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:: Spotlight :: Napoleon - Australia's cosmetics king

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Having made an impact at the Golden Globe Awards, doing the make-up exclusively earlier this year, and establishing a deal which will set his business up at SAKS Fifth Avenue, all looks rosy for Napoleon Perdis. He is widely regarded as one of the prime leader in the Australian beauty industry. SAKS Fifth Avenue has been in the pipeline for two years and it’s a credit to Napoleon and his team that he can achieve something that few other Australians have been able to do. His career spans nearly thirteen years and the brand will be ten years old in September. In between his hectic schedule we were able to have a chat about how he’s made a successful business.

Q.What has been the key to the success of Napoleon?

A.Focus, determination, ambition, loving my customers, and giving them all. Two principles that the brand would stand for are: “Runway to Reality” and “Bring Out The Celebrity In You”.

Q.What’s so special about the Napoleon environment?

A.When you come into a Napoleon environment, it’s not just one face of Napoleon. The customer is the celebrity and we are precise and focused on that. We provide the energy, and the make-up artists are more like engineers of a look and of beauty, when they work on a woman’s face. They ensure that, as the runways hit we bring it to reality. We do runway to reality really well. We remain focused and true to that.

Q.Did you feel the need to concentrate on particular markets within Australia?

A.I’ve really concentrated on all markets in Australia equally: Anglo-Saxon, Mediterranean, Islander & Aboriginal markets. All those things have been coups for my brand and a means of positioning. Other than the African-American market, very few people are concentrating on the Latino marketplace and Arabic look. My mother, being Greek, could never find foundation colour. The Anglo-Saxon market was just considered in terms of a peaches and rose. It was important to give them a beautiful base in beige; colour that would suit them and to bring out their expression. I’m all about empowerment. I’ve got four daughters. I want those five women in my life to feel powerful. A woman can be beautiful and glamorous. She is intelligent and in control. And she is to be listened to. To me, those things are very important.

Q.For aspiring make-up artists, what are the Do’s and Do Not’s in your mind?

A.The Do Not’s are:

- never be scared to try
- don’t listen to what others say but what you feel
- don’t allow yourself, when down, to influence your mood for the day

The Do’s are:

- experiment and experience (try new things)
- allow beauty to show. Do the look that brings out the eyes, lips, etc

They are the main things in beauty and make-up.

Q. Speaking of lips, you’ve introduced several interesting products over time. Tell us a little about what’s currently out there?

A.We have a number of products that are at the forefront. One is our barely blush – liquid blusher that you can go from total transparency to total intense. The other is our Lip Lacquer – like a treatment for lips. It’s much more than a make-up product. There is camomile, avocado, and cocoon nut oil that was used by Hawaiian royalty for neglect of lips.

Q.Who are the women that you’ve enjoyed working with most?

A.I love Kathy Griffth, Jodie Kidd, and Jerry Hall. I adore Gemma Ward, who I had the privilege of doing make-up for the front cover of Vogue last September. She is the face of Prada, Yves St.Laurent, Fendi, Hermes, Roberto Cavelli and more. She is the world’s most amazing model. They’re my creams of the crop. I also love Jamie Lynn Di Scala of the Sopranos and Raven Simone from the Cosby Show. They are powerful and have the type of energy that empowers other women.

Q,We see the effect of celebrities on the Red Carpet, having the presence to showcase particular clothes and accessories. What does it mean to you?

A.Red Carpet means that these women who are empowered believe in you. But it’s the everyday customer at each of the locations that Napoleon exists that comes in. We like to put on the Red Carpet for them. I’d like to believe that each of our consultants across the country gives a Napoleon method of energy transfer to the customer. For us, that’s the main focus of Red Carpet. The core essence is for anyone to come to Napoleon and have something customised for them.

Q.You’ve built a thriving business that has taken you into the international forefront. What are the main business principles that should be adhered to?

A.1st principle
You have to listen to your gut instincts. Advisers will always tell you their opinion. You take it and then go with gut instincts. You then live and die by that.

2nd principle
You must always remember to be consistent.

3rd principle
Be able to manage creativity. You can’t just think with one constant. Creativity is a continual changing and managed process. Don’t be afraid of it because often it will confront you.

These three principles are integral to whatever success you gain. The 4th and most important, perhaps, is that you must empower your staff to be able to come to you and have an “open-door” policy. It creates a family atmosphere. We are a family business and I believe in maintaining that through our make-up artists. That’s really important to me. It doesn’t mean that I’m not disciplined in what I want. Consistency is important as well.

Q. You mentioned the importance of family. They play a key role for you in the business operation…

A.My brother is general manager and we started the company together. My wife is the financial controller of the business. That’s been very important. My parents have been enormously supportive at every level. Family is what gives you your making. It moulds you from a young person.

Q. Your website has become an important marketing tool for you…

A.Yes, it is enormously important because the Internet has allowed companies to have a global positioning through the web. We value our feedback and customers on the website. We have some updates coming soon.

Q.Your Training Academy is doing great things also…

A.Training is continual and paramount to the business. We have the Academy and that is value adding back to young people in Australia.

Q.What are your short-to-medium term goals now?

A.On a personal level, I want to be able to focus on my family and myself. In business, I would like to expand into Europe and Canada – not the UK just yet, perhaps in the next three years. We already have twenty concept stores in Australia and we have David Jones and independent boutique distribution. So there’s about 350 points of sale distribution with Napoleon in Australia. In New Zealand we have our own stores. In following the SAKS 5TH Avenue, we are launching in Florida and Texas in July.

Napoleon is the exclusive Make-up Company for the Mercedes Australian Fashion Week in Sydney in May.


1. Napoleon with Teri Hatcher
2. Napoleon happy to secure SAKS 5th Avenue deal

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