The boundaries between art and fashion are often blurred – whether explicitly, as with Louis Vuitton’s recent Jeff Koons collaboration, or simply by taking visual cues from movements, collectives, or artists. There are now abundant artistic foundations that sit beneath the world’s most revered fashion brands. Even e-commerce is now extending into the domain; whether such endeavours are born from savvy marketing types or a genuine desire to patronise the field, they are certainly plentiful. The beauty industry, however, has never really taken part. Admittedly, its pace is far slower than that of fashion; products can sit in laboratories for years on end, and the commercial repercussions of missteps are gargantuan. Still, beauty brands are notable by their absence in a world where the principles of art are so often positioned as parallel to those of luxury.
“We consider ourselves to be a luxury brand, more than just a beauty brand,” explains Greg Prodromides, the vice president of global marketing at La Prairie; “in the way we develop, in the way we create, in the way we express ourselves. And in luxury, you always need to be a pioneer.” He is speaking to me in Basel, where the brand recently launched an initiative whereby it has commissioned a series of artists – including Paul Coudamay, Cinq Fruits and Bonjour Lab among them – to create original works inspired by their famous Skin Caviar, in honour of its 30 year anniversary. Launched at Art Basel, these works are about to embark on a world tour in galleries from Paris to Shanghai, and seem to indicate that there is a shift in the brand’s strategy, which has formerly rested on the brilliant but mysterious formulation of its products.
“We believe art is something intrinsic to La Prairie,” continues La Prairie President and CEO Patrick Rasquinet. “When we launched Skin Caviar, it was a very bold move – who’d have thought to put caviar in skincare? – and it brought us into the avant-garde. Our cobalt blue? That was inspired by Niki de Saint Phalle. Our packaging was inspired by Bauhaus.” And so on that side of things, the party line is clear. When you see Paul Coudamay’s installation at Art Basel, however, being circulated by the sort of people who invest in multi-million pound creations, the endeavour makes even more sense. Beyond the sort of media attention that such collaborations attract, who is more perfectly suited to buying a £500 skin cream than a woman dressed in full-look Céline preparing to invest in a Jenny Holzer? The pricetag pales in comparison here. “Art has been in search of beauty since the very beginning,” explains Coudamay, who took direct inspiration from La Prairie Absolute Skin Filler to build an abstract sculpture formed from metallic caviar beads. Now, it seems, the tables have turned.