L’Oréal brings Notre-Dame to Canada, as a reminder it’s not just a beauty brand

L’Oréal Canada is leveraging AR technology to celebrate its 65th anniversary, by sponsoring the only Canadian stop of “Notre-Dame de Paris: the Augmented Exhibition.”

The traveling exhibit allows viewers to explore a 360-degree reconstruction of the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral before it was damaged by fire in 2019, using personalized Histopad tablets. Sponsored by L’Oreal Groupe, the exhibit’s November stop at Montreal’s Arsenal Contemporary Art follows previous stops in Paris, Berlin, Shanghai, and Washington.

The combination of art, French history and technology is a way for the beauty brand to celebrate its heritage while acquainting people with its innovative tech offerings.

“For 65 years, our business has been dedicated to one sole vocation: beauty,” said president and CEO An Verhulst-Santos in a release. “On this milestone occasion, I am focused on how our company can continue to shape a future with fair treatment, access, advancement and opportunities for all.”

Globally, the L’Oréal Groupe employs more than 4,000 scientists, and 5,900 beauty tech and data experts, although many consumers are unaware of its technology initiatives.

L’Oréal Canada’s chief communications officer, Solenne Lafeytaud, said she was surprised to discover that it was more than a cosmetics brand when she joined two years ago from software company SAP. “I think consumers are familiar with some of our brands, but as a corporation, nobody knows exactly who we are and what we do,” she said. “This exhibition for me was a great way to enhance our reputation, and maybe change the perception of L’Oreal Canada.”

While the exhibit will be open to the public from Nov. 3 to Dec 30, its opening will be preceded by an invite-only “beauty tech” pop-up on Nov. 1 and 2. All 1,500 of L’Oréal’s Canadian employees are invited, as well as influencers, journalists, members of the government, and key stakeholders including brand partners, and retailers.

The devices and apps featured at the beauty pop-up will include Lancôme’s HAPTA, which is expected to reach the Canadian market in 2024. It is an AI-powered assistive makeup device that stabilizes the hand of mobility-impaired users, enabling them to precisely apply cosmetics like lipstick and mascara. The technology is provided by Toronto-based ModiFace, an augmented reality and AI entity the L’Oréal Groupe acquired in 2018.

As a testament to Canadian tech talent, L’Oréal launched its first business data lab in Canada last year, positioning Canada as a digital hub and test market for the group at large. The lab focuses entirely on innovative solutions to consumers’ beauty concerns, like AI-powered virtual try-ons for cosmetics, colouring, and skin diagnosis developed by ModiFace.

Products that have already hit the Canadian market include L’Oréal Professionnel’s water save showerhead, which uses fragmentation technology to save up to 69% of water during usage. The brand has equipped all of its hair salons with this product.

Another technology that will be on display at the beauty tech pop-up, is the recently launched Maybelline Beauty App in Microsoft Teams, an AI-powered webcam filter that allows the user to choose from 12 makeup styles (ranging from skin tone correction, to looks featuring mascara and lipstick) during virtual meetings. It’s about helping our consumers feel confident and comfortable, said Lafeytaud.

The sentiment is echoed by Verhulst-Santos in the brand’s 65th anniversary press release. “By putting our resources into emerging technologies that democratize access to smarter and more sustainable beauty, we have an incredible opportunity to enable everyone to enjoy beauty more equitably and on their terms,” she said.

Emma Johnston-Wheeler