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Shades of India
A decade ago, the mention of India inspired beauty products might have evoked the heady scents of patchouli oil and sandalwood soap - limited in appeal to former hippies and the most ardent of yogis.
But today, India is captivating the mainstream cosmetics industry in a big way. From high-end brands creating makeup shades based on the country's bright colors to skin- and hair-care lines capitalising on Ayurveda, an ancient medicinal system using herbs and other natural ingredients, when it comes to beauty, inside and out, the industry is increasingly turning to the world's second-most-populous country.
Clarins, the Paris-based company, introduced a line of cosmetics this summer called Enchanted, which range in price from $18 to $40 and are inspired by the festival of Holi. The collection includes lip glosses with the names Pink Jaipur and Nude Delhi, and four products for eyes: shadows in violet and a coppery brown, and an update of kajal.
While this was Clarins's first venture into India, Boucheron, the French jeweler, already had a long-established connection with the country when it put a fragrance called Jaipur Bracelet on the market in June, for $136 a bottle. It was more than a century ago, according to Marina Mamakos, the vice president for marketing at Interparfums, which represents the scent, that Louis Boucheron, the son of the brand's founder, Frêdêric, traveled to Rajasthan to source stones for his creations.
He began cutting some of his gems in a cabochon style the way the Indians did - a cut that was used for the cap of Jaipur Homme, a cologne for men that has been around since 1988. While that scent was affiliated with India in name and design only, Bracelet's heart note is tagetes, a type of marigold known as India's carnation. And its bottle is a soft pink, inspired by Jaipur's nickname as the Pink City, and is in the shape of a nauratan bracelet, which is given to Rajasthani brides for good luck.
India's influence on beauty is also apparent on the fashion runways. Chanel's limited-edition Bombay Express de Chanel cosmetic line was designed for Karl Lagerfeld's pre-fall 2012 collection, the Paris-Bombay Mêtiers d'Art show, which was strongly influenced by opulent Indian fabrics and embellishments. To complement the clothes, Peter Philips, Chanel's creative director of makeup, designed four products ranging from $30 to $80, including a gold nail shade called Diwali, after the festival of lights, and a golden powder named Route des Indes de Chanel, which is embossed with a motif of a bronze brocade from an Indian-themed collection that Gabrielle Chanel created in the 1960s. The new six-piece Thakoon for Nars nail collection is a result of Thakoon Panichgul's springsummer 2012 line, which was inspired by the country and is heavy on gold accenting and bold colors. Panichgul said he was hands-on in coming up with the shades, which retail for $18 each and are named in Hindi after popular Indian spices or medicinal plants. "I was taken with the colors in spice markets in India like bright blues and reds because they are so ethnic but also so modern at the same time, " he said from Paris. "I wanted to be sure that what I came up with in my clothes was being translated well into a nail shade, so Nars and I would go back and forth on tone until we found it. "
The yellow shade Amchoor is similar to a yellow leather dress Panichgul designed. According to Irina Barbalova, the global head of beauty and personal care research for Euromonitor International, a Londonbased market research firm, the vivid shades in these Indian-driven products are part of a larger trend of consumers' gravitating toward more color in their cosmetics. "Hues have become more prominent, and today, it's the brighter, the better, " she said.
But the beauty world's interest in India goes beyond the surface. Well-established and niche companies are using ancient and supposedly healing ingredients from the country to create more natural skin- and hair-care products.
Aveda, which has worked with Ayurvedic doctors since soon after it was founded in 1978 to use Indian herbs in some of its products, has a new three-piece line for thinning hair called Invati, which means "invigorate" in Sanskrit. An Ayurvedic blend including turmeric and ginseng from an organic farm in India is the key component in the shampoo, conditioner and revitaliser.
Marianne Knutson, Aveda's vice president for global marketing, said Invati was the largest product introduction in the company's history in terms of marketing dollars spent. It is now Aveda's best-selling hair care system globally, Ms. Knutson said, adding, "The success exceeded all expectations, and we're now looking at strengthening our relationship with Indian heritage. "
Aveda is owned by the cosmetics behemoth Estêe Lauder, but there are several smaller Ayurvedic-based lines. Based in New York City, Kesari, is one of the better known;its products combine ancient ingredients like saffron with modern ones like peptides and retinol. It was founded by Richa Purohit, who comes from a family in India that has produced Ayurvedic beauty remedies for more than a century and has developed skin care for luxury beauty brands. The fourproduct line had its debut on HSN, formerly the Home Shopping Network, in late 2010 and is now sold through Amazon. com, its own site and in high-end salons and spas. The most popular product is the $49. 50 firming serum, a combination of three Indian fruits, including the vitamin-C-rich amla.
And these are just the beginning of what India has to offer, said Shalini Vadhera Potts, author of the book Passport to Beauty. "The country is rich with powerful herbs that really work wonders on the hair and skin, and consumers are starting to recognize that, " Ms. Potts said. "There is an awareness now to taking care of yourself in a holistic way beyond just what you can see on the surface, and that's what these centuries-old beauty ingredients from India are all about. "
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