The Revolutionary 7 Colors Powder, Revived a Century Later


100 years since the 7 Colors Powder launch. Comeback of a product that was ahead of its time.

-- On New Year's Day 2017, brand SHISEIDO launched the 7 Colors Powder Revival Centennial Edition (Limited Edition) and the Shiseido 7 LIGHTS POWDER ILLUMINATOR, which combines seven shades into a single powder compact, at department stores across Japan. Could you tell us about the background leading to the development of these two products?

Tsukamoto:Shiseido's makeup aims to draw out and enhance the beauty of each and every individual, and the 7 Colors Powder is the starting point of this aim. This year marks the 100th anniversary of its launch. Taking this opportunity, we decided to launch two products from brand SHISEIDO. The first is a powder compact that has evolved from the original 7 Colors Powder into a modern product, tailored to match the complexion and lifestyles of contemporary women. This is an item that will underpin SHISEIDO base makeup. The second is a limited-edition replica of the 7 Colors Powder launched for sale a century ago, which we recreated with the desire to communicate the unique history, culture, and innovative spirit of Shiseido.

-- I was surprised that the 7 Colors Powder came in as many as seven shades during the prewar era, when color variations for face powder did not exist.

Tsukamoto:In 1917, foundation still did not exist in Japan, and the mainstream method for beautifying and enhancing the complexion was to use white face powder, originally brought into Japan from Europe. With a desire to create a whiteness that matches the skin tones of Japanese people, Shiseido produced a paste powder in yellowish tones that came in two shades--Kaede Oshiroi (Maple White Powder) and Yayoi Oshiroi (Spring White Powder) in 1916. With these products as its starting point, the company explored even further and developed a seven-color edition of the product. At the time, lighting was not as bright as it is today, and its color would also have been different. Hence, I believe that the 7 Colors Powder was also the result of considerations on how to make the skin appear beautiful in the environment in those days. I think that the style of the 7 Colors Powder helped to trigger Shiseido's evolution toward becoming a brand that dramatically enhances individual beauty.

-- I understand that you visited the Shiseido Corporate Museum in Kakegawa, Shizuoka Prefecture to study the actual product before replicating it.

Tsukamoto:That's right. I was first shown one of the very few original 7 Colors Powder that remains in the Museum. Apart from products, the Museum has also retained the heavy metal cast sales counter used in advertisements and stores at the time. The delicate designs applied not only to the products, but also to the sales counters, left a very deep impression on me. A century ago, the 7 Colors Powder boxes were sold as separate products, and salespeople provided counselling to offer the optimal face powder color matching the skin tones and preferred finishes of consumers. The concept and approach were similar to that of color control today. While we now use face powder at the end of the makeup process as a finishing touch, it was used as foundation back in the day. It was apparently a product that a wide range of consumers were familiar with, from the geisha of Shimbashi to ordinary women.

--How was the packaging for the original 7 Colors Powder produced?

Tsukamoto:The casing used for the 7 Colors Powder at the time was a cloth-covered box. The four corners of a square box were shaved off to create an octagonal frame using cardboard, which was then covered with satin cloth and gently inflated for a surface tension effect. The Hanatsubaki logo was gilded on top of this casing, and gold sealing stickers in the shape of the Hanatsubaki logo were pasted onto the front side of the box. For this replica, we collaborated with the same Japanese specialized box maker that had produced the cloth-covered box for the 7 Colors Powder in 1917, and I learned that its manufacturing involves a level of labor and effort that is almost unthinkable in our modern times.

-- In making the replica, were there any parts that you took particular care with, such as the design?

Tsukamoto:We placed the greatest priority on the quality of its appearance as a product. At the same time, we cautiously recreated the color and texture of the cloth used during the original launch of the product, relying on historical materials. This may seem a little technical and specialized, but we also improved the precision of the fitting of the casing frame by using resin rather than paper. To pass the quality assurance test for the contents, we also incorporated the use of potion containers similar to the little disposable cups used for coffee creamers. Thus a lot of modern techniques were adopted for this replica.

-- I understand that the Hanatsubaki logo was gilded onto the surface of the box at the time. What did you do for this replica?

Tsukamoto:In the replica, to recreate the texture of gold, we used hot-stamping technology to press the foil onto the surface of the box. However, the cloth we used initially did not work well with the foil. We faced a real struggle to find a fabric with a similar texture and color to the original fabric, and which works well with hot-stamping.

7 Colors Powder packaging for the original product launched in 1917
7 Colors Powder Revival Centennial Edition
Final fabric and hot-stamping samples
Resin frame used for the packaging

Focusing on every detail, including a user-friendly size and the seal logo

-- The seven boxes look wonderful lined up in a row, don't they? Although these were sold separately in 1917, they come in a seven-color set in this replica version. In consideration of this, were any changes made to the casing?

Tsukamoto:We considered various ways in which we could make the boxes into a set. In the end, we settled on lining up all the seven boxes in a single row. While we felt that this layout brings out the sense of uniqueness of having all seven colors in one set, they looked a little exaggerated. Hence, we reduced the size of the boxes slightly. The original size was about 56 mm in width, but the replica is somewhat smaller, measuring about 52 mm. Our aim was to achieve a size that is just shy of looking like a miniature version of the original.

-- The sealing sticker looks adorable in seven colors.

Tsukamoto:The original sealing sticker was gold-colored, but since we were lining the boxes up in a row in the set casing, we decided to use sealing stickers in seven colors to represent the color of the product inside each box. Taking reference from the advertisement that I had seen at the Museum, the boxes have been arranged in the same order as the original. The advertising design created at the time for the 7 Colors Powder looks very modern even today, and the color scheme for the Shiseido typeface also looks very fresh. Hence, we decided to adopt that idea for the outer casing and paper bag used for this replica edition.

-- There is something that I am curious about. The hot-stamped mark on the top of the replica 7 Colors Powder box indicates "SHISEIDO TOKYO," while the sealing sticker indicates "SHIMBASHI TOKYO." Shouldn't it be "GINZA TOKYO?"

Tsukamoto:I have been asked that same question by various people. Since the original product carried a mark saying "SHIMBASHI TOKYO," I reproduced that faithfully. During the development process, I was curious as to why it had been "SHIMBASHI TOKYO," and asked the Museum curator. I found out that it may have been because the now Ginza 7-chome, where the Shiseido head office is located, was named "Shimbashi" at the time. In addition, I would like to draw your attention to the Hanatsubaki logo stamped onto the top of the box. The current Hanatsubaki logo has seven leaves, but the mark in 1917 had nine. In the following year, the design of the mark was changed to the modern one, so this product also represents a very important period in Shiseido's history.

-- Now that you mention it, it does look different from the Hanatsubaki logo that we see today. It really gives us a sense of history, doesn't it?

The replica has been resized to a slightly smaller size. (On the right: a mock-up of the original dimensions.)
Storefront poster for 7 Colors Powder around 1927
Faithful reproduction of the sealing sticker used at the time
Faithful reproduction of the sealing sticker used at the time

The 7 Colors Powder successor. Harnessing modern technology to present "7 LIGHTS"

-- Next, I have some questions about the powder compact "Shiseido 7 LIGHTS POWDER ILLUMINATOR" that was launched for sale on the same day. I understand that this was created as a reinterpretation of the original 7 Colors Powder, and is tailored to match the complexion and needs of contemporary women. What is the concept behind this product?

Tsukamoto:A century has passed since the launch of the original 7 Colors Powder; in our modern times, it is common to incorporate colors freely into our makeup routine and have fun with the makeup process. The finishes that women prefer have also undergone a transformation, from the flawless and precise finish of the past, to a more natural finish that enhances the individual character of their complexion. Reflecting such changes in women's preferences, we adopted a concept that not only offers seven colors in our modern version of the powder compact, but which also seeks to enhance each and every person's individual complexion by harnessing the power of "seven lights."

-- The large Hanatsubaki logo on the top of the compact case creates a strong impression.

Tsukamoto:Based on the image of the original 7 Colors Powder, we came up with a bold rearrangement of the Hanatsubaki logo. To match the packaging colors of the brand SHISEIDO makeup, we used black for the overall form. However, on the cover where the Hanatsubaki logo is visible, we used hot-stamping to imprint the mark from the reverse side of the top board. Depending on the angle, it appears to be shining in a variety of colors. Our aim was to create a look with changing expressions. The Shiseido logo below the Hanatsubaki logo has been produced in pink, one of the colors used for the powder in the compact.

-- The octagonal silhouette is also a distinctive feature, isn't it?

Tsukamoto:The silhouette is based on the octagonal shape that is also the essence of its predecessor, representing the 7 Colors Powder 100 years later. We took great care to keep the design as minimal as possible, making it suitable for handbags of the active women of today.

-- Were there any points that you gave special attention to in the arrangement of the seven-colored powder?

Tsukamoto:I came up with the layout in close discussion with members of the Marketing Department, paying attention to the balance of bright and dark colors as well as ease of use. One of the difficulties I faced was in deciding how to divide the colors within the compact, and what shape to arrange the colored powder in. Using a shape that created a diffused reflection of the light, I made sure that the design was kept simple while presenting the colors clearly and beautifully.

-- There is a striking contrast between the black casing and the seven-colored powder, which brings to mind an abstract painting. How do you wish consumers to use the 7 Colors Powder and the 7 LIGHTS POWDER ILLUMINATOR?

Tsukamoto:I hope that they will mix the colors depending on their mood, use the colors in different ways, and find their own way of enjoying the products. By boldly using colors that they do not normally use, they may see themselves in a new light. I also hope that they will hold the replica version of the 7 Colors Powder, and get a sense of Shiseido's history and culture that have been passed down to the present day, as well as the ideas and emotions that we have put into the product. Regardless of whether it is a century ago or today, I believe that the value we place on enhancing individual beauty through our products, as well as our desire for consumers to freely enjoy that individuality, remain unchanged.

Made in the same octagonal shape as the 7 Colors Powder replica
Shiseido Creative Division
Ruba Abu-Nimah
Mao Komai
Yasuhiro Tsukamoto
Naoya Oohata
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