From Kawaii to Sophisticated Beauty Ideals: A Case Study of Shiseid? Beauty Print Advertisements in Europe


Japanese Print Advertisements
Adverstising Discourse Construction

How to Cite

Birlea, O. “From Kawaii to Sophisticated Beauty Ideals: A Case Study of Shiseid? Beauty Print Advertisements in Europe”. Mutual Images Journal, no. 6, June 2019, pp. 53-69, doi:10.32926/2018.6.bir.kawai.


Having as a starting point one of the stereotypes of Japanese women considered a purveyor of kawaii this paper aims to explore a counterexample to Sanrio’s Hello Kitty mania offered by Shiseid? cosmetics through its overseas advertisements created during a long history on the European market. Even though the image of Japan is based mainly on the concept of kawaii Shiseid? tried at first on the local market to make a turn from that fragile, helpless and naïve perception of women to a more sophisticated one. Successful advertisements are made to answer a specific target audience’s needs, thus in order to go global there was a need to adapt typical Asian beauty standards to European ones. Shiseid?’s mission is to keep up with the times without forgetting the roots, the source of power, thus it has constantly worked in developing new strategies in order to thrive on the Western beauty market without setting aside Japanese tradition. Shiseid? corporate through its smaller brands like Majolica Majorca, Pure & Mild, Haku (meaning “white”) etc. still promote whitest white skin, a beauty ideal which prevails since the Heian period (794-1185). Considering that Shiseid? has a history of more than 50 years on the European market we propose an analysis on three beauty print advertisements elaborated during 1980-2000 in order to observe the constructed image of Japan through the imaginary of the French artist, Serge Lutens, responsible for the visual identity of the brand in Europe since 1980. The question is if it is a matter of “selling” the exotic to an unfamiliar receiver or a naive reflection of Japaneseness from a European’s perspective?

Through this case study on beauty print advertisements created for the European market after 1990 we want to mirror the image of Japan in Europe as depicted through the specter of the biggest Japanese beauty conglomerate in the world, Shiseid?.
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Copyright (c) 2019 Oana Birlea