Will Prada’s refillable, tech-driven premium beauty line succeed in China?

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What Happened: Prada’s latest big reveal — Prada Beauty – comprises monogrammed lipsticks, eyeshadow quads, lip balm, AI-derived shades of foundation, ‘Augmented Skin’ cream, serum, and cleanser, and 10 brushes and tools. The Italian house today launched its makeup and skincare line, which was made available via Prada’s official website and dedicated beauty website, as well as selected retailers, such as Selfridges and Harrods.

Notably, most of Prada’s skincare and makeup products are refillable. The premium label is also launching a virtual makeup try-on service and a skin diagnosis device for advanced analysis of consumers’ skin. Despite being a latecomer to beauty, Prada is focusing on innovation and sustainability to gain an advantage.

The beauty line is positioned at the top-end, with cream and serum costing up to $400 (2,860 RMB), which approaches La Mer’s price point.

Prada launched its makeup and skincare line on August 1, landing on its official website, dedicated beauty website, and selected landmark shopping malls, such as Selfridges and Harrods. Photo: Prada Beauty

The Jing Take: In January 2021, L’Oréal and Prada signed a licensing agreement. The beauty giant quickly revamped Prada’s fragrance business launching two perfumes — Luna Rossa Ocean and Paradoxe — in 2022. The latter was the top-selling newly launched women’s scent in the US the same year. 

In L’Oréal’s H1 2023 financial report, the beauty behemoth mentioned Prada Beauty’s contribution to its revenue growth, indicating that the brand’s fragrances are performing well. 

China is a crucial market for the Milan-based label. In September 2022, Prada’s perfume line officially entered the Chinese market, available via 13 boutiques across mainland China and online flagship stores on Tmall, JD.com, and Douyin. On Tmall, the maison has to date sold over 17,000 units of Prada Paradoxe.

On Tmall, Prada sold over 17,000 pieces of Prada Paradoxe. Photo: Tmall screenshot

Unlike many luxury brands that offer a lower price point for their beauty lines to reach a wider audience, Prada Beauty sits in L’Oréal’s ultra-premium category. 

“It has an exceptional growth potential to excel in all luxury beauty categories and soon join the very selective club of L’Oréal Luxe billionaire brands,” Cyril Chapuy, president of L’Oréal Luxe, told WWD

China’s prestige beauty segment was worth around $17 billion in 2022, and is expected to expand at a CAGR of about 10 percent to 2027, according to the Business of Fashion

“The middle class is expanding. In the future, there will be at least 80 million high-end cosmetics consumers in China. The group’s L’Oréal Luxe department will have significant room for expansion in the next 20-30 years,” says Ma Xiaoyu, vice president of L’Oréal China.

But marketing skincare and makeup requires much more than brand reputation and awareness. 

Refillable and tech-driven cosmetics are plus points, but with the rise of beauty ingredients aficionados in China, the business must create effective formulas to affirm the brand’s authority in the field and entice local shoppers to pay for the premium products. 

With Prada Beauty’s launch, and Kering also recently setting up a dedicated in-house beauty division, the beauty battle is heating up. It remains to be seen whether Prada has what it takes to join L’Oréal Luxe’s billionaire brands club. 

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.


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