So Frenchy, so chic: meet beauty heiress Jenna Courtin-Clarins
It has long been established that French women do life fabulously well. Luxe consumers around the world are inspired by their emboldened approach to style, sex, beauty, tossing down foie gras without getting fat (it's a thing) and enslaving men - all whilst owning their formidable feminist chops. In the land of sexy, tousled bedhair and skinny jeans understated confidence seems to be the best accessory.
Jenna Courtin Clarins, 30, a brand ambassador for Clarins and born-and-bred Parisienne, incarnates the qualities that make her city so compelling: beauty and heritage. Her grandfather Jacques, a chemist obsessed with botanicals way ahead of his time, founded Europe's No. 1 luxury skincare brand, Clarins in 1954. Despite its current $3.5 billion global reach the company prides itself on being a family affair, with twins Jenna and Prisca as official ambassadors and their father (Christian) and uncle (Olivier) at the helm.
"Beauty's the one business where women make the world go around," laughs Courtin-Clarins, ravishing in a floral print Dolce & Gabbana dress, studded stilettos, natural tan and loose topknot in a suite at Le Royal Monceau Hotel, a short stroll from the Arc de Triomphe. "My father and uncle are smart; they listen to the women around them."
One message is loud and clear: contemporary women are prioritising breathable skin and high performance skincare over mask-like cosmetic coverage. "For French women in particular the most important thing is luminous skin without a lot of make-up. Once you get the base right the rest follows."
The rise of the super serum echoed the post-1980s emphasis on skincare which was rich in actives with smaller molecules that penetrate more deeply and are applied underneath the plumping effect of topical creams. Since its inception in 1985, the brand's iconic star performer Double Serum (one is sold every 30 seconds) has promised two serums in one, thanks to a pioneering 'biomimicry' formula that combines the best water-soluble and oil-soluble ingredients, mimicking the skin's own ratio. The 2017, 8th generation release updates the cult serum's iconic silky texture with a dual size drop applicator.
"I love it!! It suits me better because you choose between the big drop and the little drop - perfect for my combination skin - and the new texture is even lighter, which makes it easier to layer on product afterwards."
Each new Double Serum showcases a scientific innovation. This year's discovery: the skin's cellular membrane uses plasma as a 'listening system.' Organic, botanical ingredients such as turmeric and huang qi directly restore and reinforce this cellular expression, ushering in the peachy smoothness and radiance of dewy, younger skin. "If you have visible pores like me you will see, they vanish... It's a story of confidence. Our customer knows that the timing is led by innovation not marketing. We wait until the right moment to make the serum even better: we want women to try the product, love it and come back to repeat the result."
Aside from tangible clinical results women around the world are also lured by the seemingly innate chic of French style. How effortless is it really? "Oh French women know their beauty. They may pretend to wake up and 'voilà, I'm perfect' but they know how to use and apply skincare. The first secret of beautiful skin is to wash off the impurities before sleep - make the man wait! This is essential. Think fresh; think clean. Paris is so polluted that I couldn't imagine skipping this step." Body hydration is another must. "I put the oil on all over, every night. Of course it's cool to not try - in Paris we play with that a little bit. But everything is thought out, even the jeans and white T-shirt."
While one gorgeous Parisienne will always exert a certain fascination, four will stop traffic. "The Courtin-Clarins girls take Manhattan," trumpeted American Vogue when Courtin-Clarins and her equally tall, stunning sister Prisca and cousins Virginie and Claire first garnered attention in 2011 at New York Fashion Week, their fresh-skin and youthful sparkle a foil to the sophistication of their impeccable wardrobe (think Vuitton, Mugler and Fendi). But this isn't the Kardashians and reality TV. The Clarins girls are way more interested in business as usual than building a 'personal brand' as continental It-girls.
"Ah yes, the media likes to make a big thing about we four girls," recalls Courtin-Clarins. "We went to fashion shows together and felt like everyone was looking at us, maybe because it was a bit different? It was nice - but silly at the same time. We are very Parisian and happy to just live a normal life and work on the Clarins brand." (Give or take a Met Ball or two.)
Courtin-Clarins de-stresses from her role as New Concepts Manager with le jogging. "I run a lot. In Paris I go all over our beautiful city gardens and across the river; I always run around new cities when I travel. I was blown away with how beautiful the Bondi to Bronte walk is in Australia." She recommends that Australian visitors to Paris stroll the streets for hours - "There is something to see on every corner" - especially in her favourite neighbourhood the 6th arrondissement on the leafy Left Bank, where she lives amongst the iconic cafés and brasseries that recall the glory days of the bohemian 1950s Latin Quarter.
Courtin-Clarins cites access to digital information as the biggest change in the millennial French beauty landscape. "Women are more concerned about pigmentation and really get that sun damages skin and accelerates aging - we have made the connection. Before? Not so much."
Just as 1970s jet-set, Cannes-induced tans are no longer de rigeur, the more hectic pace of time-poor career girls is infiltrating French culture. Global concept retail stores will feature a 10, 20 and 30-minute treatment sample menu. "It's amazing because you can swing by, have a beautiful face treatment in an 'open spa' style, try products to find what suits you and fit in lunch. It's very city girl."
Jenna's top 5 beauty products
1. Clarins Double Serum, from $95, clarins.com.au
2. Clarins Tonic Body Treatment Oil, $68, clarins.com.au
3. Clarins Cleansing Milk With Alpine Herbs, $45, clarins.com.au
4. Clarins Instant Light Lip Comfort Oil, $33, clarins.com.au
5. Clarins Extra-Firming Body Cream, $77, clarins.com.au
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