Thursday, 7 June 2012

History of Shiseido Supplement from Vogue China June 2012

Shiseido is currently celebrating its 140th Anniversary, which in Hong Kong seems to just mean lots of makeover booths set up in shopping malls. You'd've thought such a venerable company would have worked out the magical festive properties of, say, a blanket 40% discount....

Anyhoo, the latest issue of Vogue China came with a lovely supplement tracing the history of Shiseido, and much geekery folows:
The name Shiseido (资生堂) comes from a couplet in the I Ching (易经) or ancient Chinese Book of Changes which Shi themselves cumbersomely translate as "praise the virtues of the earth which nurtures new life and brings forth significant values". (...still more lucid than the original) Anyway, it just goes to show that pseudo-holistic-botanical marketing drivel isn't just a post-hippie phenomenon. The red 'seal' is Shi's stylised camelia design, art derived from nature.

Next, a selection of exquisite Eudermine bottles -- Eudermine launched in 1897 as the world's first softener/lotion (toner), which is still the basis of Japanese skincare to this day. For the 140th anniversary, Shiseido are selling Eudermine (which has remained in production anyway) in a limited edition replica of the original 1897 bottle.
From left: bottles from 1952, 1897, 1997 [100 year anniversary edition], 1980, 1968, 1954, 1935, 1918.

A 1932 jar of De Luxe Cold Cream. De Luxe was the most luxurious range under the company umbrella in its day, retailing for 274 times the cost of 'ordinary' Shiseido products.

1917 Rainbow Face Powder boxes -- the first non-white powders released in Japan, this came in seven shades (white, yellow, beige, rose, peony-pink, green and purple to correct discolouration and perfect the skin.

The fifth anniversary "Powder Celebration" box from Maquillage (a midrange Shiseido sub-brand) Holiday 2010 echoed this with its similar octagonal shape and eight shades of face powder you could mix and match in the central well.

The current range of Perfect Rouge lipsticks (the octagonal shape again recalling the Rainbow Face Powder box) with an iconic red Inoui lip brush from 1977.

Whitening products from 1918 and 2012. The 1918 cream is an oil-free peroxide(! yeah that's what it sez right on the jar) formula; the 2012 one is the current bestselling Intensive Spot-Targeting Serum from the White Lucent range containing its signature ingredients 4MSK (potassium methoxy salicylate) and m-Tranexamic acid as well as vitamin C.

A rather nifty timeline
1872 Fukuhara Arinobu, ex-head-pharmacist to the Imperial navy, founded the Shiseido pharmacy. At the ripe old age of 23. *kills self*
1888 Fukuhara Sanitary Toothpaste, the first cake toothpaste on the Japanese market
1892 first issue of Vogue (? oh shut up, Vogue.)
1893 Eudermine again
1922 Shiseido Parlour drugstore, introducing ice-cream and soda fountains, which Fukuhara Arinobu brought back from his Euro-American travels.
1923 Uviolin, Japan's first sunblock cream
1924 Shiseido Geppo covers, featuring articles on beauty, lifestyle, art and Western trends. (The precursor to today's Hanatsubaki magazine)
1929 an elegant gold-laquered soap tin to mark the coronation of the Showa emperor, featuring traditional Japanese botanical motifs

Bits and bobs from my favourite period, the 1930s
1932 launch of ultra-luxe range, De Luxe, with Cold Cream, Vanishing Cream, 'Eau de Blanc' lotion and face powder.
1932 Modern Colour face powder, packaging designed by Shiseido's first Creative Director Yamano Ayao
1933 'Grease Shadow' palette of seventeen shades to take your look from day to night
1936 a striking window display from the Ginza Shiseido Parlour
1936 a seriously awesome makeup shade-wheel -- you select the social occasion, it rolls up the appropriate colour palette

1957 'Total' makeup: Shiseido promotes the 'science' of shade selection based on colour theory, for hair, base, eyeshadow and lipstick.
1959 To mark the imperial wedding, two gilded lipstick cases that echo Pantheon columns.
1965 Trying to combat the drop in cosmetics sales during humid Japanese summers, Shiseido launches a special 'summer' base makeup range.

top left: 1938 magazine advert
bottom left: 1960 advert for Eau de Luxe perfume
right: 'Makeup,' a 70-page pamphlet offering skincare and makeup tips and tutorials

Currently (aka the Dick Page page!)
Face charts and backstage pics from various 2012 fashion shows by Shiseido's current artistic director, Dick Page (<3): Band of Outsiders, Zero+Maria Cornejo, Narcisco Rodriguez, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors.

The fuuuuuuuture (I think these are creepier left uncaptioned)

Thanks for looking! :) I have absolutely no affiliation to Shiseido or its subdivisions. Just a big ole material history geek.

PS Vogue China has lost a lot of its original editorial awesomeness and gained too much bland Vogue-iness in the past couple of years (though it, Vogue Nippon and Vogue Russia are the only three I even bother flipping through) so I won't be posting scans from the main mag except for this, the only pic that caught my eye:

ETA: Ratzilla Cosme has posted some more images of vintage Shiseido products. Click through to enjoy!


  1. Wow, great documented post! don't we just love Shi?

  2. Thank you so much for all of these!! It's so beautiful and and exciting to read!

  3. This post is so awesome! Thanks for writing it. I find it really interesting to delve into the history of popular brands and see how far they've come.

  4. Such an interesting post! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Beautiful!
    I wish we'd seen more of that 1936 colour wheel, it sounds so interesting.

  6. Thanks for your comments, everyone! I love sharing things like this with fellow enthusiasts.

    mementomori: I'm a little surprised there's not already 'an app for that'.... ;)
    An example of a wheel category is "Social Makeup for a Chandelier Light Setting"