Heiress twins, 27, bring a fresh view to Clarins beauty brand

Twin sisters Prisca and Jenna Courtin-Clarins are helping to rebrand Clarins, their grandfather's skincare company

In 2011, the fashion world fell in love with the four Courtin-Clarins cousins. The granddaughters of Jacques Courtin-Clarins, who founded French skincare company Clarins, set cameras flashing when they made their first appearance in the front row of a fashion show at New York Fashion Week.

All tall, elegant and stunning, sisters Virginie and Claire and twins Prisca and Jenna caught the attention and imagination of the media. The girls were featured in Vogue and made it to Vanity Fair's best-dressed list. American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour reportedly named them the new "It" girls.

Clarins could not have asked for better ambassadors. But just as quickly as they had entered the spotlight, the girls retreated from it, returning to Paris to continue their lives. Although they occasionally appear at fashion shows and continue to attend the annual Met Gala, they have since focused more on their individual careers.

 

Claire, 29, is an artist, debuting with a portraiture exhibition in New York in 2013. She continues to live in the Big Apple. Virginie, 30, heads development, communication and marketing for French fashion house Mugler, which is owned by the Clarins group.

Although both Claire and Virginie remain ambassadors for Clarins, their cousins, the 29-year-old twins Prisca and Jenna, have a more active connection with the company. They hold full-time positions in it and contribute their younger opinions to the 60-year-old cosmetic company as it seeks to rebrand itself this year with the tagline, "It's all about you".

The new campaign will focus on real and active women of all ages. In a press release, Clarins president Natalie Bader said the brand will attempt to turn away from the "out-of-reach or iconic models used by many beauty brands" to present a more approachable and diverse concept.

They are very different. Prisca is more passionate, far-sighted and strategic. Jenna, she is an artist. She sees and thinks like an artist. She is creative.

'' DR OLIVIER COURTIN-CLARINS, Prisca and Jenna's father and managing director of the Clarins group

The brand had a glamorous press junket in Kyoto last December to announce this as well as its latest whitening serum - a reformulation of its popular serum with an added fruit extract to boost its effects. The junket was also Jenna's first introduction in her new role to such a big group of media.

The girls, though not identical, always appear supremely put together and fashionable. Often seen wearing Mugler, Prisca has a sophisticated and polished style, while Jenna gives off a slightly more rock 'n' roll vibe.

Though past pictures of both Clarins heiresses have portrayed them as slightly aloof, up close, the twins smile easily and speak comfortably with those around them.

Bringing different things to the table

Their father, Dr Olivier CourtinClarins, youthful looking at 60 and managing director of the Clarins group, was also there. Jenna even shared a playful moment with her father during the gala dinner the night before the press conference. He teased her while speaking with some of the press, holding her hair in two ponytails as she made faces to look "glamorous".

Dark-haired Prisca, who is the older of the two by a minute, is more business-like. She is the serious one, talking about her role in developing the spa arm of the business, which includes advancing business partnerships for spa outlets and developing new treatments.

Her official title is spas, My Blend and retail director. My Blend is a customisable skincare product line that is not sold in Singapore.

Since her appointment, she has seen treatments become more personalised. She has also helped to increase the number of Clarins Skin Spas across the globe. In Singapore, there is a Clarins Skin Spa only at Wheelock Place, while facial treatments are available at selected Robinsons department stores. Prisca hopes that this will change as the brand grows.

"In the future, our spas have to be everywhere, not only in hotels and department stores, but also in new places where you would not expect them to be. One example is the 20-minute facial which is available at the business lounges at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport," she says.

Before she joined Clarins in 2013, she had multiple work placements at other companies, such as French magazine Marie Claire, fashion house Yves Saint Laurent and beauty brand L'Occitane, all while completing her studies. She has a master's in business and politics from Queen Mary University of London and always knew that she would join the family business.

Her blonde younger sister Jenna comes across as more vivacious. She joined the company in September last year, taking on the role of prospective and new concepts manager, and says she hopes to bring "more dynamic concepts" and a more "modern vision" to the label.

Prisca is engaged, while Jenna declines to comment on her relationship status.

During the junket in Kyoto, Jenna said that she and her sister have planned a short stopover in Tokyo before returning to Paris.

"We will visit the city and concept stores and look at the brands and digital communications they have there. Even when we are on vacation, we are also working," she says.

"I think it is important to follow the world and its trends as well as digital communications and what is growing with our times. And I think a young person who knows the brand very well is in a good position to do that."

At the same time, she adds that the core values and philosophy of her grandfather will not change.

"It is important to hold true to what we have, yet give it a new vision."

She says working for Clarins has always been in her DNA. "It was my destiny, you know?" she says. "Since we were 10-year-olds, my grandfather and, later, my father and uncle, would try out products on us. They would ask us about the textures and smells and ask us to test different application methods. We were always involved."

Their uncle is Mr Christian Courtin-Clarins, president of the company's supervisory board.

While Prisca's studies revolved mostly around business and economics, Jenna chose literature and design, studying graphic design and visual communication at Academie Charpentier in Paris.

The avid photographer also started her own design consulting agency in 2012 and was involved in the interior design of Clarins' head office in Paris.

Working with her family is a breeze, she says. "I am on the same office level as my sister, so it is good. We see each other every day and wave at each other as we rush along in our work."

Asked if she has given her sister any advice, since she has been working for longer at Clarins, Prisca says that Jenna was quite nervous knowing that she would have to spend an entire day going through interviews with multiple journalists during the press trip.

"I told her to be natural, just speak to the journalist like you would talk to anyone. I think she has been good. I am watching her."

Meanwhile, their father says that his advice to his daughters is to listen to customers and the beauty therapists at Clarins counters.

"And also, do not be arrogant," Dr Olivier Courtin-Clarins adds.

Conversations with them allow him to keep in touch with younger consumers. "I listen about new networks and new digital communications which they will teach me about," he says.

On how the twins differ, he says: "They are very different. Prisca is more passionate, far-sighted and strategic. Jenna, she is an artist. She sees and thinks like an artist. She is creative."

Indeed, there is something sweetly down-to-earth about Jenna's enthusiasm.

Asked what she would want for the brand in the decades to come, she says: "I hope that every woman will be able to afford a serum or cream or tonic oil."

As for her personal life, she hopes to "have a lot of little children and bring them to the office with me and I will test products on them like our grandfather used to do".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2016, with the headline 'Twin benefit'. Print Edition | Subscribe