If the first-ever Indie Beauty Expo was any indication, the Indie brand boom shows no signs of slowing down.
The sold-out show, held Aug. 27 in New York, drew more than 200 buyers and 80 beauty brands, ranging from the established — indie darlings like Tata Harper, Pour le Monde and Strange Invisible Perfumes — to the emergent — home-grown, “kitchen chemistry”-based brands such as Farmaesthetics skin care out of rural Rhode Island, Brooklyn-based fragrance company Forager Botanicals and Flynn & King, another Brooklyn-born line of farm-sourced skin care, body oils and butters. Buyers from retailers including Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and Target were on hand.
The Expo was the brainchild of Jillian Wright, a New York-based esthetician who grew frustrated over the lack of a proper showcase for her own eponymous skin care line. “Beauty is about invoking an emotion in somebody and making them feel confident and pretty,” she said. “I became frustrated because there wasn’t a [show] for my niche — luxury indie beauty. So I decided to do my own.”
When soliciting other companies to participate, Wright decided to focus on so-called “clean” beauty brands, products that don’t contain ingredients such as parabens, phthalates and formaldehyde, as well as brands large enough to work with national retailers.
That proved to be a sweet spot for many in attendance. “I walked away with six new possibilities, and that’s pretty good,” said Abby Fazio, owner of New London Pharmacy, who was on the hunt for new natural brands across all categories. “That’s what I need more of in my store,” she said. “That’s what people want.” She’d already set up a follow-up meeting with LVX, a Chicago-based line of five-free nail polishes that draws color inspiration from seasonal runway trends.
Other standout brands included:
• Phace Bioactive, a prestige antiacne line founded by a former Wall Street analyst and currently sold online on saksfifthavenue.com and in the Apothecary Shop at select Saks Fifth Avenue stores.
• Mun, a skin-care line formulated with Prickly Pear cactus oil, and inspired by a makeup artist’s trip to Morocco.
• Bottega Organica, a skin, body and hair-care company founded by a geneticist that carries hair mists designed to enhance specific hair colors.
• Juara, an established skin-care line inspired by traditional Indonesian medicinal herbs that was a hit with buyers thanks to its upscale packaging and formulations.
• Forager Botanicals, a line of natural perfumes handcrafted by Casey Coyle in her Brooklyn studio space. Using organic grain alcohol as a base, each scent is made with a combination of fifteen essential oils.
While buyers were largely optimistic on the natural beauty sector, there were still some caveats. “It makes sense because consumers are becoming more health conscious,” said Melissa D’Aquila, cosmetics buyer at Lord & Taylor. “But you can’t just have a one-off natural brand. You have to make it a destination, and customers would definitely respond to it.”