In indie beauty, specialness still reins supreme.

“Anything that’s new and special and unique is always what I’ve wanted to have,” said Jessica Richards, Shen Beauty founder and head of beauty for Free People.

Richards was joined by Kerrilynn Pamer and Cindy DiPrima, the cofounders of Cap Beauty; Blair Lawson, the head merchant at Goop, and Laura Townsend, senior marketing director of the detox market, on a panel at Day Zero of the Indie Beauty Expo at the Dream Hotel in New York on Tuesday.

The other retailers, talking about how they select the brands they stock, echoed Richards’ sentiment.

Cap Beauty looks for “things you can find easily online but not as easily in person,” DiPrima said. While Goop aims to help their customer find new things. “We’re very focused on ingredients,” Lawson said. “Indie brands are the ones who have the cleaner formulations….it’s also about discovery.”

Product-wise, the group is on the hunt for makeup for darker skin tones, serums and creams, and is overwhelmed by the volume of facial and body oils they are shown.

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The panelists also stressed the importance of sending full-sized samples, brand founders having personal relationships with stores, supplying free testers once the product is stocked, providing staff with free product and great packaging.

“If it’s ugly, it’s not going to sit pretty on the shelf,” Richards said.

When it comes to branding, several experts on a different panel, suggested the do-it-yourself method works better in indie beauty.

“Branding agencies and graphic design agencies and all these different agencies are a great way to waste money,” said Brook Taylor, founder of Pacifica. “Your in-house team and your own ideas and being really authentic to your vision is what you should do to save money, really, to save money and to create something that’s really…interesting. What I’ve found with agencies…they have ideas, but they’re like what’s on trend, what’s already happening. This movement is started by people with unique ideas and unique points of view.”

“If you can do it in-house, my advice is to do it in-house,” added Priscilla Tsai, chief executive officer of Cocokind.

Taylor and Tsai spoke on a panel with Yael Alkalay, founder of Red Flower, and Marium Morariu, cofounder at Tracie Martyn Beauty.

“You have to be authentic,” Morariu said. “If you try to copy someone else, first of all, you’re behind, and they’re ahead of you. You don’t really have your own DNA in the brand so you’re trying to be someone else; you’re going to have listen then to this agency and that agency and this adviser and that adviser — you’re wasting all this time. You have to find your passion, you have to find your way. It doesn’t matter if it’s on trend or not. You’re creating the trend. If you want to be ahead of the game, you have to create the trend, not try to follow it.”

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