The fashion-conscious princess had toiletries, including makeup, made specifically for her using the natural ingredients found around the Villa Borghese in Rome, where the family lived. She wanted to create a line of lipsticks in a wider variety of shades than what was available at the time, and once Pope Pius XII gave the cosmetics his blessing, pushed forward with the idea.
In 1956, Italian-American businessman Gino DiGrandi introduced Borghese to cosmetics magnate, Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon. The two struck up a lifelong friendship, as he helped her to create her cosmetics line, and bought it as a subsidiary of the company.
Revlon, a mainstay brand in department stores at the time, was losing market share to newcomer Estee Lauder, whose higher price points and limited distribution strategy edged out the more established brands. Most of the competition took notice, and countered with department store-exclusive brands: Coty launched Dina Merrill; Faberge had Juliette Marglen; Charles of the Ritz purchased the already established Alexandra de Markoff and Lanvin; Max Factor's contribution was called Geminesse; and, of course, Revlon's contribution was Princess Marcella Borghese. While most of these names invoked status and prestige, Revlon's was the only one associated with legitimate royalty.
One of Borghese's first collections included brightly colored lipsticks and nail colors to match the vivid colors of her fashion designer friend, Emilio Pucci's knitwear. Her Montecatini Cosmetic line, named after her favorite spa, (and an ancient town in Tuscany), used the healing properties of the Terme di Montecatini mud and the mineral waters. The innovative Princess was one of the first people to create a skincare line which was based on the natural therapies of a spa.
Although Borghese (as the line came to be known as) was the most enduring and successful of the aforementioned brands, it did not significantly improve Revlon's market share in the department store sector, and remained a niche brand. However, the Revlon brand, as well as Revlon's beauty portfolio, was profitable enough to ensure Borghese's place in upper end stores.
After Charles Revson's death in 1975, Revlon president Michel Berjerac pulled the Revlon brand out of department store distribution altogether, citing rising costs, changing consumer tastes, a corporate shift from cosmetics to consumer goods at Revlon, and the progressively shrinking significance of department stores. Without Revlon's millions of dollars in sales, Borghese (and the entire Revlon prestige portfolio) became very small, insignificant players in an arena that would be dominated by Cosmair (later L'Oréal) and Estee Lauder. Borghese's presence begain to weaken, as retailers consolidated floor space to the more profitable brands. Revlon's entire prestige portfolio would stagnate for the next several years, trailing along as rivals ate away at their increasingly shrinking market share. Ownership of Revlon changed in 1985 (in the infamous takeover by Ronald Perelman's Pantry Pride), and new ownership sold off Revlon's non-cosmetics businesses to renew its focus on beauty. Borghese was finally infused with marketing and research & development capital, but massive debt and a strategy to grow through acquisitions cut Borghese's turnaround short. Efforts to consolidate and economize the underperforming brands backfired, and increasing turnover in management left Borghese's future in limbo.
Although the prestige portfolio, under Ronald Perelman's leadership, would grow to include many other high-end brands, by 1996 Revlon sold Borghese to Saudi investors. Halston-Borghese, as it became known, staggered for several years until the investors group gave up and sold Borghese to American Georgette Mosbacher, who had success with the La Prairie brand in the early 1990s. Her strategies to re-establish Borghese as a leader in the prestige category did prove effective. The line is exclusive to Bloomingdale's and Lord and Taylor department stores. In 2006, Mosbacher launched a version of Borghese into Costco called Kirkland Signature by Borghese. These products pay homage to the classic department store Borghese line and are a much lower price point. In 2008 Borghese launched a nail care line into Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Longs and Ulta stores. Plans to introduce the line into Nordstrom's by 2010 are in the works.
The Costco launch proved very profitable for Borghese and sales for the department store line have risen dramatically. The company's future is no longer in limbo as Georgette Mosbacher has revitalized the brand. She has stated she has no plans to sell the company and is committed to its continued success. She owns the majority of the company along with a silent partner, who is rumored to be a member of the Borghese family.
Marcella Borghese remained involved in the line named after her until her death in 2002 in her home in Montreux, Switzerland. She was 90 years old, and was buried in the family crypt at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.