a great opportunity for us: to be able to beneficiate from the resources and talents at work at Showroomprivé, a company that places innovation and entrepreneurship at the core of its strategy. Compared to other incubators, we really feel that it’s not just a façade, there is a real sincerity in the way they support entrepreneurs. That is something quite unique in the French startup ecosystem.
For L’Armoire à Beauté, this year is a real opportunity to demonstrate the relevance of our model and push forward our digital projects around all things phygital. Our main goal is to start raising funds with investors, so that we can accelerate our coverage of the French territory. There are 22 000 pharmacies in France, we’ve got a lot of work to do!
We hope you enjoyed our time with Aurore and her passion for beauty consumers, their needs and what they really want!