The weeks leading to Diwali, the Festival of Lights that started on Nov. 4, commences a time of celebration in India, along with the wedding season. For beauty, it is a key period, as retailers kick off a key push around surging trends and gifting opportunities.
This year, in particular, consumers seem ready to let loose. The denial and restraint of the past 18 months appears to have unleashed an extravaganza of color, transforming the light pinks and nudes of Zoom calls and Whatsapp meetings into deeper reds, maroons and browns. The sparkle of the silks and embroidered gold and silver threads in Indian wear for festivities and weddings are being matched in equal drama makeup-wise, sparkling eyeshadow, glossier lips for evening wear and matte long-wearing lip colors for the day abundant despite the mandatory masks.
Many of the season’s biggest beauty trends were seen on the runways of FDCI x Lakme Fashion week in October and are now being translated for the real world: eclectic bindis with dramatic lips as in designer Tarun Tahiliani’s collection, bold berry lips from Lakmé Absolute Precision Lip Paints in Gaurav Gupta’s styles, dual-toned, graphic eyeliner with triple wings as at Payal Jain and dewy, glowing skin from designer JJ Valaya.
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“It’s about radiance and illumination, just like the festive season’’ said Sonic Sarwate, global senior makeup artist for MAC Cosmetics. MAC is one of the most popular brands in India, and now has more than 80 stores across the country. “People are back to full-on makeup after the long COVID-19 break, and want more individuality and exclusivity. They are open to a lot of experimentation.
As in other parts of the world, skin care and foundation are booming in India, with consumers looking for radiant, glowy skin. Bestsellers at MAC right now include Fix Plus Hydrating Spray and Strobe Cream.
More dramatic color trends are also emerging for the season. Sarwate reports that golds, rusts and deeper reds are performing well in eye palettes, and glitter and shimmer widespread. “The norm has changed: what was special occasion wear has become everyday,” he said, observing that Indian women still love to wear lipsticks and that full eyebrows are in.
The pandemic has ushered in more than just a return to color. Direct-to-consumer brands are also booming. While the traditional Indian beauty market has historically been based on physical retail, digital-first brands have been multiplying, thanks to venture capital funding. An estimated 80 d-to-c brands like Skincraft, Plum, Mamaearth and Wowscience have launched, ranging in price point and offering a wide variety of gifting options, as well as discounts and free samples with purchase, which are luring customers.
Ingredient stories are also defining many of these brands which have been using their funds for quicker expansion, particularly in smaller cities across India. Brands like Juicy Chemistry, which received a $6.3 million investment from European company Verlinvest for its 100 percent organic skin care products certified by Ecocert, have captured the consumer interest with its catchy #beautywithawhy campaign.
Sugar Cosmetics, which received an investment of $21 million earlier this year, doubled its value over two years to an approximate $100 million in February, thanks to popular products like its Smudge Me Not Liquid Lipstick minis for 799 rupees (or about $10.65) and Matte As Hell crayon lipsticks for the same price.
Other brands like Bare Anatomy, which has raised more than a million dollars in the last two years, are winning consumer trust with a focus on clean beauty. “This is an upcoming trend in India,” says Vimal Bhola, co-founder of Bare Anatomy. “Consumers are changing. They want to know what goes on their skin. After COVID, they want to know that what the ingredients are, about the efficacy and how products are made. They’re more concerned about safety, and are willing to experiment to find it,” he said.