-- In July 2017, clé de peau BEAUTÉ, the prestigious luxury brand of the Shiseido Group, launched an updated version of its product lineup with a focus on lipstick. Could you tell us again about the brand?
Nagata: After the birth of clé de peau BEAUTÉ in 1982, it has become a top-of-the-line brand of Shiseido's that has continued to be well-loved by consumers for more than 30 years. Its skincare line based on cutting-edge skin science, as well as high-end cosmetic products from a makeup line that reflects a refined aesthetic, have remained unchanged since the launch of the brand. However, our standards of beauty, values of luxury, and the ideal female image have gradually undergone changes along with the times.
The modern clé de peau BEAUTÉ captures the women who seek the intrinsic nature of things with a global attitude. In the past, the image of career women had been a "global" one as they flew around the world for work and personal reasons; today, we think about women who place great importance on the richness of their inner lives. clé de peau BEAUTÉ's concept of a global feminine image of luxury is that of a flexible woman who cares for and values their close and cherished family and friends as well as herself. I believe that their values with regard to luxury are also changing from a glamor that exists only on the surface, to a more intrinsic attitude and approach.
-- This time, the design of the brand's flagship product, "rouge à lèvres," has been updated to produce a lineup with 12 shades. Could you tell us the background to this update?
Nagata: For some time, it had been the trend to use natural colors for the lips. However, since a few years ago, a sense of color and fun began to return to the world of lip colors. We received a request from the development team for clé de peau BEAUTÉ based on the wish to propose the ultimate luxury rouge from a lineup of lipsticks geared toward women with a preference for the natural and genuine. In response, we took the bold step of updating the entire lineup in aspects that covered not only the coloring, luster, and texture of the lipstick, but also its shape and packaging. The development of the packaging design began with a renewed inquiry into what "real dignity" and "true luxury" are.
-- What was the conclusion that you arrived at as a result of this renewed inquiry?
Nagata: We eventually reached a decision to develop the product based on the theme of "perceived quality." Our aim was to provide quality that satisfies all aspects of the five delicate senses that human beings possess.
As we sought to find the intrinsic or the "true essence," we felt a sense of incompatibility with the lifestyle that we have continued to lead for some time, which places emphasis on efficiency and reducing time. Hence, we came up with the concept of "Life Time Experience" as the core idea for embodying "true comfort and pleasantness," which should be the complete opposite of that lifestyle.
In fact, the first lipstick that I ever bought in my life was the "rouge à lèvres." The detailing on the simple yet high-quality packaging as well as the high level of finish that adorned the cylindrical case used at the time; the perfect beauty of the colors produced by the makeup art director at the time... even the beauty of the advertising was out of the ordinary and far surpassed everything else. I was fascinated by all of it, and bought myself that lipstick despite it being a considerable price for someone in their teens like myself.
The impact of my encounter with clé de peau BEAUTÉ at that time is a memory that has remained with me since then, and brought to me the startling realization that an experience of luxury resonates with the emotions and stays with us for the rest of our lives. I felt that this was the type of quality that consumers demand in this day and time. The "lifelong experience" that I had when I was young gave me an important clue for the development of this product line.
-- What were the areas of the packaging design that you paid particular attention to?
Nagata: To realize a quality that stirs the emotions and creates an unforgettable memory, and to inspire and touch those who hold the product in their hands, we have incorporated a high level of craftsmanship, and paid particular care to ensuring that there is beauty in all the details of the material and technique. The body and cap of the lipstick, which had been made from plastic resin before this, were updated to a metallic material to leave a cooling sensation when one touches it. I think that the sense of touch of a human being perceives such differences in sensation instantaneously.
The golden parts at the top of the cap, the sides, as well as the logo glittering on the surface, are all produced from a very thin piece of metal. By subjecting metal to press working, we were able to stretch it while molding it into an angular shape. After smoothening the surface of the molded metal, it was colored through anodizing, then painted and polished. These parts are the result of more than 70 different processes in all.
Furthermore, to ensure that the four sides and corners of the top, and the clé de peau BEAUTÉ logo in gold against a dark blue background, are polished beautifully, we adopted a treatment process for metal known as "diamond cut." It is a technique that is often used on precision instruments, which sharpens objects using the cutting edge of a single crystal of diamond. Although the process calls for much effort, cost, and technological capability, we decided to use it in order to realize the delicate glow that can only be achieved through this technique.
-- Using metal only for the golden sections, and using plastic for the entire cap, is another possible method, isn't it? Wasn't it quite challenging to produce all of it in metal?
Nagata: When combining different materials, the process of "pasting" will inevitably take place. We felt that it was not a suitable choice for clé de peau BEAUTÉ, which pursues the intrinsic and true essence. For the logo as well, instead of using a printing process that would make it short-lived with rubbing or scratching, we decided to use an engraving process that would keep it "etched forever." We felt that this approach would make all the difference.
Plastic resin is a light and convenient material that is suited for mass production, but does not produce the intrinsic appeal that metals, glass, and wood do. Furthermore, using just a single piece of metal in the production gives rise to a sense of mystery that stirs the imagination, making one wonder "How on earth did they achieve that?" That is backed by a wealth of knowhow, techniques, and wisdom. I think that the product can become a "genuine article" only because it is the fruit of that noble and sublime world.
-- The shape of the lipstick comes in a very sensual design, doesn't it?
Nagata: The issue was the pursuit of "ease of application." How could we provide consumers with the enjoyment of the smooth texture that the developers and researchers paid great attention to, and the beautiful coloring chosen by the makeup art directors? The answer that we arrived at was a design that follows the shape of the lips.
The appearance of the lipstick, which resembles sensual petals of a flower, was born from a shape that fits perfectly over the lips. As humans are equipped with sharp sensitivity, we instantaneously experience many sensations at the first moment when the lipstick touches our lips, such as whether it is comfortable, difficult to apply, or does not slide on smoothly. Hence, we put everything we had into creating something that can withstand the excellent sensors of the human sensitivity, across all aspects of design including the shape of the lipstick.
-- What is your message for consumers who pick up and hold the new "rouge à lèvres" in their hands?
Nagata: I visited the storefronts when I first took up this project. As I observed the consumers, I noticed that the main flow of their experience tended to begin with approach by the salesperson as they were looking at the testers casually, selecting the product based on counselling, and paying for the product. I have had the same experience. It was then that I realized that consumers would make a purchase without actually touching the product itself, such as opening the cap and enjoying the sensation of how it fits into the hands.
However, I realized that it was odd. In many cases, we decide to purchase something only after holding the actual product in our hands, such as a fountain pen, spectacles, or shoes. Hence, this time, we prepared a tester that is in no way inferior to the actual product. Taking reference from the sensation of closing a high-quality tea caddy or opening the cap of a luxury fountain pen, we paid attention to achieving smooth movements for the cap that appeal to the senses. Instead of merely trying out the colors, I hope that consumers will actually touch the "rouge à lèvres" and experience the power of its appeal in their own hands.
-- What significance does lipstick hold for women?
Nagata: Perhaps we could describe lipstick as something that thrills and excites women. It opens up our hearts and cheers us up. At times, it even gives us the power to change our lives. I think that lipstick is the only thing that has this form of appeal. We have stretched ourselves fully and woven in all our thoughts and inspiration into the production of this lipstick, so I hope that it can become a driving force and source of motivation for many women.