Greek Australian Napoleon Perdis and his brother Emanuel founded their internationally successful cosmetics colossus, Napoleon Perdis, in 1995. The two brothers grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney and decided to combine their hard work and passion, establishing a beauty giant in times of economic recession. They have propelled themselves not only into the top lists of Australia’s makeup brands but into America’s as well. The family owns a company worth over $80m, counting thousands of stockists, many counters and over 72 concept stores in Australia and New Zealand. The Perdis empire is even more popular in the US and as Napoleon revealed, Greece is the next stop.
Napoleon is one of the leading makeup artists in the circuit, best known for his ability to play with colour. His skills are found in high-gloss magazines, fashion runways, not to mention red carpets, since Hollywood celebrities love to get dolled-up by his magic brushes. His website is always up-to-date with girls’ eye-candy and endless inspirational beauty tips. He discovered his love for makeup at the age of 13, when he helped his mother prepare for a night out. As one of the most established professionals in his world, he launched his first makeup academy back in 1995. Napoleon Perdis is also a permanent backstage creative, for both Australia’s and New York’s fashion weeks.
Emanuel, on the other hand, has an eye for business, an unquenchable thirst for success and perfectly understands the mechanics of the fashion/beauty and celebrity industry. He has also established Alpha-Omega marketing consulting agency, again with his brother, aiming at boutique retail clients. He is an accredited counsellor plus a homeopath, managing hundreds of employees, providing them as well as his customers with empowerment techniques and effective motivational training.
Napoleon’s wife, Soula-Marie Perdis, is also of Greek descent and plays a key role in the company’s expansion. She’s the chief operations officer and has worked in finance for over 15 years. Soula-Marie has experience in every facet of the Perdis business, from brainstorming innovative new products to managing the brand’s economics and growth alongside her brother-in-law. Apart from being mother to four daughters she is Napoleon’s muse and owns the ideas behind some of Perdis’ best selling products.
NAPOLEON PERDIS Q&A
Napoleon, did you always dream of becoming a makeup artist?
From a young age, I would watch my mum lay out her cosmetics like precious jewels. Watching her apply makeup ignited my interest, and
after picking up my first makeup brush at age 13, I started experimenting with colour. I then dreamt of becoming a makeup artist and mum – who was my first muse – always encouraged and supported my love of beauty.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I live and breathe art and culture so I find they help me to stay inspired. I’m heavily influenced by music, architecture … also by my surroundings. After much time spent in Palm Springs, for example, I created my recent limited-edition Slim Aarons Collection, inspired by resort living. I’m also a huge hunter and collector of unique pieces; I’m always on the lookout for items that speak to me! From local boutiques to designer stores, I love a hidden gem. Finding the perfect ornament or gift is what drove me to open my first Life.Style store at the heritage Woollahra Post Office in 2012. My Life.Style stores currently house collections including accessories, vintage, ready-to-wear fashion, homewares, fragrance – and of course, cosmetics!
Why did you decide to use both models and everyday women in your campaigns?
I have a passion for enhancing a woman’s natural beauty so wanted to use models who portray the dynamic of my brand in visual campaigns. My customer is the everyday woman and she is my empress who I look to cater to. I’m surrounded by beautiful women; my mum, my wife Soula-Marie, and our four daughters, plus staff and customers. I see beauty everywhere and there isn’t only one ideal face shape globally. I create my products for every woman and believe a beautiful face can take many forms. Makeup can transform a woman’s face; it’s for this reason that I’m so passionate about my brand and product.
How do you manage to stay innovative and ahead of trends?
I like to stay innovative by ensuring that my products are always delivering exactly what they promise to the best of their ability. My products include quality ingredients sourced from all over the world. My Auto Pilot Hydrating Milk Cleanser includes organic Donkey Milk (rumoured to be part of Cleopatra’s beauty regimen) as the key ingredient to soothe, soften and cleanse your skin. It’s innovative and truly one-of-a-kind. I’m constantly searching for new trends and opportunities to push boundaries beyond beauty trends. I engage with key staff in brainstorms to determine what will be next for the business and our customers.
What trends would you suggest to Neos Kosmos readers for this season?
I’m loving a modern matte finish on the skin with an underlying radiance. Complement your makeup look this season with a bright, bold lip – try Mattetastic Lipstick Audrey or DéVine Goddess Lipstick Calypso.
You have created a successful international cosmetic brand, produced a reality TV show, and published a book. Where do your career expectations stop? Do they?
I’m quite proud of my new multi-level retail store on Chapel Street in the heart of South Yarra, which includes Napoleon Perdis Cosmetics, the Life.Style collection of brands, and Makeup Academy. New courses have been developed and will be offered at my academies nationally, in addition to existing courses like my one-day Personal Makeup Skills Workshop and nine-week Certificate Course. I never stop, I’m always looking at ways to stay
ahead of the curve. I will be moving to Greece in early 2015 with my wife and daughters. We will be based in Athens, which allows me to focus on growing the brand in Europe – and beyond.
How Greek do you feel? In spite of the crisis, fashion and beauty still seem to be doing very well in Greece. Would you ever consider expanding your brand to Greece?
I feel very connected to my Greek heritage – both of my parents are from Greece originally, and I speak the language fluently. I’m also Greek Orthodox, so we love tradition. My wife Soula-Marie is a wonderful cook and makes delicious fried zucchini and eggplant which is my absolute favourite. When we move to Greece, I want to infuse my Australian Greek values to my daughters and this move seemed like a great opportunity to immerse them in the Greek culture. The girls are being tutored to increase their fluency in the language and I can’t wait to show them more of Greece!
How did the idea to co-found a makeup company come to you and Emanuel and what are the advantages of working so closely with each other?
My passion for starting a makeup brand was a key factor that motivated my wife Soula-Marie, brother Emanuel, and I to launch the cosmetics brand in 1995. They were both instrumental in helping me to start the business and realise my dream. From there, I stayed incredibly ambitious and worked hard to build the business. We bring our individual dynamic talents and diversity from entrepreneurship to finance to marketing and creativity to forge a relationship that is well balanced. The advantage of working so closely with each other means that we are more efficient and effective for the benefit of the business.
EMANUEL PERDIS Q&A
Emanuel, you are the dynamic managing director and co-founder of Napoleon Perdis Cosmetics. How has the ride been so far?
The ride has been exciting, but also challenging and unpredictable. At the end of the day, the most rewarding part is succeeding as part of a family business. I am proud of what Napoleon, Soula-Marie, and I have accomplished as we near our 20th year in business this year. Of course, it takes a lot of inspiration and great knowledge in terms of makeup techniques and trends to create such an empire, but managing the financial and investment section is important.
What do you feel in hindsight was the key to your success?
The key to my success as managing director of Australasia of the Napoleon Perdis business has been a focus on priorities and values. You have got to know what is important, stick to it and not get distracted.
Where do you see the brand in the next five years?
I see the brand continuing to open in new retail environments as we look to expand further across the country. I also see the brand creating a customised retail experience for our consumers so they are always receiving the service and it is being fulfilled.
How is working with Napoleon and spending so much time together? In what ways are you two similar and/or different?
Like all sibling relationships, it has its ups and downs – far more ups than downs otherwise I wouldn’t still be here. Napoleon has a great energy and when the highs are high, they’re definitely incomparable to working for someone you don’t really know. Napoleon and I grew up together so we have a close relationship. Our parents instilled a strong work ethic in us from a very young age. We are very similar in terms of our core business values and have a high level of integrity when it comes to respecting and honouring the consumer. Both of us are also focused and strong willed. In other ways, we are different – Napoleon is probably more of a hawk and I’m more a dove, it’s as simple as that. We balance each other really well that way because there is a time for strength and a time for being supple and tactful.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own business?
The best advice I can give is to make sure that you have a plan and always love what you are doing! Keep focused and work hard to reach your goals.
Would you consider taking the brand to Greece? Even as an online version?
Of course – our mum and dad are originally from Greece. The country is experiencing hardship, no different to other Mediterranean countries, but Greece is a sophisticated, educated market. The Napoleon Perdis brand would have to work for us commercially when we decide to open there.
What goals did you have when you first established the brand? Did you see this coming?
In the initial stages, our first goal was to survive and the second was to make money and live well. At the very minimum, we wanted to live a lifestyle that we were accustomed to when we were growing up. Over the last 15 years, as the brand has grown, our goals have become loftier and more ambitious. However, you always have to watch your back no matter how resourced you are, especially with the recent downfall of food franchise Pie Face, which had multi-millionaire backers. Survival is always a question on the tip of your tongue and at the top of your mind. Whatever you do, you always have to stay afloat and keep moving.
You’re also a homeopathic counsellor. How did this come about?
I’m not currently practicing, however I do it as an amateur. It was just an investment for the future, in case one day I ever retire from cosmetics and retail. I keep my knowledge nurtured and sustained to stay up-to-date with trends, information and science.
Where does education fit into the Napoleon Perdis brand and values?
Education fits in right at the heart of the business, from our casual staff to makeup artists to key management. As Napoleon says, “education is everything!”. It permeates everything we do, say and everything we are.