Monday, June 17 2019


Tracking Shiseido

When it comes to skincare technology, no one does it better than the iconic Japanese brand Shiseido. A trip down their history reveals a relentless pursuit of excellence and commitment to idealistic values. ATELIER presents a case study in true luxury.
In 1872, in an old land with well-entrenched traditional values of beauty, a man named Arinobu Fukuhara, a former head pharmacist in the Japanese Navy, opened Japan’s first private Western-style pharmacy on the Ginza, a cultural and fashion hub. At a time when herbal medicine was still mainstream, the Shiseido Pharmacy became an avant-garde movement. Today, 140 years later, the brand is a leading trendsetter in the world of luxury beauty with their unique blend of Eastern aesthetics with Western science.
Shiseido’s history comes with many firsts – they introduced Japan’s first toothpaste in 1888, and were were the first to introduce soda fountains and ice cream to Japan in the early 1900s. They introduced ‘coloured’ face powder in 1917 to enhance Western attire – a bold decision at a time when Japanese women only wanted white faces. A year later, they introduced Japan’s first cold cream, which stayed a best-selling product for over three decades. In 1937 they launched Japan’s only medicated lotion, Carmine, aimed at healing skin and not just covering up flaws.
“One of our values is, ‘Everything must be rich’. Here, we are referring to the richness of true quality, the richness of a brilliantly developed idea, the richness of fully experiencing life every moment of every day,” explains brand manager Tashnu Khariwala. Today, the Shiseido Group, including affiliates, employs approximately 25,200 people around the globe, with eleven overseas factories, a separate line for fragrance development, an art museum, besides a string of patents in skincare technology. And yet, behind all the technology, lies a dedication to its Japanese spirit of aesthetics and notion of beauty.
According to ancient Japanese principles, beauty is not an individual element; rather, it is a combination of visible (physical and environmental) and invisible elements (emotions and time). Beauty is considered an essential part of well-being. The brand also coined the term Aromachology in 1982 to denote the science that studies the interrelationship between scents and psychology.
In addition to these holistic values of beauty, Shiseido has also made a name for itself in terms of technological advances. For instance, says Khariwala, “only thirteen types of whitening ingredients are authorised under Japan’s strict Pharmaceutical Affairs Law, and five of them have been developed by Shiseido!” One of those whitening ingredients, 4MSK, took fifteen years to develop. Another path-breaking ingredient, Skingenecell 1P, was developed after seven years of research.
But one of Shiseido’s most fascinating stories lies in their advertising campaigns down the past century. Shiseido’s first president hired staff to work exclusively with advertising as early as 1916. By the mid-thirties, Shiseido advertisements had a distinct individual styles representing an idealised, fashionable woman who was aware of her potential. From the mid-sixties, breaking with tradition where white skin was a virtue, Shiseido proposed healthy suntans. Their promotion, featuring model Bibari Maeda, was so popular that posters were stolen from stores around the country!
In the seventies, Shiseido again broke tradition of using Eurasian models by using one with the look of a traditional Japanese doll to promote eye makeup for Asian eyes. In the eighties, the brand hired French artist Serge Lutens, who went on to make Shiseido an instantly recognisable brand.
Today, Shiseido continues to uphold the spirit of ‘omotenashi’, which bestows a sensual aspect to beauty. What woman – Japanese or otherwise – could resist?
Shiseido’s founder Arinobu Fukuhara was a head pharmacist in the Japanese navy.
The avant-garde Shiseido pharmacy in 1919 on the fashionable Ginza.
The Shiseido Art House, established in 1978 at the Shiseido Kakegawa Factory.

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