Shiseido was founded in 1872, four years after the Meiji Restoration. Arinobu Fukuhara, former head pharmacist to the Japanese navy, opened Japan's first private western style pharmacy on the Ginza, the cultural and fashion hub of Japan. Concerned with the poor quality of pharmaceuticals sold to the public, Arinobu opened the Shiseido Pharmacy to introduce western-style pharmaceuticals when herbal medicine was still mainstream. This avant-garde pharmacy, which was largely research and development oriented, grew to become one of Japan's oldest surviving companies.
The foundation of Shiseido laid over a century ago, its pioneering spirit that combines eastern aesthetics with western science and business technology, continues to live on today to serve as the underlying philosophy of Shiseido's corporate activities
Shiseido began forming its "chainstore" network in 1923. Storeowners were provided special training to assure that consumers across the nation could enjoy products and service of consistent high standards. The network has grown to approximately 25,000 outlets today.
On June 14th, Shiseido, formerly a limited partnership, became a joint stock company under Arinobu Fukuhara's third son, Shinzo's leadership.
Shiseido's first president, Shinzo Fukuhara graduated from Columbia University's Faculty of Medicine. During his stay in the United States, from 1908, he worked at a suburban New York drugstore and later a cosmetics factory of an American pharmaceutical manufacturer. Under his leadership, the groundwork for a distinctive Shiseido approach to business and creation was formed.
The Camellia Club, a service for loyal Shiseido customers, was founded in 1937. Coinciding with formation of the club, Shiseido issued a fashion periodical, HANATSUBAKI (Camellia). The magazine takes its roots from Japan's first cultural magazines by a cosmetics company, which were issued by Shiseido from 1924 for distribution to customers through the nationwide network of chainstores. Renamed SHISEIDO GRAPH in 1933, it became HANATSUBAKI in 1937.
HANATSUBAKI magazine offered articles on domestic and overseas fashion, travel, and the arts. Essays and commentaries by leading literary figures of the time were also featured in this magazine, which is still issued on a monthly basis by Shiseido today.
Currently, the Japanese Camellia Club has grown to boast a membership of approximately 9 million members.
In 1957, Shiseido launched sales in Taiwan with exports to Singapore and Hong Kong following closely after. In 1962, Shiseido expanded to Hawaii and in 1965, it established Shiseido Cosmetics America to commence sales in the mainland. European sales began with Italy in 1968 and officially in Oceania with New Zealand in 1971.
To support its expanding global distribution network, in 1980, Shiseido appointed French artist Serge Lutens as its international image creator.
Shiseido's history of advertising and image creation has always been one of evolution and renewal. When Shiseido sought new global imagery for its international marketing it turned in an entirely avant-garde direction, that of a collaboration with Serge Lutens who had established a reputation as a hair and makeup artist for Vogue.