To kick off HBA Global’s 20th year of being the beauty industry’s key packaging and product development source, a panel of innovators assembled on stage at the Jacob K. Javits Center Tuesday morning to participate in a panel called “The Future of Beauty.” Panelists included (featured above, from left) Sonia Kashuk, Makeup artist/entrepreneur; Deanna Kangas, President and CEO of Stila Cosmetics; Jim Markham, founder and CEO of ColorProof Evolved Color Care, and Catherine Walsh, Senior Vice President, Coty Prestige. The panel was moderated by W Magazine’s Beauty Director, Jane Larkworthy (far right). Here, their thoughts on some of beauty’s challenges and opportunities, as well as what “wows” them.

JL: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in beauty over the past five years?

I think that answer comes in three buckets. The first is that a mature brand, in order to succeed now, must gain market share. The second is innovation. If you take prestige fragrance, which is a mature category, we saw innovation in terms of bringing new players, like Jimmy Choo and Bottega Veneta, into the fold. These are premium designers new to the fragrance world. The third is the evolution of flankers. Flankers are now launched, with new bottles, new fragrance, new media. Marc Jacobs’ Daisy Eau So Fresh is a great example. So is Eternity Aqua for Men. Young customers see a flanker as a new launch; she may not have known the original, and the flanker is perceived as new.

DK: In 2009 and 2010 we saw a big flawless face turnaround. Tinted moisturizers, ones that multi-tasked and had different ingredients that did more things became key.

SK: Over the last five years there has been huge change in the mass market. Consumers have guided this because they are shopping wherever they find value. There is a big blurring between mass and prestige. That is the biggest game changer.

JM: It’s required that products be packaged better and have better ingredients, better components, more multitasking abilities. My shampoo is $30 for 10-oz but it’s flying off of shelves because it does offer something special.

JL: I think one big difference now is instant feedback.

SK: Instant feedback is a big change but so is the fact that I now have a voice. It used to be that I was just putting product on the shelf. Now I have a voice and it’s huge. I’m thankful every day to be able to touch people because there are no sales people to help with the selection and explanation of product. As for feedback, sometimes you don’t get the reaction you want. But sometimes you do. There’s always some positive and negative.

DK: Instant feedback has really helped indie brands. And there are bloggers who communicate directly to the consumer. They get the brand message out there.

JL: Stila was one of the first indie darlings. Looking back, 20 years later, was the Lauder acquisition maybe not the goal you ultimately wanted, to be owned by a large beauty company?

DK: It was 1999 when we were bought by Estée Lauder and shortly after that they bought I think Leonard Lauder was a visionary and had a lot of plans but they weren’t executed: in 2001-2002 it was a horrible economic time and things got put on hold. So I think it was more about timing for Stila versus the acquisition. Then Sun Capital bought us from Lauder. A private equity firm loves a beauty company but running a beauty business is more challenging than it looks. It’s passion and energy, it’s a lot of things that you can’t look at a spreadsheet and say this is good and this is bad. They wanted it for the sexiness it added to their portfolio. Now our partners [Patriarch Partners, LLC] let Stila be Stila. There’s a time again for opportunity, for brands to reach out to consumers.

JL: What’s key to an indie surviving in today’s marketplace?

JM: You have to have something different and special. You have to have a better mousetrap.

SK: The three things indies need to survive today are a point of difference, funding and a distribution plan.

JL: How do you maintain the excitement in celebrity scents?

CW: It’s not that difficult, the consumer is there. The celebrity fragrance category is 11 years old. And everyone has been saying it won’t last. And last year Justin Beiber had a massively successful launch. And Taylor Swift had a massively successful launch. And we launched Madonna. She has 8.8 million fans she can talk to directly. The most difficult thing—and we didn’t know this then, there wasn’t a category, we educated ourselves—is that the first launch is the one that has to work. If the first one doesn’t work then the second one doesn’t work and there’s a lot of diminishing return. Glow is a great example. It launched 10 years ago and it was a great success and now we have Glowing, which we launched exclusively in Kohl’s and it has this great technology where the bottle lights up when you spray it. But the light only stays on for 12 seconds and people are obsessed with it so they keep spraying and the use up it really fast and they use twice as much.

JL: What was the latest product that wowed you?

SK: I’d have to say the most exciting for me, and I’m a little biased, is the Oribe brand. The products are incredible and the packaging is the first from a hair care brand that really made it cosmetic and beautiful. Everything in hair care is kind of expected and it took the unexpected route. I was jealous.

JM: I have to toot my own horn and say that when we designed the shampoo for ColorProof…we really created the next generation of PureOlogy. It had new surfactants, new proteins, a very luxurious lather.

DK: Stila’s Beauty Balm. We launched it in Ulta exclusively, it is packaged simply in a silver tube, and it makes you glow. It went to number one. It pleases the consumer with its one-shade-fits-all proposition and it delivered value.

CW: Salon Hansen’s Salon Effects is a phenomenal product. It wowed me. The creativity! It’s not just a color.