CAMILLE POGU plastic intervention
CHARLOTTE SIEMON translation
ELÉONORE ZEKRI transcription
I started working alone on photoshoots for magazines such as Marie Claire and Madame Figaro and had the opportunity to work and travel a lot with Elle Magazine before leaving to the USA to become part of the staff that founded the American Elle Magazine along with Gilles Bensimon and Régis Pagniez.
UM Could you introduce yourself and talk about the experiences and encounters that influenced the path you took?
LM My name is Laura Mercier, originally Michelle Mercier. I decided to change my name when I started studying at the Carita school. The Carita sisters Maria and Rosy, two hairdressers who founded their institute gave me this new name since there was already an actress named Michelle Mercier. It was also very trendy at that time to be given a new name. I started as a student in an art school because I wanted to be an artist but soon realized that being an artist probably won’t pay the bills (laughs). I became independent at an early age and wanted to feel financially secure, which is the reason why I studied aesthetics and cosmetology. I grew fond of that field and then started working part time in the famed Carita school which doesn’t exist anymore but used to be a well known establishment. At that time is was known to train alumni who went on to work for celebrities and princesses from the Middle East. It was considered the “it place” in Paris where students achieved a high level of artistic excellence. During my studies, I met the celebrated make-up artist of that time, Thibault Vabre, who worked on photoshoots for magazines and did the make-up for Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Adjani and many others. After which Thibault asked me to work with him as his assistant. I followed him over a year and a half acquiring new skills whilst being a substitute teacher at the école Carita. I replaced him as a full time teacher when he decided to resign due to his increasing work load with studios. This whole experience of being in art school while partially working with professionals gave me important basic skills and was very influential in my decision to pursue a career in a field that didn’t necessarily interest me at first. I climbed the ladder slowly but steadily. I started working alone on photoshoots for magazines such as Marie Claire and Madame Figaro and had the opportunity to work and travel a lot with Elle Magazine before leaving to the USA to become part of the staff that founded the American Elle Magazine along with Gilles Bensimon and Régis Pagniez. I worked with a lot of models to create the style that would suit Elle USA the best. I ended up spending three months in the USA where I had the chance to meet agents and people who asked if I would be willing to be represented and spend a year in New York City and I gladly took them upon their offer. I’ve been living in the USA ever since that moment in 1983.
UM According to you what is the difference between French and American beauty standards?
LM There are a great many differences but when I was a freelance make-up artist in the USA while working on photoshoots in New York City a lot of the work came from France and the United Kingdom. Everything was very international. There was something else about the style of the American Elle. We worked with a lot of models. We brought with us a certain amount of “ethnicity” that didn’t exist before hand which allowed to create a more cosmopolitan fashion by blending models of different ethnic backgrounds. Elle was innovative in that matter because magazines that existed at that time targeted different racial categories like magazines for Latino women, African-American women and white women. At that time we followed the trends that existed in the past decades when I created my line of products in 1996, American women tended to cover their skin more and relied less on make-up. I was very keen on in introducing a more european feel to their look, meaning a very light foundation not too covering without having to layer their skin excessively. This was my main purpose from the beginning. The main idea behind the creation of my line of products was about innovating professional products accessible to the average woman, creating a bridge between trends, fashion and the everyday woman who does her make-up before leaving for work. Indeed, I wanted to talk portray this link and offer women high performing products used by make-up artists that they could use by teaching them how to apply make-up hopefully influencing their beauty routine meaning how to do make-up and how to wear it. My life did take a significant turn in 1996. I continued working for around 3 to 4 years because I was working with a great deal of celebrities. I then dedicated myself completely to my brand.
UM What are the difficulties you encountered when building this bridge? Did you have any difficulties at the beginning or was creating your brand a rather smooth and natural process?
LM Creating my brand has been challenging but it couldn’t have been done differently. In fact, I was at the peek of my career. I consider that time to be the apotheosis of my career because I earned an important amount of money, I was working with many celebrities and I was extremely well known in the Fashion and Entertainment industries. Nevertheless,
I wasn’t known to the public at all. To remedy this, I had to make personal appearances, that is to say, take part in events in stores where I would work with the store staff all day to apply make-up on clients and teach them how to apply their make-up. By doing so I had the opportunity to promote the products at the same time. All of that was part of a game I had to play to build my brand. I had to start from scratch. It frightened me to start from scratch because I restarted my career in New York from the bottom as my career in France was well on track. It was a perpetual cycle of “back to square one,” an idea of evolution. It really has been a challenge to make myself known and appreciated by the public even though the brand had an immediate success because of the fact that we brought in something new. We had a different way of communicating with women and taught them how to apply their make-up. We realized that between all those competitive make-up and beauty care brands with great investment capacities, women have a thirst to learn. They want to learn how to use the products and how to correct certain imperfections even if they are not very prepared to deal with quality products. We therefore decided to rather invest into the quality and performance of the products rather than in the visual aspects. We didn’t have a lot of money, neither for marketing nor for advertising, so we had to work a lot. The entire team worked very hard. It demanded a lot of effort over the years to seduce every woman individually and hopefully win their loyalty. Fortunately, we managed to achieve that very goal which explains the brand’s extremely vigorous start. After that, everything went too fast. A good strategy should have been put in place and we should have looked for good partnerships from the beginning in order for that line of products to evolute as it should. The business aspect was encountering the creative one that is to say; the creative aspect was trying to make the business aspect see reason while trying to keep the soul and integrity of what I wanted to create at the beginning.
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