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Leading Luxury

By: Abby Penning
Posted: August 27, 2013, from the September 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.

The weight of a smooth, heavy glass fragrance bottle in your hand. The sweep of a soft, full blush brush across your cheekbones. The easy, smooth twist of a rich red lipstick out of the cylindrical tube.

All of these sensations and more can be an inherent part of the beauty routine, subconsciously adding elements of elegance, pampering, luxury and joy to applying beauty products. From twisting the cap off a jarred moisturizer to admiring the sheen of the metallic finish of a mascara tube, packaging adds feeling and experience to beauty. And for luxury beauty products in particular, those feelings and experiences need to be on point to say the right thing and convey the right emotion.

The Feel of Luxury

Often, luxury is where trends begin. Alexander Kwapis, creative director for Fusion Packaging, explains, “Typically, the luxury brands are the first to market. They are the trendsetters. [And] prestige packaging is the same way.” Adds Kwapis’ colleague Jessica Cahalen, marketing manager with Fusion Packaging, “Luxury beauty packaging is held to a different standard than mass packaging, not only by consumers but also, as it should be, by the brands. It is expected that luxury brands offer higher quality products with the most effective formulas in order to justify their higher costs. In order to display their value to consumers who may not be familiar with certain ingredients or formulations, luxury brands require packaging that proves their worth at first sight.”

David Hou, director of marketing and sales, Cospack America Corp., agrees, noting, “Packaging is a great influence on the perceived value of the products, and luxury brands do try to top their competitors in terms of packaging used.”

Along the same lines, Cahalen says, “Luxury brands tend to select packaging that will give their product greater shelf presence along with an eye-catching design. Many times luxury brands will follow the latest fashion trends, dressing their products in the most current colors, finishes and patterns.”

Jim Slowey, vice president of sales and marketing at Baralan USA/Arrowpak, goes even further, saying, “Fashion as a whole dictates a lot of what you see in beauty packaging. Luxury packaging is not afraid to be luxurious again. We see a trend away from minimalist, simple packages and decoration to an almost over the top, more flash, noticeable look.”

Its also about the emotions fashion-forward luxury product can offer. Anisa Telwar, founder and owner of Anisa International, explains that consumers want beauty products that match the feeling they get when they put on a couture dress for when they pull out their compacts or apply their cosmetics. “Luxury is everywhere, and we have to work to figure out the ways to translate that to beautiful product options,” she says.

Trends in Luxury Packaging

“Trending right now in luxe beauty is definitely that off-the-runway look,” says Telwar, explaining that many luxury consumers are looking at beauty packaging as almost another accessory they can coordinate with their fashion. “Materials like metal, jewels, clutch-like products—that’s translating into beauty packaging right now.”

Michael E. Warford, director of sales, ABA Packaging Corp., notes, “The luxury market incorporates a wide range of specialty decorations, but they are generally paired with more heavyweight products. The dominant trend that we are seeing in luxury packaging, both in glass and in plastic components, is heavy walls and thicker heals. New stock glass jars that we are developing at ABA Packaging are ‘heavyweight’ styles to satisfy the need for a luxury look and feel. [Also] ABA Packaging represents Promens exclusively in the U.S., and they have an extensive line of stock heavy wall plastic jars produced in Spain that are a perfect fit for the luxury market. They have the capability of producing heavy-wall, blow-molded bottles at their production facilities in France, and we are seeing our custom bottle development projects for the luxury market going in this direction.”

Of this trend, Cahalen comments, “Bottles and jars [are] being requested in the season’s most popular colors in an attempt to stand out while still staying on trend. Gunmetal, for example, has been a highly requested finish because of its sleek look and edgy style.”

Hou has noticed a rise of metal as well. “We see a trend among our luxury beauty clients and the industry as a whole of utilizing metal overshell components to enhance their selected packaging, whether it be accentuating through a metal-shelled pump or closure on bottles and jars to utilizing metal shell exteriors on the entire components,” he notes.

Slowey, confirming both the weight and decoration trends, notes these packaging elements are helping justify the price point for luxury. “Currently many companies are looking for very thick, very elegant-looking bottles and jars, giving both a rich look and also a feel in the hand that the product is substantial and worth the price charged. We are also seeing decoration move from an afterthought to become the defining character in a line of products, taking what may be a simple-shaped package and adding coatings and prints that were once not available or out of reach for most budgets. Animal prints and other textured looks are becoming more requested as the cosmetic world looks to the fashion world for hints,” he says.

With that decoration and weight, Telwar points out quality comes in attention to detail, noting that some of the latest advances in primary packaging have functional aesthetics. “When this is the case, there can be more attention on a beautiful, useful, entire product—not just the outside packaging,” she says.

Airless is one packaging option with a functional raison d’être. “Airless packaging continues to play a large role in the luxury sector as consumers continue to seek out more innovative formulas and more intelligent packaging systems,” Cahalen explains. “These advanced formulations are often best suited in airless packaging that offers an array of benefits to not only the formula but also the user. We have seen a larger push for color cosmetics moving into airless packaging, [including] unique color formulations such as gels and creams.”