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December 22, 2017

Patrick Rasquinet on La Prairie’s Pioneering Position

By Chris Boyle

This story originally appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.

During a 30th anniversary celebration of its Skin Caviar moisturizer, La Prairie president and CEO Patrick Rasquinet speaks to Kristen Shirley about the challenges of balancing the company’s rich heritage while remaining a global pioneer in the beauty business and why La Prairie will never introduce a product geared towards millennials.

It is fitting that an interview with the CEO of a very Swiss brand should take place in a very Swiss hotel during a world-famous Swiss event. At the elegant Dolder Grand in Zurich, home to a La Prairie spa, I meet with Patrick Rasquinet.

Fresh from La Prairie’s Art Basel VIP lounge debut where he unveiled a caviar-inspired sculpture created by architect Paul Coudamy, introduced Skin Caviar Absolute Filler cream and hosted a decadent dinner (including 4lbs of Maison Prunier caviar) at the Michelin-starred Pavillon restaurant at Baur au Lac — it is a wonder that he looks as refreshed as he does. Unlimited access to La Prairie’s products must
help, but it is Rasquinet’s enthusiasm and energy that first strike me.

For Rasquinet, the partnership with Art Basel is not just about associating La Prairie with the most buzzed-about art show in the world: it is a new platform from which to express the brand. The partnership actually makes sense, as Rasquinet tells me, because both are bold, luxury Swiss companies. Art Basel has always been at the cutting edge of art, and since its audacious introduction of caviar to skincare 30 years ago, La Prairie has been at the forefront of the beauty business, stretching the boundaries of technology and ingredients.

“Art came naturally to us, because many things we do are related to art,” explains Rasquinet. He describes the art of formulating its products, from the texture to the way it leaves its packaging; the art of creating the packaging itself (it is worth noting that the original Skin Caviar cream’s packaging has not changed in 30 years and still looks modern, thanks to its Bauhaus-inspired design and cobalt blue color inspired by French-Swiss artist Niki de Saint Phalle); and its support of young artists through the Art of Caviar initiative, which commissions artists to interpret caviar in their works. The five pieces of art are each wildly different, and certainly don’t scream, or even whisper, ‘corporate art.’ After its debut in Basel, the full exhibit toured Paris, New York and Hong Kong, inviting viewers to interact with the pieces, much to Rasquinet’s delight.

Absolute Filler introduces the third form of caviar used at La Prairie. There’s the original extract, which stood alone for nearly 30 years, followed by caviar water and now caviar absolute (a by product of putting caviar in a centrifuge).

While Rasquinet has a wealth of experience in the beauty world, having worked for La Prairie’s parent company Beiersdorf and its various brands for 24 years, he is not a scientist. I ask how he approaches the challenge of having the science that drives the business out of his hands.

“It is challenging,” he admits. “There are probably a dozen people who are far better than I am in all these aspects of science. They bring their expertise, and I try to help them translate it into consumer needs and bring it into the business.”

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In the current market, many brands are reaching in new directions, overstretching or even abandoning their brand identities in an obvious attempt to reach younger consumers. While he does not dismiss millennials, Rasquinet says: “We stay true to our values. It’s so easy to be distracted, to be willing to go for new segments or new types of consumers, but I think it’s wrong. You have to be true to who you are and ensure your values are being expressed through everything you do. This is how you create loyalty, and also interest in what you are doing. We constantly try to push the boundaries and limits of innovation by bringing new products and packaging, but
always staying true to who we are. I believe millennials will have the same needs in the future, but we will not be distracted and try to offer products just to attract the millennials. It’s not our core business, which is anti-aging.”

After a trip to the La Prairie spa, three cappuccinos and copious amounts of the Absolute Filler cream to combat my fatigue, I consider the whirlwind trip at the airport lounge. Balancing growth in a highly competitive market while maintaining a commitment to preserving a strong brand identity is a daunting task, but from what I’ve seen, Rasquinet’s strategy seems to be working.

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