The French Cleavage Club

Wednesday, 18 August 2010
(Photo Credit: Miss Piggy)

I find that for me to better explain what happens in cosmetics, it helps to give you a glimpse as well of its behind the scenes even if writing it causes me nights of profuse nosebleeding.  (And you will know it when i try to throw you a bunch of Rowenaism crap)

Anyway, when you enter the world of cosmetics, my word of warning will be something that is nicked from the dead Italian poet Dante, 
"Lasciate ogni speranza, vol ch'entrate."  
translating to queen's english -
"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
that  I further translate for Snoop Doggy Dog,

 And the very first thing you learn on the very first day you work with cosmetic is this -
"Thou shalt not look impressed!"   
And by this, I mean that when you see a parade of 7 million eyeshadows before you, you must restrain yourself from all forms of gasping, swooning, salivating, giggling, drooling, clapping, jumping, begging for samples and all forms of girly-giddy-up behavior.

When you look too impressed, that screams "amateur".  You DON'T want that!
To illustrate, imagine that you are a tourist in Paris walking all smiles, wide - eyed  in Champs-Elysée, not daring to blink an eye for fear of  missing a second of this Parisian splendor.  I mean- man- this IS fucking Paris, the fucking city of lights, fashion, fragrance and all that dog crap!
But wait-  look at the locals - they look miserable in such an awesome place.   And, what is this?  They smirk at tourists!  They feel like they have more right being in Paris and that these tourists, the same ones giving them income, are pestering nuisances!
So, going back to my cosmetics analogy, Paris is the cosmetics, tourists are the amateurs and the beauty insider - will be the arrogant Parisian strutting and owning the place.


To work in cosmetics, it is not necessary that you can tell the difference between a foundation brush and a blush brush or that you can execute a perfect smudged eye.

What matters are- you can input data in an excel sheet, make musical powerpoint presentations,  take clippings from magazines to express your "feelings"  about a collection and show potential of being a class A bullshitter (aka, marketing skills).

If you can talk make up texture layering, that is a plus, but it will only come handy after you have proven your bullshitting mettle.
Think of it as a beauty pageant.  First you have to be pretty enough to be in the top 10 semi finalists, before you can WOW them at the Q&A portion.  Without passing the qualifying beauty round, your intellect, alas, is not worth shit.  
There are a lot of jobs in the cosmetic industry- but you probably would aspire to be where the shades are named - the global central -where all the wondrous, magical bullshit happens.  And you would like to be that person who names the shades- the  product manager, or who i call from here on, the baby-mamas.  (but I, of course get to direct and approve them- I once named a shade after our CEO- VanDiesel , and I expected it to sell jillions, but the CEO chickened out and I had to name the shade Brad instead)

I have worked with many a baby-mama, and from my experience, I can classify them into two.  (Yes, I make a sweeping generalization with a sample group of  8- but heck, that is how we do it in cosmetics, so do not expect me to reinvent the wheel here)

There are, for me, the good baby mamas -

They are good natured and with real talent,  If I were to cast one to play them in a movie, I will cast Zooey Dechanel (in my part of the world, it makes more sense to call her Zoë, but I suppose she couldn't be bothered with the umlaut).    Zooey can look at a woman, tell what make up products she is wearing, identify which brand-  and if she is on fire, can even name the shade- (amongst other more useful talents, of course)
This is a trick of not only knowing the products but as well having a knack for stereotyping the woman and linking a brand that responds to that stereotype.  (I know it is evil, but yeah, we do that)
  • Does she work at the post office? Then she must be using Nivea
  • Does she have a chihuahua and a rhinestone tiara? Chances are she is wearing Dior.
  • Does she look stuck in a time space warp? Then, it must be Revlon
  • Is she working two jobs? Then it must be Avon
  • Is she going out with a boy young enough to be her son? Then it could be Helena Rubinstein.
The downside to Zooey's is that she has a low PQ (political quotient).  In a big company (if, she can enter there at all), she will eventually get disillusioned and retire to a more fulfilling endeavor or just rot away overpassed by one promotion to another.   

THEN, oh then, there will be the second type -  the evil incarnates, proof that Rosemary's baby is alive, has grown up and is living amongst us.

It is perhaps by sheer chance that most of them that I have met are French and walk the corridors with a whole lot of cleavage carried like some badassitude.

They are circus ring masters who work the headquarters from the lunch delivery boy (i love you!), to the council of the clueless.  They got politicking down to a science and do not have time (nor the talent)  for creative endeavors - which is ok because they are very adept in grabbing the credit from others who produce the ideas (the Zoës, the suppliers, the lunch boy...)

They tend to be very successful in the organization and they are promoted easily to the next level.  A good landing ground for them is the fragrance category as this is the eeeeeeeeeasiest category amongst cosmetics with hell of a lot of pomp and pageantry and almost nil requirement for talent.

And, btw, did i mention that fragrance is easy?
Proof is that I have launched more than a dozen fragrances whilst I cannot smell shit (i ruined my sense of smell as a child from excessive nose bleeding  fighting off school bullies).  I am known to eat spoiled food because I cannot smell that they have turned rancid.  I swear!   (But now, that I have made this stupid admission, for the sake of this blog, my market value for fragrances must now gone down by 2 notches.)

If I were to cast the french cleavage club, I would cast Miss Piggy for the budding baby mama (i know, Miss Piggy is somehow nice, but the resemblance is just so striking!) and that mega talented french actress, Mimie Mathie - as the fragrance evil overlord.

Ok, I know I am bitching, and I must confess I am really, really enjoying it, but watch me now as i try to weasel my way into making a point out of all of this ...

The company's structure will have an effect on the brand image.  Which ones will have the soul of Zoë and which ones are the dull by-product of the machinery of extensive research *aherm*nivea* borne of the French Cleavage Club?

I am sure you can guess which is which!

The bigger the company, the more politicking you will have, the more of the French Cleavage Club you will get and the less inspired, dull and distilled your brands will be. (And what did we say about sweeping generalizations?)

But aside from this- there are of course other things to consider.  Does that make these products, these children of a lesser god, inferior?   Not necessarily...

The plot thickens ... and it will be unravelled in the next blogs...

Coming up on the next blog- "Why are lipsticks like Marie Antoinette?"