Revlon files for bankruptcy: The rise and fall of a beauty giant

By Sarah Parsons 17-Jun-2022

Once a jewel in the beauty industry, the owner of Elizabeth Arden failed to keep up with agile D2C players and relied for too long on outdated celebrity strategies

Revlon relying too much on celebrity faces contributed to its downfall

Revlon relying too much on celebrity faces contributed to its downfall

Revlon has filed for bankruptcy.

After years of battling increasing competition from agile D2C competitors, supply chains issues and a seismic consumer shift from make-up to skin care (and back again), the 90-year-old beauty staple listed assets and liabilities between US$1bn and $10bn on Wednesday.

The announcement comes after the Wall Street Journal reported that Revlon had begun talks with lenders to discuss its hefty debts ahead of a potential administration.

Revlon previously escaped bankruptcy in 2020 after successfully tendering $236m of bondholder notes, but supply chain issues and inflation have proved too much to bear.

Despite a recent welcome uplift in sales, the company has struggled for years with annual sales tumbling from $2.6bn at its peak in 2017 to $1.9bn in 2020.

"Sure, inflation might have a lot to do with Revlon's bankruptcy, but if their brands were desired and relevant for today, they would never have been in such hot water," says Zara Ineson, Executive Creative Director of marketing agency ODD.


But the legacy brand was once a pioneer in the industry. The epitome of 'all American' style, Revlon's celebrity ambassador strategy offered consumer aspiration at drugstore prices.

In its 1970s golden era, Revlon's Charlie fragrance became a global bestseller and Revlon became the first beauty brand to use an African American model in its advertising.

Elizabeth Arden, meanwhile, which was acquired by Revlon in 2016, helped shape the modern beauty industry.

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Arden pioneered ...

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