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Puig executive Thomas James on GCC beauty trends and the future of Louboutin

Eight years ago, Christian Louboutin entered the beauty market and it’s safe to say the brand took the industry by storm.

To debut the Christian Louboutin Beauty cosmetics line, a series of extravagant nail polishes were launched in 2014 with packaging reminiscent of the iconic Louboutin red heel.

Nearly a decade on, the beauty line has become hugely popular and features a series of luxe lipsticks, eyeshadow palettes, blush palettes and a series of luxury signature fragrances.

Late last year, the beauty brand marked its biggest launch to date, the launch of the Loubiworld fragrances.

But it was the decision to first reveal three fragrances from Loubiworld – the Loubiworld Intense EDP fragrance to the world in Dubai that was a prominent one, with Christian Louboutin Beauty marking the Middle East as one of its strongest markets.

Puig’s Chief Brands Officer for Niche Brands,  Thomas James, sat down with Emirates Woman to discuss the importance of the GCC in the beauty world and the future of Louboutin Beauty.

Can you talk us through your career?

After being graduate from ESCP Europe, I began my career in the beauty industry at L’Oréal in 2008. Two years later, I joined Puig on Paco Rabanne. In 2012, I was asked to lead Marketing for New Projects for the integration of Jean Paul Gaultier its subsequent relaunch, before being made General Manager in 2017. In parallel, from 2016, I headed Creative Direction of the L’Artisan Parfumeur and Penhaligon’s. In November 2019, the group created a Niche Brands division of which I was appointed Vice President and then Chief Brands Officer for the following brands: Penhaligon’s, Christian Louboutin, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Kama Ayureveda, Comme des Garçons.

How have things evolved since Christian Louboutin Beauty launched over six years ago?

When Christian Louboutin joined Puig there were three categories: nails with La Laque nail polish, lips with the Rouge Louboutin and eyes with the Tape à l’oeil liquid eye shadow. Our first objective was to consolidate our success on the lips segment with the Rouge Louboutin by defining its territory, extending its range with the Velvet Matte extension and entering new markets. In 2019, Christian Louboutin Beauty has entered the Chinese market for the first time via a flagship store launched on Tmall followed by many physical doors in 2020 and 2021. The same year we relaunch the beauty activity in the Middle East with the opening of 2 doors: one in Dubai and one in Qatar, and many more to come. Then we decided to open new categories with La Palette Abracadabra: a refillable palette for eyes and face. We are taking our time with an “objets d’art” approach: every Christian Louboutin beauty product is different in terms of design and brings something new to the market in terms of usage or texture.

What does Christian Louboutin Beauty mean for you?

Christian Louboutin sees beauty as a natural extension of his universe and approach: celebrating femininity in all its diversity, having in mind since the very beginning that beauty is everywhere and always finding inspiration in the exchange of cultures and the learnings and experiences we get from them.

What is at the heart of Louboutin Beauty’s brand DNA?

Make things differently! Christian is always challenging the norm and the rules.

How would you describe the beauty space here in the UAE & GCC?

Every brand wants its customers to have the best experience possible and to be able to express its DNA. The Middle East offers this opportunity with large space dedicated to fragrances. We always have a double approach: a customer that will go to a Christian Louboutin store in the Middle East will experiment the brand as everywhere else in the world but with some local adaptions to be relevant with the different cultures and usages. Here we dedicated more space to fragrances as they account for 60%, compared to 30% for the makeup and the fragrance consultation is key so we have developed complete tools and programs.

Congratulations on the launch of Loubiworld. Can you talk us through the concept?

The Loubiworld collection has been thought of as a deep dive into the Christian Louboutin universe. For each one of them, Christian gave us a personal memory, a fantasy, an inspiration that he collected through all the travels he made. Christian Louboutin loves to celebrate different cultures and to pay tribute to them through his creations.

You also launched three new fragrances under the Loubiworld umbrella. How do they differ from previous fragrances you have?

Christian has a very personal and close relationship with the Middle East culture and wanted to celebrate it with 3 new Eaux de Parfum Intenses. After seven fragrances launched in 2020, the odyssey carries on today with those 3 new Eaux de Parfum Intenses, full of fascinating symbols. This time, the glass bottle is lacquered with a deep burgundy, illuminated by the orange-gold rays of three sophisticated caps. Each cap is a symbol that is highly inspired by the Middle Eastern region, and we paid attention to the smallest detail: for Loubicharme, it’s a gilded beetle that brings good luck and has red soles for wings. The snake on Loubiprince’s cap circles a pyramid, which represents the designer’s dreamworld inspired by Ancient Egypt. Its design evokes all the mystery and elegance of this place. And finally, Loubiluna’s cap reflects a bird’s plumage and noble attitude. Each of these fragrances holds a personal memory, blended with other influences, dreams and experiences.

What’s next for Louboutin Beauty?

We have really high ambition for the brand. We think Christian Louboutin has a unique positioning that resonates extremely well with people aspirations today. So far the response to our new launches both in makeup and fragrances is extremely positive so we will keep on opening new categories in the year to come.

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Images: Supplied/Instagram

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