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Sun, Jan 18, 2009
Urban, The Straits Times
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Romancing the brands
by Hong Xinyi

Nearly a month after it opened for business on Dec 19, Sephora is reporting brisk sales.

Violet Ho, the beauty chain's regional director for South and South-east Asia, says a lot of stock has been 'wiped out'.

She declined to reveal figures, but says: 'The crowd on the first day was four times more than what we were expecting and we have consistently been able to pack the store since then.'

It will hold its official opening today, graced by Jacques Levy, chief executive of Sephora Worldwide.

Models, actresses and other glitterati have been spotted roaming the aisles in the 3,200 sq ft store in Takashimaya Shopping Centre.

The crowds have spilled over to the store's neighbours, including True Colours. Traffic has jumped by about 15 per cent since the Sephora store opened, says True Colours general manager Annie Lim.

The bulk of Sephora's customers here are aged 35 and below, says Ho, and are likely to have shopped in Sephora stores in, say, Paris or San Francisco. Like the other Sephora stores owned by luxury goods conglomerate LVMH - there are over 1,000 worldwide - the Singapore outlet lets customers browse on their own. Products are arranged by categories rather than brands.

Another element of its success is the new brands it carries. About a third of the Singapore store's 100 brands are new-to-market ones and these are proving to be some of Sephora's bestsellers.

It is not always easy getting new brands to come into Singapore, says Ho.

'It does take time to negotiate, especially for brands based in Europe and the United States that are used to huge markets,' she says.

The new brands which have decided to come into Singapore's Sephora were swayed by the pitch that the consumers here are hip enough to buy into their wares. In the pipeline are up-and-coming Australian and Asian brands.

'We say that even though Singapore is not a very big market, it will give them a good entry point into South-east Asia,' says Ho.

'It's really about trying to romance these brands.'

Here are what Singapore's shoppers are going for at the Sephora store:

1 Get Started: Eyes

$125, from Bare Escentuals bareMinerals

This cult mineral make-up brand from San Francisco is known for its powder foundation, cheek and eye colours - all made from natural minerals and free of artificial preservatives and other potential irritants. Four powder shadows and three brushes allow you to create different looks.

2 Age Defying Serums Diode 1 and Diode 2
$136, from Alchimie Forever

You may feel tempted to eat the products from this Swiss brand founded by a dermatologist and a leading antioxidant researcher. The lotions and potions combine cutting-edge science with natural extracts such as blueberries and the packaging is designed by contemporary artists. These serums are packed with antioxidants derived from rosemary and green tea respectively and help to firm skin and diminish fine lines and age spots when applied one after the other.

3 Glossing Shampoo, Conditioner and Cream
$35 each, all from Frederic Fekkai

French-born hairstylist Frederic Fekkai has plied his trade in Paris and New York (where he had a salon in luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman) and is famous for asking his clients to stand at one point during the haircut to ensure the style is proportionate to their bodies. Celebrity clients include Claudia Schiffer and Renee Zellweger. The Glossing haircare range has pure olive oil extract to add shine.

4 Lash Injection mascara

$35, from Too Faced

Founded by Beverly Hills make-up artist Jerrod Blandino, this cosmetics line counts It girls such as Katy Perry and Scarlett Johansson among its fans. The mascara does not have the weirdly shaped brushes or the vibrating function of its competitors but it works like a dream. The mascara forms 'tubes' around the lashes, plumping and lengthening them.

5 Punch Shampoo
$48, from Hip

Up to 97 per cent of the ingredients used in this French haircare line are extracted from plant and other natural sources, and its products do not contain artificial colour or synthetic fragrance. The brand also abides by fair trade regulations that help impoverished farmers and protect the environment. This shampoo for fine or limp hair is enriched with thickening algae and has a cocktail of ginger, thyme and cardamom.

6 fatgirlslim
$65, from Bliss

Bliss started as a New York City spa in 1996 and has since expanded to eight spas worldwide. Its bodycare line, packaged in its signature shade of cheery sky-blue, is the subject of much adoration. This firming cream contains caffeine molecules that help reduce the appearance of cellulite and make skin appear less wobbly.

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