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Vegan, Cruelty-Free Beauty Brand From Dubai Bows in U.S.

Growing acceptance of K-beauty and other global cosmetics trends encouraged Mehrbano Sethi to seek U.S. distribution.

Dubai is emerging as a major market for beauty innovations coming to the U.S. The latest to come ashore is a fast-growing vegan brand with value pricing.

Luscious was developed 10 years ago by Founder Mehrbano Sethi as a cruelty-free, vegan and long-lasting collection highlighted by vibrant colors. Prices range from $8 for a brow pencil to $24 for a contour kit. Although developed in Dubai with formulas to withstand any climate, the inspiration for the line came while Sethi was a student in the U.S. The brand is now sold in six markets including the U.S., Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

“I’ve had my eye on the North American market for some time, considering the idea for my brand stems from my time as a student in Boston,” Sethi explained. When she couldn’t find shades to suit her South Asian complexion at drugstores, she set out to create a richly pigmented line that could be sold at an affordable price.

New Vegan Beauty at a Value
Mehrbano Sethi

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“Our pricing philosophy is also an important asset. While not cheap, our products are extremely affordable taking into consideration our cruelty-free, vegan and paraben-free claims as well as eye-catching packaging and innovative product concepts,” Sethi said. She added the markets where Luscious has grown are very price-sensitive. “A $9 lipstick is expected to perform and feel like a $30 lipstick without cutting any slack for the lower price point,” she added.

Sethi also decided to forge into the U.S. as the market opens up to global brands. “The recent rise of independent beauty brands including K-beauty brands, and the way American customers are engaging with them, was a sign that the time is right to introduce Luscious Cosmetics to a new audience that is open to discovering new products and brand stories,” she said.

Luscious, by design, will debut online only from the company’s web site. “We want to find our customers, create a connection with them and grow our presence before partnering with other online retailers, followed by brick-and-mortar retail,” she said.  “Another factor that gives me pause before seeking retail partners is the rapid launch and disappearance of in-house beauty brands that is taking place in a bid to cash in on what is perceived as the beauty ‘bubble.’ I believe we need to establish credibility before we open more sales channels,” she explained.

New Vegan Beauty at a Value
Camera Powder

That said, she does have an eye on pop-up stores and visibility at makeup trade shows along with influencer collaborations.

Her vegan positioning is key as that demand expands in the U.S. “The vegan aspect of our products came through in the early development stage when I was creating our first formulas. Our target customers in South Asia and the Middle East had a pronounced sensitivity to animal-derived ingredients whether it was because they wanted halal products or because they were vegetarian,” she said.

It was also a personal motivation, but it made product development a challenge. “I had to dodge many ingredients, including beeswax — which most manufacturers don’t even consider as a non-vegan ingredient — carmine and lanolin, leading to unusually long development times for new product formulas,” Sethi noted. “Being vegan paid off in the long run as more and more customers demand it.”

Changes in the beauty business also paved the way for Luscious. “When I was researching the possibility of starting a beauty brand almost straight out of college in 2004, contract manufacturing was not easy for small, independent businesses — unlike the extreme ease today of creating an eponymous or private beauty brand,” she said. The rise of small quantity fillers and private labeling options has eased the process.