Making Over the Beauty Industry: Sylvie Moreau & COTY

No matter how much you love what you do, it can sometimes wear on you. Passion, after all, can only get you so far, it’s the day-to-day hard work and dedication that makes up the rest of the ground on the road to success.

Incidentally, it’s also the day-to-day that can become the most draining, the most disillusioning and uninspiring.

Working in the beauty industry is no different.

Ours is an industry that is easily over-sensationalized, homogenized and commercialized. The passion that most of us feel for not only the beauty industry, but beauty as a whole—as a concept, a philosophy, a way of life— is easy swallowed up in the minutae of balancing budgets, post after post on beautifully blended balayage or the perfectly tousled lob, and the waves of model images that all start to look the same, after a while.

It is hard, at times, to remember why you got into this in the first place and what it is that made you fall in love. This is our shared space in our industry and if you have felt this way at any point, let me tell you, you are not alone. Before I sat down with Sylvie Moreau, President of Coty Professional Beauty a few weeks ago, I was right there with you.

I had no expectations that my mindset would be changed, beauty wasn’t even really on my list of questions for our scheduled interview. As a matter of fact, I was there to ask about her views on feminism and whether or not there was room for such an idea in the beauty world (if you’re curious, Mme Moreau is a proudly self-proclaimed feminist and wholeheartedly believes that beauty and feminism go hand in hand, but we’ll get more into that in a moment).

When I first met Mme Moreau last year in Berlin , I wasn’t quite prepared for just how big of a corporation COTY is or just how important of a person in the beauty industry she is, which made our second meeting in Barcelona a few weeks ago just a tiny bit more intimidating. 

Sylvie Moreau, President of Coty Professional BeautyFor those of you who are not familiar—with the recent acquisition of Wella Professionals’ family of companies, COTY Inc. is  now the world’s third largest beauty company—with projected annual revenues in the billions and the acquisition of new household name brands seemingly each month (most recently OPI and GHD), COTY is not to be taken lightly.

And let’s just be really real here for a moment—with that much market share, any message that this beauty monolith throws its weight behind is going to contribute to our new normal.

The day before our interview, during a special presentations for the media, Mme Moreau presented a new direction for COTY, as a family of companies. This new message would go beyond the typical marketing initiative and seemed to be blazing a new trail for the beauty industry as a whole: celebrating the diversity of beauty. 

This dovetailed pretty nicely with feminism, so we begin here and I learn that not only did Mme Moreau make the announcement, but she is also spearheading the committee that developed the initiative and is tasked with carrying it to fruition.

This new direction will see one of the leading companies in the beauty industry embracing and celebrating beauty of all kinds, ages, sizes, affiliations, orientations, ethnicities. From both the presentation and our interview, it truly seems as though COTY is taking the first step towards making peace between the beauty industry and those it is meant to serve: the everyday client. 

This is an inspiring idea, and from Mme Moreau’s assurances, not simply a marketing strategy— it will become their entire family of companies’ main focus over the coming years.

Quote on hairdressing from Sylvie Moreau, President of Coty Professional Beauty

At this point in our interview, we turned towards the topic that I was there to discuss, that I was so eager to really dig into. Feminism, as you may have noticed, has been a pretty hot topic in the media this past year and I thought it would be interesting to get the perspective of a strong female leader on how the beauty industry adds or subtracts from the notion of women being valued for the same reasons as men.

As I said previously, I’ve been feeling a bit disenchanted as of late, and admittedly went in there with a bit of a bias. Within 3 minutes, Mme Moreau completely destroyed my viewpoint and changed my mind:

“…it is the art of highlighting that which a women feels is most beautiful in herself and what could be more empowering than that?”, she says.

This is the turning point in our meeting. At the time, it made me feel a bit…panicked, but as a previous boss of mine once told me:

“we grow the most when we are the most uncomfortable”.

Never has that quote held more literal truth for me than in this moment.

Sylvie Moreau President of Coty Professional Beauty during an interview

Sitting in a palatial hotel suite in Spain, with a panoramic view of the Mediterranean behind me, one of the most powerful people in beauty sitting across from me with a panel of high-ranking corporate executives behind her, I forgot all about titles, positions, and business partnerships. I forgot about making a statement or any sort of impression and instead we dive head long into discussion what beauty actually is.
Quote on beauty from Sylvie Moreau, President of Coty Professional Beauty
This started us down a conversational path that would eventually lead to discussing an ancient philosopher who stated that “what is beautiful is akin to what is good”.  So really, when you are looking for beauty, you are not looking for what is physically beautiful about a person, you are looking for what is good in them. Through that discussion, the back and forth and the uncertainty, Mme Moreau planted the seed that would grow to restore my faith in the beauty industry,

“When you look to highlight a person’s beauty, you are really looking to showcase their goodness.”

And that, is incredibly empowering. That kind of perspective has the power to heal divisions, to fix broken hearts, to seal cracks that life inflicts upon the everyday woman as a byproduct of trying to make a name and a life for herself. 

When we finished. I looked around the room and what I saw on the faces of that collection of incredible women in that room, I will never forget:

I saw gratitude. I saw acceptance and dash of pride. I was finally seeing the industry through their eyes. These women didn’t just get beauty, they didn’t just make beauty, they were beauty.

What Mme Moreau and her glorious cabinet of incredibly talented women are poised to do is nothing short of incredible: they are setting out to change the dynamics of the beauty industry. They are shifting the focus, changing the rhetoric and putting the focus back where it belongs: on the women it was always meant to be about.

This is a group of women poised to take the reigns of an industry that has gone astray and lead it back to it’s proper place, and in doing so, I have no doubts that in the coming years,  Wella Professionals—together with COTY— will serve to reignite all of our passions for beauty.

Want to learn about how COTY & Wella Professionals are about to turn the industry on its head? Read our thoughts on Bespoke Beauty.

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