The panel included famed hairstylist Rossano Ferretti, Fragrance Foundation president Linda G. Levy, celebrity makeup artist Vincent Longo and Meredith Kerekes, who is head of the US beauty desk at the Italian Trade Agency.
More than 40 members of the press, retailers and other beauty industry executives were on site, and the session was also livestreamed to the entire country of Italy, allowing everyone to listen in as the panelists passionately discussed the history and innovation of Italian beauty and fragrance brands and, more importantly—why they are uniquely poised for growth in the US market.
“Beauty Made in Italy” is a new program launched by the Italian government that aims to promote the awareness, availability and excellence of Italian beauty products and brands to the US market. IBC, in turn, was created to support the program and serves as an advisory group of Italian professionals and specialists from the beauty industry who offer valuable advice, knowledge and personal experience to the Beauty Made in Italy member companies. (Watch video above for information on some ofthe brands that agency is workng with).
In addition, the event covered the excellence of Italian manufacturing in the beauty industry and the challenges Italian brands face when entering the US market.
According to Ferretti, authenticity is the real difference between Italians and the rest of the world. “From the Renaissance to today, we are designing the beauty in the world,” he said during the opening minutes of the panel.
Pointing to women such as Sophia Loren as the embodiment and representation of what Italian beauty stands for, Longo said that quality is of the utmost importance.
“If it’s not right, we’re not doing it—and it is in every category, whether mass or prestige,” he said about Italian manufacturers’ stance on developing and launching products.
Kerekes also pointed to the emphasis on quality and R&D, noting the prevalence of Italian contract manufacturers to partner with universities.
She relayed three words that one should associate with Italian beauty: intentional, glamorous and innovation.
“We know ingredients,” Ferretti added.
Longo also addressed Italy’s Golden Triangle—the area that stretches from Milan to Bergamo to Crema where many of the cosmetic industry’s leading manufacturers are located.
“I-beauty brands are poised to explode,” said Longo, pointing to the growing interest in indie and boutique brands.
But those on the panel acknowledged that Italian brands face challenges when trying to enter the US market.
Money, of course, is one. But Longo also noted that Italian brands need to understand who they want to target.
“In the US market, we have vast retail channels; they need to speak to specific demographics,” Longo said.
Kerekes commented on where K-Beauty excelled—by offering innovative textures, and whimsical, playful products—and “they had Peach & Lilly,” she said, referring to the popular e-commerce site focused on selling Asian beauty products to US customers.
“There are lessons we can learn from how they penetrated the market,” she said.
Ferretti suggested that Italian brands need to “announce the uniqueness and authenticity to it. We are the most under-discovered quality country in the world.”
Ferretti also stressed the need for education. “Every time I go, I talk to the press. Every time it is an education process,” he said, referring to his own best practices when he opens a new salon in a new market—something he has done in places such as New York, Dubai and Singapore.
According to Kerekes, there’s an opportunity for Italian brands to tell their story.
And that, according to Levy of the Fragrance Foundation, is how Italian beauty brands, including fragrance sellers, can win over today’s customers who want to know more about the products they buy, as well as the company behind those products.
“Consumers want to know the story. They want to hear about history. They want to know about the craftsmanship and they want to know the ingredients,” she said.
Longo insisted that social media has been a game changer for beauty brands—and I-Beauty companies should use it to their advantage.
“We have more tools in our hands today than what we did a decade ago,” said Longo.
In fact, he suggested that Italian beauty brands start using those tools and stop being so modest. “We need to toot our own horn,” Longo said.