The big makeover: British Beauty Council on mission to change ‘frivolous’ industry image

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

The UK beauty sector contributed £28.4bn to the economy last year - photo: Getty Images
The UK beauty sector contributed £28.4bn to the economy last year - photo: Getty Images

Related tags: Beauty, UK beauty, British Beauty Council, London Fashion Week, London Beauty Week, Innovation, Fashion, Indie beauty brands

The British Beauty Council wants to overturn the dated view that beauty has no serious purpose or value and cultivate a more elevated view that celebrates widespread innovation in the sector, its CEO says.

Founded just last year, the British Beauty Council will launch its inaugural London Beauty Week in partnership with Covent Garden next month​ to coincide with London Fashion Week. The goal? To showcase the innovation, growth and influence of the UK’s beauty sector.

Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Europe, Millie Kendall MBE, CEO of the British Beauty Council, said another big impetus behind the event launch was to shake-up a dated and “polarising”​ image of the beauty industry.

Stretching perceptions beyond ‘frivolous women’

Millie Kendall MBE wants to change perceptions of the beauty industry
Millie Kendall MBE wants to change perceptions of the beauty industry

“When I first started this project, the idea was to give beauty a makeover; to bring us into the 21st​ century,”​ Kendall said.

“There’s still this perception that it’s a bunch of frivolous women, shimmying around department stores spraying perfume. That’s not what I see. That’s not an industry perspective.”

It was people outside of beauty that had this view, she said, along with the idea those working in beauty were uneducated. “I think that’s a pretty poor perception of an industry that does close to £30bn a year.”

Last month, the British Beauty Council released an Oxford Economics report​ showing a breakdown of financial contributions made by the UK’s beauty industry in 2018. The sector contributed a total of £28.4 billion (€30.6bn) in 2018 to the nation’s economy, representing 1.3% of the UK’s total GDP.

The work with Oxford Economics, Kendall said, was important in driving the conversation forward, although it needed to stretch beyond beauty professionals.

“The problem is, we talk to ourselves and not outside of our industry,”​ she said. “…If we’re going to change the perception of industry, we need to be talking to policy makers, government officials, business leaders. We need to find investment for our industry and be taken more seriously on a government level.”

We want to achieve in 3-5 years what fashion did in ten

Kendall said London Beauty Week was “very much aligned”​ with London Fashion Week and the British Beauty Council had taken on plenty of learnings in the build up to the inaugural event. 

London Beauty Week will run alongside London Fashion Week - photo: Getty Images
London Beauty Week will run alongside London Fashion Week - photo: Getty Images

“We wanted to achieve in three to five years what the British Fashion Council has done in ten. In order to do that, it made sense to use a lot of their learnings: looking at what the British Fashion Council did, how they approached fashion, consumers and industry.”

In particular, she said they had looked at the British Fashion Council’s governance, structure and the “elevated appeal of the industry”.

“What the Fashion Council have done for fashion is remarkable. It makes British fashion a viable export, much like British music. We are known for our music talent; we’re known for our fashion talent, I’m not sure that on a global scale we’re known for beauty,”​ Kendall said. This was despite a plethora of “British beauty legends” ​and leading global brands coming out of the UK, she said.

Raising the reputation of British beauty, she said, was “obviously incredibly important”, ​as well as promoting the industry’s value and championing innovation.

Asked what Kendall hoped to achieve for the UK beauty industry, she said: “I hope to achieve everything in our manifesto. Really just to raise the reputation of industry, to enhance education and invest in innovation. If I can change the way people invest in our industry, I’d be really, really pleased with that. And also, I’d like to change the conversation. I don’t want to go into a meeting a have someone sneer down their nose at me because I work in beauty.”

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