The audacity of beauty: La Prairie’s Skin Caviar line turns 30

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The Skin Caviar collection has expanded into a 14-product line.

In the fast-moving and competitive skincare industry, it’s not unusual for beauty brands to completely overhaul or pull out certain products entirely to be replaced with whatever is hot at the moment. What’s rarer is to see concoctions that stand the test of time, trends and market demands.

La Prairie’s Skin Caviar Collection belongs to the latter. This year, the Swiss luxury skincare company’s flagship product line marks its 30th anniversary—a rare feat in the beauty industry. It’s even more remarkable, since a 50-ml jar of its face moisturizer (Luxe Cream) alone costs about P25,000.

The luxury Skin Caviar line was an anti-aging pioneer when it was created in 1987. It promises lifting and firming benefits with its caviar extract and La Prairie’s proprietary Cellular Complex, the basis of all its products. In the last 30 years, the Skin Caviar Collection has expanded into a 14-product line.

To mark the milestone event, La Prairie and its local partner for 19 years, Rustan’s, recreated the art-and-science theme of the global anniversary, with a mini exhibit at the Peninsula Manila last week.

La Prairie’s Niki Yuri Na (center) with Michael T. Huang, Rustan’s VP for store development (left) and Donnie Tantoco, Rustan’s president —CVM

Five artists

La Prairie had commissioned five artists to interpret the Skin Caviar for a touring exhibition that made stops in New York, Paris and Hong Kong—it will make its final stop in Shanghai in November—to underscore La Prairie’s achievements in skincare as both science and art. The images of the art installations were shown here last week.

“Would people get it? We asked ourselves that in the beginning,” Niki Yuri Na, La Prairie’s general manager for Asia distribution markets, told Lifestyle. “You’ll be surprised. They get it faster than you can imagine… Scientists are a bit like artists. They have a vision, then they develop. What they create is a masterpiece. That’s how it is in our labs.”

To explain how the Skin Caviar has remained a favorite since 1987, Na said, “ We have a great retention rate because, first, women, especially Filipinos, spread the word when they like what they’re using. They don’t keep it a secret. Second, there’s product efficacy. Customers stay loyal because they’re happy with the product. Third, we’re consistent. We don’t revamp, discontinue and introduce something new.”

Asked whether La Prairie is a trend-setter or a perfector, Na said it’s a bit of both. It baffled people when it first introduced Skin Caviar 30 years ago. With the Absolute Filler, launched recently as the newest addition to the Skin Caviar line and promises skin volumizing results, Na noted that similar products have been in the market for a while.

“But what we have in the Absolute Filler is a masterpiece,” she said. “Our products take time. We do a lot of tests until we’re ready. We want to do it the right way. We look at trends, of course. But not because everyone is introducing cushion compact, we’ll do it, too… We’re not for everyone. La Prairie is for a very elite, highly sophisticated market.”

To explain the brand’s stratospheric pricing better, Na points out that the Swiss company only uses rare ingredients, like caviar, platinum and gold in its skincare, paired with state-of-the-art proprietary technology. The secret formula of the Cellular Complex itself is created in three different labs, so nobody knows exactly what the other labs are doing. “We also don’t make large volumes.”

The newest addition to the Skin Caviar line: Absolute Filler

Willing to spend

In the Philippines, Skin Caviar is the top seller, and the most high-end Platinum Rare Collection a close second, according to Na. It shows that women are willing to wear Zara with their Hermès bag, but when it comes to what they put on their skin, “Filipino women are a bit choosier. They’re willing to spend on skincare.”

Until about 10 years ago, La Prairie has been very Western market-centric, said Na. “Now it’s all about Asia. The testings are done a lot with Asian women. It’s the most challenging market. Some brands enter and don’t do it smartly, and they pull out.”

She added, “Asians have become quite sophisticated with skincare. They want perfect skin. They want translucent, spotless, luminous. It’s no longer just whitening, it’s now a bit different. They want luminosity and even tonality. There’s also a lot of concern on pollution and sun damage. When we launched the White Caviar Pearl Infusion, we couldn’t stock it enough in Asia.”

La Prairie’s product line is 85 percent anti-aging. Early next year, it will introduce its most expensive product yet, a night elixir that will retail at approximately $1,200 for a 20-ml bottle. In the beginning, Na was concerned that it might be too expensive, even for La Prairie. But retail partners in the region reassured her.

“We launched the Platinum Rare Cellular Cream during the IMF crisis and it sells for about $1,000 a jar,” she noted. “It’s our No. 2 product. That’s how we do it at La Prairie. We’re an audacious brand. We go bold.”

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