Since its Swiss debut in 1978, La Prairie has remained a cornerstone of luxury skin care, but do you know the story of how the brand chose striking cobalt blue as its signature color? We were both delighted and surprised to hear it for ourselves, and the tale perfectly suits everything the brand stands for, in the beauty industry and beyond.
“The link goes back to the early ’80s,” says Greg Prodromides, chief marketing officer at La Prairie. “An artist named Niki de Saint Phalle was working on her perfume out of her 5th Avenue, New York studio, and a La Prairie team was also working there at the time. In this creative studio where ideas were exchanged, Niki suggested to La Prairie to use this emblematic color for the collection they were working on, which later became the iconic Skin Caviar collection we all know today. Back then, the team was looking for a color that was audacious and unconventional—something that would push the boundaries.
Back in the 80s, all of the skin-care packaging was practically the same: boring white plastic jars. For La Prairie, it had to be different; it had to be unexpected. The encounter with Niki made it all become clear. It had to be cobalt blue. We know that cobalt blue was Niki’s favorite color, or at least one of them, and it’s also become the most iconic color for us. In our eyes, it’s a color that becomes a statement of strength, creative force and elegance. At some level, we now look upon her like our godmother.”
Known for her avant-garde vision, de Saint Phalle—she sadly passed away in 2002—was more than an artist and sculptor. “She was a champion of many social and environmental causes as well, and female empowerment,” says Ruba Katrib, curator of the Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life exhibition at MoMA PS1 in New York, the artist’s first major museum exhibit in the United States. “Blue appears in many of Niki’s artworks, which dealt a lot with fairytales, dream space, fantasy space—it was a key aspect of her work. In 1982, she was starting her own perfume line, which was quite radical for an artist to embark on a line of perfume, and it’s featured in the exhibition because it’s quite integral—she saw her perfume as an artwork and she designed the bottle as a sculpture. It also features the cobalt blue color, and the perfume was quite successful and touched a lot of people.”
Prodromides says the values de Saint Phalle represents are very much connected to La Prairie’s mission. “I’m thinking of the same kindred spirit between Niki and our founder, Paul Niehans. Female empowerment is at the core of who we want to be. This is our mission for people, and what we’re striving to achieve: to empower women to hold time in their hands and to feel more confident, more beautiful and more themselves for longer. As a sculptor, as a painter and as a woman, Niki has always been an inspiration to us. This is opportunity for us to share her spirit with a wider audience in order to hopefully inspire new generations of women.”
And of course there’s the artistic connection as well: La Prairie began partnering with Art Basel in 2017 (though art has been key to the brand’s DNA since its inception) and continues its art journey as the lead patron of de Saint Phalle’s exhibition at PS1. “At La Prairie, we aim to preserve and make art accessible today and for generations to come,” says Prodromides. “Art and culture make our societies more beautiful. We are keen on continuing our role with partnerships with art and culture organizations to raise awareness, and Niki continues to inspire the House today and for years to come.”