It’s been 25 years since Napoleon Perdis founded his makeup empire but certain things never change. The hard-working entrepreneur always talks at breakneck speed, his energy never flags and he’s always got something new in the works. “I feel as young as ever”, says the makeup maestro. “I believe that we have maintained our unique voice in the marketplace. Just because someone can do their own hair and makeup on social media doesn’t make them a qualified makeup artist. Consumers come to our counters and stores today for the same reason they always have – expertise, authenticity and iconic products.”

On August 30th, Napoleon opened his latest store on Crown Street in Sydney’s trendy Surry Hills. There was plenty of razzamatazz – a cake in the shape of the brand’s famous Auto Pilot Pre-foundation Skin Primer, local celebs and a party mood. But there was also a strong underlying message of the company’s future direction. The new location is a short distance from the original Napoleon Perdis concept store opened in Paddington in 1995. “People don’t just want to go to malls anymore”, says Napoleon. “They want their favourite brands to be a part of their community. We’re returning strongly to our roots in the High Street and reaching out to regional centers. We’ve launched in Darwin and more recently in Rockhampton, our first and only Central Queensland location. There’s a major trend of international brands such as H&M opening in strong regional markets.” 

Career Highs/Constantly Adapting

Napoleon famously refers to his core customer as ‘The Empress’ and she’s always been ageless long before the term became a current marketing buzzword within the beauty industry. “We’ve always had young and more mature customers. Women of all ages who experiment with and experience the brand, but who also want the backing of our training, expert tips and tricks and strategy. I’m constantly adapting, too. Since I moved to Greece, my products have increasingly become more influenced by art, culture and heritage, not just the celebrity factor. My daughters, wife and mother also have an enormous influence on my product creation. Working with my daughter Lianna on the Total Bae collection has been a dream. The Napoleon Perdis DNA is still a guide, but she edits and has her own ideas which connect with a larger Millennial base.”

It’s difficult for Napoleon to pinpoint career highs over the past 25 years because there have been so many. The author of the makeup bible Forever Flawless, he was a recipient of the much-coveted Elle Genius Award from the US edition of the glossy magazine. More than 25,000 aspiring makeup artists have trained at his ground-breaking Makeup Academy. One of the original supporters of Australian Fashion Week, his runway virtuosity is legendary. His famous dictum – Not To Prime is A Crime – has become as quoted as any of the sayings of the great beauty entrepreneurs such as Estée Lauder and Elizabeth Arden. Over the past quarter of a century, the Napoleon Perdis brand has become Australia’s leading makeup brand available in over 85 concept stores, 100 department stores and more than 750 independent stockists. 

Looking back over a career that has made him a household name, Napoleon singles out the proudest moments of his professional life. “The founding of the Paddington store really mapped out the company’s DNA, but launching in Saks Fifth Avenue in 2005 was so emotional. I don’t think anything prepares you for the moment you see your name in the window of a Fifth Avenue store in New York. Developing the NP Set range, an 85 piece collection for Target in 2008 was also a major milestone. It’s also been so empowering to work with some of the world’s leading retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Ulta, David Jones and Myer.” 

Strategic Expansion

Napoleon has never stood still and has always been focused on expanding his reach. “The advent of online shopping changed everything. You have to be where your customer is today and they want to be able to buy your products where they shop. From the first week of November, we are debuting in Hairhouse Warehouse nationally. They are the second biggest franchised player in the Australian market and have 145 stores. They are also expanding rapidly in strategic locations like Ulta does in the US and will soon expand to 180 stores. The hair service/salon/product approach meshes well with our customer base. A true multi-brand environment in the hair and beauty industry.”

Napoleon made global headlines when he expanded his business to the US in the early noughties. “We are heading overseas again next year but with a different strategy this time. We don’t want to secure lots of shelf space because I’m more interested in pop-ups, online and small stores. London and Paris will be two of the key markets with a little in Zurich and Amsterdam.”

Swinging back to the brand’s objective to reach out at community level, you can’t get more local than pharmacy, says Napoleon. “We have always had a strong position in pharmacy with hundreds of accounts. But we want to put more emphasis on the pharmacy channel and see it grow to full play for the brand.”

Another non-negotiable is that the customer remains the bedrock of the Napoleon Perdis brand. “You can have tons of celebrities and infl uencers endorsing you, but if you don’t make the customer feel special and give them the luxury, glamour and empowerment they want, they aren’t going to buy.” An attitude that dovetails with Napoleon’s guiding principle that everything is achievable in your lifetime. 

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