Interview: Sarah Balcon, Trend Forecaster

September 2022

Edouard Keller - Managing Director of Carlin International Group: Hello Sarah, you are in charge of the Carlin Beauty trend book. Can you introduce yourself in a few words? What is your background, how do you become a Beauty specialist at Carlin?

Sarah Balcon - Trend Forecaster : After studying photography at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, I discovered the world of trend offices. I loved the principle, which is the curiosity and the 360° watch in all the sectors of creation, visual, applied arts but also socio, consumption... and of course the transmission of this information to the customers in the clearest and most actionable form possible. I started collaborating with Carlin in 2015 on an assignment for the Beauty booklet precisely! And upstream of the direction of this booklet, I contribute each season to determine the major trends.

E.K: Have you always been passionate about the world of cosmetics?

S.B : Yes, I love beauty since childhood. Does this come from my very elegant and coquettish grandmother? It's possible, I think she passed on to me her love of beauty in all its forms. This childhood passion came mainly through the world of perfume: after years of collecting perfume miniatures as a little girl and being fascinated by advertising campaigns, I thought of becoming a nose. I had this double interest for art and science: I finally opted for applied arts.

E.K: Can you tell us a little more about the content of a Beauty trend book? What do we find in it?

S.B.: The booklet presents the major trends of the season: stylistic desires with strong aesthetic codes, which we always link to developments or disruptions in current events and consumer behavior. Each of these trends is embodied by a person, a place and a product. We then provide creative solutions to meet the needs of the brands: face and body care, make-up, haircuts and hair coloring, tools and accessories, packaging, beauty tech' and wearables, ingredients, textures and colors are explored. We highlight products from our partners Capsum and Gattefossé: they develop specific formulas for Carlin or draw from their catalog of formulas and we offer their samples to handle and apply in addition to the booklet. The aim is to offer customers from all beauty sectors reliable and sensitive sources of inspiration to develop their products, direct their research, communicate or even give final form to products in the process of being created.

"We're able to interpret their attitudes in the moment to know what they're headed toward tomorrow."

E.K: And still focused on consumer expectations?

S.B: Always! By following their evolution closely and thanks to our business experience, we are able to interpret their attitudes at the time to know where they will be heading tomorrow.

E.K: It is easy to imagine that the Covid crisis has strongly influenced the beauty trends of the last years, how do you analyze it?

S.B.: It is often said of other subjects, but it is also true in beauty: this crisis has above all precipitated changes that were already at work, and it has reminded us of essential truths.

On the one hand, it has increased consumers' expectations of transparency from brands: ingredients, formulas, processes must be accessible and clean now more than ever. It has also rationalized their behaviors: they no longer want to waste time and money, they have lost their naivety and brand statements are no longer enough. They want scientific proof of what is claimed.

This crisis has also shown us that caressing, touching, sensoriality and physical experience are vital: in response, the textures and scents of skincare and makeup, but also experiences anchored in reality, place, exchange and meeting with others are flourishing.

Beauty was reinforced during the confinements in its two main aspects: on the one hand, a practice of beauty for oneself, for one's own pleasure, a beauty-gesture of love towards oneself; on the other hand, a practice full of fantasy, of patterns, of colors, a beauty-seduction of oneself as much as of the others since one practiced it alone or almost. Through experience during these troubled times, it has confirmed its importance in our lives and for our balance.

Beauty 24 Notebook - Carlin Creative

E.K: For the past few months, the buzzword has been "metaverse". What impact does it have on beauty? Is it a real phenomenon to follow in the years to come? What are the technical innovations that influence brands?

S.B : Yes, the metaverse is unavoidable and will change the world of beauty on several levels. First of all, we can see that traditional physical beauty is already very much influenced by the new codes of digital aesthetics and its freedom: fluidity of forms created by 3D creation software, freedom from gravity, colors, textures, movement... Then, virtuality also influences our vision of ourselves. I think of the filters of applications like Instagram or Tik Tok, which transform or increase the real and which will have consequences in the real: makeup, hairstyle and care thought for the selfie, acts of surgery with the same desire to look like his face "filtered" ... On the one hand, we open the field to new ideas, on the other hand we sometimes have the impression to be less beautiful "in real" than "filtered": this influence is neither positive nor negative in itself, but it does exist. In terms of technical innovations, I'm thinking of the creation of avatars which is becoming faster, easier and more accessible, but also of immersion with virtual reality headsets which are increasingly lighter, and of augmented reality applications which are accessible and pleasant to use. I'm also thinking about tools for reproducing reality: whether it's 3D creation or photography of real objects from all angles that are then transformed into 3D rendering. We are seeing a lot of amazing improvements and innovations at the moment. These new renderings will revolutionize virtual fittings, making before and after simulations very fine and very realistic: we will be able to see the effect of a treatment, a makeup, a hair color and a surgery before going through with the act.

On a deeper level, I'm sure that the metaverse will open up the beauty industry to its current outcasts: those who are interested in it but don't feel welcome or legitimate, and who will finally be able to experience it, in a completely different way.

Beauty 23.24 Notebook - Carlin Creative

E.K: What evolutions do you notice in the link between fashion and beauty? Has it always existed? Is the launch of beauty ranges by all the fashion giants more profound than a financial opportunity?

S.B: Fashion brands are addressing more and more aspects of our lives and are becoming global lifestyle brands that encompass beauty, decoration, food, experiences, entertainment, travel, culture with books, music, podcasts, cinema, art, travel... They are becoming real universes, so we understand all the more why they are interested in the metaverse! Fashion is also going through a crisis linked to excesses and scandals, with the societal and environmental ravages of fast fashion, with the evolution of consumer expectations in relation to the environment: they must diversify. But deeply, beauty has a natural and privileged link with fashion: they share the aspects of self-expression and self-image.

E.K: The importance of wellness has been growing for 20 years. How does this translate into the future?

S.B : To sum it up very quickly, I would say that wellness has risen to the same level as appearance in the field of beauty, and has even surpassed it! Wellness has become an essential component of beauty as well as of fashion: except in exceptional cases, we no longer want to suffer on a daily basis to be beautiful. "You have to suffer to be beautiful" is no longer relevant! This evolution of behaviors and desires goes hand in hand with the now acquired knowledge that, in any case, there is simply no lasting beauty without well-being. Beauty must therefore give pride of place to well-being: supporting and reinforcing it, creating gestures and rituals, offering textures and fragrances that are mentally and physically beneficial. The beauty that yesterday was more statutory, more conformist and seductive of the other before all else; it has become a beauty-seduction of oneself before others, pleasure and well-being. Celebrating oneself, being on the side of pleasure and not of suffering is much more attractive as a discourse, but moreover this beauty will allow to open up to those who do not aim at an improved appearance but aspire to the well-being that this practice brings.

Beauty 23.24 Notebook - Carlin Creative

E.K: Does it come with new uses and tools or new practices?

S.B: Yes, wellness is becoming more global, which is a fundamental movement, as we mentioned, and is part of a more holistic vision. Spas and beauty institutes will evolve, merge with sports clubs, workshops and courses: they will offer more complete rituals and activities, care and massage as always, but also health and nutrition consultations, cooking workshops, sports centered on connection to oneself and use of one's body, because it is pleasant and necessary for one's equilibrium to do so and not in a search for performance, talking circles, arts and crafts workshops, bouquets, etc. We also practice more and more our well-being: in beauty and health rituals but also by practicing activities, by taking time, by acting oneself. We have understood that concentration, taking time, full awareness are essential to our well-being. We will practice wellness at home, easily and according to our agenda, through rituals and with the support of wellness tech tools. Wellness will be reinforced in these two opposing aspects: physicality, anchoring in one's body, in a place, with others; and virtuality with the creation of practices and games in the metaverse. We will also travel to do ourselves good: wellness tourism will take off. Everyone is now aware that these issues are of concern and well-being must become accessible to all: rituals, facilities and treatments will become more democratic.

Beauty 23.24 Notebook - Carlin Creative

E.K: Moreover, we are witnessing the convergence of practices historically closer to medicine with beauty, such as the generalization of aesthetic medicine or the multiplication of nutritional solutions. What do you think about this?

S.B : In my opinion, it is a migration that is happening all the time and in all established sectors, natural mergers where beauty meets food, it is true, but also accessories, tech, digital. As in any fashion effect, there are abuses and dangers. We must take advantage of progress but be careful: by going to see specialists, by being aware of the risks and the irreversible nature of certain surgical procedures. Supplementation is good, and yes, food and health, and therefore beauty, are linked: but nothing can replace a varied and healthy diet, and the pleasure of cooking and eating! We celebrate instinct and self-confidence: in this field, we must never forget the basics and listen to our body which knows what it needs.

Beauty 24 Notebook - Carlin Creative

E.K.: Finally, coming back to the consumer, what changes have we seen in the men's beauty market in recent years?

S.B : The fact that beauty is leaning towards health and well-being has reinforced its accessibility to men: beauty for men has become a practice of self-respect and self-love as much as performance, optimization or preservation of one's assets. On the other hand, the societal change of acceptance of our gender fluidity and the ongoing questioning of virility have also allowed men to have access to beauty practices traditionally perceived as feminine: I would mention, for example, the emergence of nail polish for men, which has been flourishing recently. A friend of mine recently told me he wanted to try nail art!

An example of a product that synthesizes different aspects of this male beauty is the Horace blue purifying mask, which has been a hit for the past two years: it is successful in the sense that it combines a beauty mask, a product traditionally perceived as feminine, and an intense and sharp color that evokes pride and claim but also fantasy. It's almost like a tribal painting or a fan's face painted with the colors of his team!

Finally, we have seen the emergence of non-gendered and inclusive products, such as in niche perfumes for several years. But also in skincare, many of which play on the word "human" which replaces "man" and "woman" and makes them almost obsolete! Humanrace, Pharell Williams' brand, Everyday Humans, By Humankind, HeyHumans the brand of Jada Pinkett Smith. The word has spread a lot.

Beauty 24 Notebook - Carlin Creative

E.K: What about the women's market, especially regarding their possible empowerment?

S.B : On the side of the woman and her empowerment, it is a vast subject! For me, the main change is that beauty is no longer mostly about "faking it", masking all the flaws, erasing all the imperfections: some brands have even banished these very words and the photo retouching that goes with them, and today we call "particularities" what we used to call "flaws" such as freckles, moles, skin pigmentation spots, bushy eyebrows etc.

Women can stop pretending, stop erasing themselves, that is a deep positive change that impacts beauty. But if they wish to pretend, and this is also one of the great pleasures of beauty, to transform themselves, to pretend to be different, to reveal other facets of themselves, they can do so with a great deal of sparkle, humor and fantasy. The fake aspect is no longer shameful, but it is claimed, even underlined! We can see the expression of it in the hyper-long false nails, the hyper-illustrated nail art, the hair coloring in anything but natural colors, the extensions and the wigs, the false eyelashes, the plump lips ... the body is increased, transformed and the hierarchy real / fake is turned upside down. Everything is allowed, as with colors, and this multiform beauty which is at the same time well-being, pleasure and fun allows to have fun and to reveal all the aspects of its personality, according to the mood and the moment.

Beauty 24 Notebook - Carlin Creative

E.K: Before leaving you, what can we wish you for the months to come?

S.B : You can wish me to continue working on these exciting subjects above all! I never tire of observing the evolutions at work, these mergers of sectors where beauty meets food, accessories, tech, digital; these migrations of the beauty zones also where the makeup goes from the face to the whole body, or from cheeks, lips and eyelids to eyebrows, dark circles or the area under the eyes, to teeth, to ears ... I am passionate about it! It's like being an explorer yesterday, I feel like I'm exploring with the brands new unknown, neglected, yesterday invisible territories: it's exhilarating! And it's not immediately but I'm already thinking about it: you can also wish me a good summer vacation with my family and in Italy. To recharge the batteries and work on my beauty-pleasure around good Italian tables!

E.K: Sarah, thank you for sharing!

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Edouard Keller
Managing Director

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