Where it went wrong for makeup, beauty legend

Where it went wrong for makeup, beauty legend

Not too long ago, Napoleon Perdis was at the top of his game, with a thriving business, vast fortune and luxurious lifestyle.

Yesterday, that dizzying success came to grinding halt with the shock announcement the beloved Napoleon Perdis beauty brand was in voluntary administration with hundreds of jobs now at risk.

But where did it all go wrong for the man behind one of the county’s biggest success stories?

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Over the years, Napoleon Perdis has risen to become a household name, appearing on TV shows such as Australia’s Next Top Model, securing superstar Melissa George as the face of a 2007 cosmetics line and even starring in his own reality show, Get Your Face On, in 2008.

He amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune, splurging on luxury properties including a plush harbourside pad in Sydney’s Double Bay as well as an opulent, $6 million home in the Hollywood Hills and a $4 million, five-bedroom weekender in Palm Springs — although the family eventually swapped America for Greece.

Perdis never strayed far from the society pages, regularly appearing at fashion shows and other high-profile events with his four glamorous daughters, Angelene, Athina, Alexia and Lianna, often in tow.

Meanwhile, Lianna Perdis has forged her own stylish career, signing with renowned international modelling agency Chic Model Management in 2016 at the age of just 16.

That year, the teen graced the pages of Girlfriend and Russh magazines, and also created her own make-up line, Total Bae.

But while the Napoleon Perdis brand grew to be a juggernaut, it came from humble beginnings, starting out in 1992 as a small makeup studio in Leichhardt in Sydney’s inner west.

By 1995, Perdis had launched his own line of cosmetics with wife Soula-Marie and brother Emanuel, which were sold through a store in chic Paddington, before expanding into the department store giants.

By 2011 the label was taking on the US market, and had exploded to 65 stores across Australia and New Zealand.

The Napoleon Perdis Makeup Academy had also been established along the way, offering professional makeup training to up-and-coming artists.

But then, in 2015, a clue to Perdis’ looming downfall was revealed with the brand’s sudden withdrawal from the US market.

And in August 2018, another hint was dropped when Napoleon Perdis launched in over 200 Priceline stores, with many considering it to be a fall from grace for a brand previously thought to be relatively up-market.

According to Queensland University of Technology retail expert Dr Gary Mortimer, the market has shifted since the brand’s launch in 1995 — and the business simply failed to keep up.

“Napoleon Perdis is a very, very clever marketer and he understood there was a gap in the market, and that gap was young women in their 20s to early 30s who were a bit too old for the cheap and cheerful Maybellines in discount department stores, but too young for the Lancômes and the Max Factors of the world,” he said.

“He had edgy, cool stores, makeup classes and he expanded the business into the US.

“Obviously things got tough in the US and he pulled out in 2015, and the other thing that changed in the market was that other businesses identified that gap in the market — Estée Lauder developed its own brand, MAC, that targeted that market, and we also saw the entry of Mecca and Sephora.

“Another error he made was moving into pharmacies — particularly Priceline — which is very much marketed on price, so it ended up discounting the products and putting them on sale, which you don’t want to do if you want to maintain the value of a brand.”

It’s a sad and sorry comedown for a brand which has long been an Aussie beauty favourite.

But as the third major retailer to collapse in this country in January alone, perhaps Napoleon Perdis’ failure is simply a sign of the times.

Continue the conversation @carey_alexis | alexis.carey@news.com.au

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