For baby boomers like myself who grew up with Shiseido, we have always known that the brand – which is 145 now – has always been progressive and innovative; a gamechanger even before the phrase became fashionable to toss around. It was one of the firsts (if not the first) to stress the importance of prepping skin with moisture with a softening lotion prior to other skincare. It was the first to pay as much attention to the lightness of a sunscreen as its efficacy. And when it comes to base makeup from foundations and loose powders to concealers with the most refined textures – before the South Korean cushion boom – Shiseido was untouchable.

That kind of heritage may have been lost on the younger generation, but they were not on Jill Scalamandre, who heads a team at Shiseido Global Makeup Centre of Excellence (MCoE), tasked with rebooting Shiseido, from a great brand to its next great potential – starting with its makeup.

Scalamandre is the president of MCoE. The latter is one of four centres of excellence set up by the Japanese brand “to create a collaborative, cross border way of thinking,”  – ie stay relevant and evolve as a player with a global view in today’s hyper and crowded market. MCoE, which oversees the makeup category, is one of two centres in New York; the other is in charge of digital growth. The other two centres are in Tokyo and Paris for skincare and fragrances respectively.

The Americas was picked to lead in makeup because it’s “a melting pot of ethnicities and the largest consumer of makeup,” says Scalamandre. “There is an incredible amount of insights and data here that allows us to know that what we are creating today is what the consumer of tomorrow wants and needs”.

From Shiseido’s rich history, Scalamandre mined the functional level of the brand’s mastery of science and texture. “When you touch a skincare product from Shiseido, the sensorial experience is truly unparalleled,” says Scalamandre. “So we knew we had to bring these innovative textures to the world of makeup.”

Textures became the springboard for the first part of the brand’s reinvention: let them do all the talking and wowing. And they do wow. The kind that doesn’t just generate social media buzz and give instant gratification among makeup fans and experts, but also the kind that makeup novices will be grateful for instead of being intimidated by.

The 137 skus categorised under four textures – Dew, Gel, Powder, Ink – are, says Gail Boyé, senior VP president of Global Product Development for Shiseido Makeup, “reimagined and redefined for the eyes, lips and face. All are lightweight and lasting, with a bold impact of colour. While I can’t comment on brands outside of Shiseido, I know that the initial response to developing a range centred around four key textures has been overwhelmingly positive, and something the consumer is wanting to experience more.”

“We are taking an innovative approach to makeup that no other brand has ever done before,” says Scalamandre. “The focal point of the range isn’t simply the extraordinary colours (which there are) or its incredible performance (which they have), but the unique, sensorial textures. By fusing two of Shiseido’s key pillars, art and science, and taking inspiration from the modern context of Japanese culture, fashion, and design, we have reimagined what beauty looks and feels like today.”

Well, since its worldwide launch on Sept 1, “beauty reimagined” looks everything it should be for today’s exciting, spontaneous, relevant while still being irreverent, daring, experimental, and inclusive makeup space. Yet it feels, well, like nothing – literally and figuratively. Regardless which item you pick from the four textures, everything glides on and melds with the skin like the two are one (even if you don’t have perfect skin or skill), while giving visible colour or effect that doesn’t slide or melt away. And all of the eye makeup is everything every woman (young or older) wants – easy to apply, easy to use, easy to navigate, and stays on like a dream.

DewAura Dew, a highlighter for the face, eyes and lips (in three translucent shades #01 Lunar, #02 Solar and #03 Cosmic) and the only sku under this category, is a marshmallow of luminescence in a jar. It’s mousse-like, it melts into skin, and it delivers enough starry glow for real life, photo and video yet not so much that you’ll look freaky Star Trek.

GelVisionAiry Gel Lipstick, a semi-matte (it come in 28 shades) that gives high-impact colour in one smooth stroke

Powder – Shiseido’s powder-based makeup has always being thumbs-up but its Powder category ups the benchmark significantly: it’s now very soft, very smooth, and if it’s even possible, it’s even more blend-able, not just weightless and lasting. You feel its effect the most with Minimalist WhippedPowder Blush (it comes in eight shades and is $48), an airy mousse that gives a soft powdery finish, and InnerGlow CheekPowder ($56), a compact blush with eight shades that can also be used to sculpt and highlight.

Ink – There are six products designed for bold, graphic and precise statements. We are especially partial to these four:

Kajal Ink Artist ($38), inspired by the Indian khol pencil, is as super pigmented but modernised with waxes and silicones for the smoothest glide. It’s long-wear, water- crease- and tear-proof, comes in 10 shades, and is retractable with a sponge tip on the other end for blending.

ArchLiner Ink ($45) is an inky liquid liner with a very thin brush tip that looks slightly “dented”. The “dent” is designed for micro precision lining, from dotting to doing very thin lines. When you want your lines thick and groovy, flip the tip to its side or press it down. Whichever, you’ll be astounded by its easy glide, and quick-dry, smudge-, water-, tear-proof formula.

MicroLiner Ink ($38) is another eyeliner but the difference between the former and this, despite its micro lead tip, has a gel formula for anti-drag glide. The result? Extremely precise and defined lining (or drawing) that is easier than before. It comes in five highly pigmented shades.

Brow Ink Trio ($45) is a 3-in-1, soft-matte combo of powder and gel for natural brow grooming. One end holds the pencil (it’s not retractable) for defining, the other holds a wand-like brush, and the mid section holds the powder. It comes in four shades.

 

 

To get the public as excited as Shiseido is, the brand enlisted six beauty bloggers-turned-international-Insta-makeup artists: American Asian Patrick Ta, South Korean Pony, Japanese Hiro Odagiri, Americans Vincent Oquendo and Lottie, and Greek Gregory Pyrpylis. “We chose this diverse group of artists not only because they are masters of their craft, but also because they are representative of what Shiseido has always stood for: artistic expression, creativity and innovation,” says Scalamandre.

Called the Global Artist Collective, it’s an initiative to not just remind consumers that the brand has always embrace the arts and the creatives behind it, but also to work with influencers for global space and influence because every brand now – even if it comes from the third largest economy in the world and is one of the most culturally rich – needs “friends” that will help spread its word and goods, organically yet strategically.

“Targeting millennials through influencers is one part of a multi-tiered strategy we are taking as a brand,” says Scalamandre. “It’s important for us to have a presence on digital and social platforms where people are shopping; this is just the reality of today.”

Headed by Shiseido’s Global Color Artist Patrick Ta, he (as with the other five influencers) doesn’t create makeup for the brand. What he does is better – in the big scheme of things. Ta (@patrickta) shot to fame for “very heavy drama makeup with too much colour” on Instagram. Now that he is with the big boys (he has 1.1mil followers), he has dialed his style way down. “My signature look is glamorous,” says Ta. “Skin that’s dewy, luminescent, bold brows, cleaner eyes and a bolder lip.”

Some of his followers are his clients, and they are some of the most followed (thus powerful) babes in the entertainment, modelling, music and social media business – Kendall Jenner, Kim Kardashian West, Olivia Munn, Chrissy Teigen, Gigi and Bella Hadid, Joan Smalls, Shay Mitchell, Ariana Grande, Rita Ora and Priyanka Chopra. Ta, right now, is the undisputed go-to for red-carpet looks, where his creations are seen and appreciated in real time by his fans.

Prior to the Shiseido and Ta partnership, the only Shiseido he knew that was a big part of his life when he was growing up is its “legendary” eyelash curler, which his mum used every day. “It’s embedded in my memory,” says Ta. When the brand approached him with the all-new Shiseido Makeup, he was “blown away. I haven’t experienced makeup that’s so lightweight yet so impactful. The kind of makeup that’s good for video, photo and real life,” Ta says. “For six to eight months, it was agonising for me to not share on social media when my fans asked me what I was using to create the looks. I had to keep telling them that I’m unable to share yet.”

Pony’s idea of beauty is the polar opposite of Ta’s. The South Korean’s YouTube tutorial queen (@ponysmakeup) has 5.5mil followers. That makes her Shisedo Makeup’s APAC ambassador. Her fans follow her because she specialises in different immaculate versions of anime-meets-Seoulista “natural” on herself – porcelain fair skin, Bambi eyes, Disney-princess flushes, and I-just-bit-into-a-poisoned-red-apple lips. Although she didn’t connect Shiseido with colours, she had more experience with its products than Ta prior to their collaboration. She uses its eyelash curler (“Shiseido is world famous for it. Every household in South Korea has one,” Pony says.), and its base makeup in some of her video posts. In September, Pony’s first TV show, Pony On Air, aired. It’s differentiated from her YouTube tutorials as it’s more lifestyle-skewed and shows the real Pony, and the tutorials are not on herself but her subscribers.

“We believe Pony and Patrick are strong representations of the new Shiseido Makeup, which is to showcase the importance of Japanese Beauty and our point of view on J-Beauty,” says Scalamandre. “And we are on a mission to gift Japan to the World.”

Shiseido Makeup is just phase 1. Phase 2, which will be the reinvention of the brand’s base makeup, is slated for September 2019. We think a lot of people will be staying tuned.