Christine Dagousset, Chanel’s executive vice president of fragrance and beauty, says such tales of woe are never far from her mind when she’s making the decision to eliminate a makeup shade—though she still manages to put the kibosh on about 40 hues every year. “We anticipate [upset customers], so we always come up with a new shade to replace colors that aren’t fashionable anymore and communicate the suggested replacement to beauty counters so they can advise their customers,” she says. Discontinued products are turned over to charitable organizations like Look Good...Feel Better and to the company store, where only Chanel employees can buy them. “If they’re not sold there, then they’re destroyed,” says Dagousset.
The mere thought of the products they’re so desperate to get their hands on—or get on their hands, in Gregory’s case—being thrown in the trash is enough to make some devotees of the discontinued tear up. Take Mary Bonanno, a home-product design executive from Manhattan. Her drugstore love, Coty Stop It! Anti-Feathering Stick, a lipstick primer, used to be available for the price of a venti mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks—until 2004, when Coty stopped manufacturing cosmetics. “There was never bleeding or smudging, and your lips would never dry out,” Bonanno recalls. “I’ve tried to find a replacement, oblivious to price points, but nothing compares to that thin white tube with the little red stop sign that was always by my side.”
Indeed, an exclusive price and glitzy packaging are not prerequisites for product obsession. Socialite Helen Schifter bought four dozen bottles of Vidal Sassoon’s Moisture Rich shampoo and conditioner almost a decade ago, after she noticed them dwindling from shelves. She stores the booty at her Sagaponack, New York, country house, transporting a bottle to Manhattan when needed. “Sometimes they get warped or distressed, maybe from age, and the products need to be ‘rebooted’ into new containers,” she says. “It’s crazy, but the formula still rocks.” Because she has only one bottle left, Schifter saves her stash for special occasions. “I ration it out depending on the weather,” she explains. “If it’s a very humid day and I’m going to wear my hair straight, I’ll use it, but I’ll pump sparingly.”
And sparingly is also the name of the game for hairstylist David Evangelista when it comes to L’Oréal Professionnel Tecni.art hairspray, which was discontinued in the U.S. more than five years ago. He keeps his last two canisters under lock and key in the salon, reserving them for celebrity clients like Eva Longoria Parker. “I’ll tell my assistant, ‘Go get the can,’” he says. “You can’t show it to anyone because they’ll start running to your station.” Though he’s achieved a similar result with L’Oréal Professionnel Texture Expert Infinium 4, he points out “bigger and better isn’t always the best. Look at Hellmann’s mayonnaise! It’s been the same for how many years? And it’s still great.”