It’s time for my annual April in Paris post. With France on the list of countries to avoid, I wonder how long it will be before we’re comfortable traveling anywhere again…..even to the drugstore to buy a new lipstick.
During the 1940-50’s women were advised to buy a new lipstick to cheer themselves up, back when a tube of Max Factor could be had for cheap at the five and dime. Women were encouraged to keep buying lipstick during the war years to boost the morale of the soldiers by adding lipstick covered kisses to their letters to the front. Victory Red was popular, and applying it like a movie star was truly a glamorous thing.
And so I took their advice and bought one….from Avon….because sometimes you just have to do something frivolous, like buy lipstick during a pandemic.
I found the booklets hanging on my front door, the way they have shown up faithfully over the past year, even though I haven’t ordered anything in ages. Think of the paper involved in distributing all those campaigns. I’m surprised they still print them, but perhaps the demographic they cater to prefers paper. And yes, if you don’t have an Avon lady, there’s a website with a digital catalog online.
When I did place an order, it wasn’t usually for makeup, but a musical church addition for my Christmas village, or a plaid scarf for gifting. Their 99 cent lip balms made nice stocking stuffers too.
Avon has been around forever – 135 years – and the history of the Avon company is a fascinating one. It was founded in 1886 by David McConnell, a travelling book salesman who realized that women were more interested in his free fragrance samples than in the books. His was one of the first companies to hire women as sales representatives, giving them the opportunity to earn their own income. They started selling makeup in the 1920’s during the flapper years. Today they have sales of 5.5 billion worldwide with over 6 million representatives, and are the fourteenth largest beauty company.
Here’s a vintage 1956 commercial with their “Avon calling” signature slogan.
But Avon sells so much more than beauty products now.
As well as jewelry and gift items, they have branched into clothing, candles, aromatherapy and lately even disinfectants and household cleaning supplies.
This past winter they had a very stylish Parisian theme.
Now I’m a sucker for anything French, but I resisted…..the prices – yikes!
I’m a sucker for cats too – she even has a French name – Yvette – so classy. It reminds me of the time my little brother gave us long black plastic cats filled with bubble bath for Christmas. Although I’m sure he picked them out at the drugstore, they must have appealed to him as a little kid. (He also bought us Charlie one year, a scent I hated and re-gifted to a more appreciative room-mate).
While I didn’t buy anything Parisian, I remain appreciative of the marketing campaign – they had me at vintage charm and romance.
Avon has been around for ever. Even our quiet country road had an Avon lady back in the 1970’s. I remember ordering the Clear Skin line, although my makeup then consisted of Cover Girl and Maybelline. Avon books have been a staple of many of my workplace staff-rooms in the past, even the pharmacies with extensive cosmetic departments and beauty boutiques. Someone was always selling Avon.
But my, those prices have increased substantially. In the Christmas campaign, there was a perfume listed for $1300 in a crystal-encrusted decanter. There was a tester patch and while it was nice, you would expect nice at that price. I often wonder who buys all those fragrances, when so many places have a no-scent policy, but then I haven’t worn perfume in years.
Even Avon’s popular Anew line of anti-aging creams is a bit pricey. It does sometimes seem the more companies charge for these things, the better they sell (the Kardashian effect). The only high-end face cream I use is Night Repair, a fancy serum I buy faithfully twice a year, timed with their gift with purchase. (usually nothing I can use but I give them away) After 35 years, I figure Estee Lauder should be paying me by now. I can’t credit my not-too-bad-for-my-age skin to the wonders of a miracle cream however, as being cursed with fair Celtic genes, I could never tolerate the sun. A jar of $20 LaRoche Posay moisturizer for sensitive skin lasts me a whole year.
Pandemic or not, I don’t wear much makeup anymore either, and what’s the point of lipstick when you’re wearing a mask. Lipstick sales must have fallen dramatically over the past year. Still in a fit of optimism one day, I placed an Avon order for a lip balm crayon thing with just a hint of color. L’Oreal discontinued the shade of lip-gloss I had worn for years – don’t you hate it when they do that?
It was delivered to my front doorstep in the familiar white bag with the pink logo, although my friendly Avon lady did not come in for a visit like she normally would, neither of us having been vaccinated. So much more civilized than the rushed grumpy Purolator guy who once tossed my Sephora order behind a geranium pot where the $24 Tarte lipstick promptly melted in the ninety-degree heat.
Was I pleased with my purchase?
Yes! It was a nice light shade (Loving Life – the rest were too dark and I’ll leave the red to younger faces) and texture, and not too bad a price for the size. They even threw in a free lip liner (the mystery gift). Now, I just need someplace to wear it, for what would an aspiring Frenchwoman be without her lipstick? Hoping for better days ahead.
PS. Despite the creative marketing campaign, both the Eiffel Tower and Yvette are now discounted in the latest Bargain Booklet – I guess no one was in the mood for Paris – another travel-related casualty of the pandemic…