Dayoung Bak, a 24-year-old, tattoo-dappled, platinum blonde makeup artist, can't believe Tony Moly is in Sephora. "This is the cheapest brand in Korea," Bak tells me in a cafe near Hongdae, a hip neighborhood in Seoul. Even though Bak doesn't like to spend too much money on her skin care, she still steers clear of Tony Moly.
Last week, Tracy Robey published an article on Racked titled "What Kim Jong-Un Has to Do With Your Skincare." Quick self-plug but she quotes me a few times as she dissects the geopolitics of China, North Korea and South Korea and how that impacts K-Beauty.
One statement I found super interesting was by professor Hannah Jun of Ewha University.
"The consensus is that the THAAD row wasn’t an outright disaster for K-beauty, but it hampered its runaway success in China, potentially creating space for homegrown Chinese beauty brands. While she says that the K-beauty industry wasn’t an intended direct target of China’s THAAD retaliation, Jun thinks “this vacuum may be a convenient time” for China “to test out the market” for its own cultural products inspired by the success of Hallyu, including beauty. It wouldn’t be surprising if we started seeing serious coverage of C-beauty in the coming years as China rebrands “Made in China” as a symbol of modern Asian cool. If that seems far-fetched, keep in mind that parts of Seoul’s Gangnam were farmland until the 1980s."Read More
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking on the topic mentioned in the title of this post at In-Cosmetic North America.
I've had a lot of requests for my presentation so I'm publishing it on my site for my readers to access.
South Korea's beauty products are caught in the crossfire of the battle for who will dominate East Asia. First up, there's Kim Jong-un, leader of North Korea, currently owner of a stash of worryingly functional nuclear weapons.
About two weeks ago, news broke that Amorepacific USA got a new leader in Jessica Hanson, who was hired as President and General Manager of US operations. As with any leadership change, I anticipate she will try to make her mark on the business as she navigates the choppy waters of retail and department store distribution and rides the wave of the K-Beauty trend in the US. Here are 4 things that I think she should do in order to take Amorepacific to the next level.Read More
Back in April, I wrote a post on the definition of K-Beauty. So many brands were jumping on the bandwagon calling their products "K-Beauty" and retailers were adding a lot of non-Korean brands into their K-Beauty section. Sephora was one of them and I called them out for having Japanese brands like boscia and Tatcha in their K-Beauty section. This post resonated with readers and a lot of people agreed with the dilution of what it meant to be K-Beauty.Read More
Last week news broke that Dutch conglomerate Unilever bought Carver Korea for $2.7B. Carver Korea is a Korean cosmetics company best known for the brand A.H.C. (Aesthetic Hydration Cosmetics). Most of us in the States won't recognize it because its biggest market is China with much less awareness and presence in the US.
Carver Korea was founded in 1999 as a cosmetics supplier to professional salons and they now sell over 1,000 different beauty products in Korea, China, and the US, with AHC as their flagship brand.
A little over a year ago, in July 2016, Goldman Sachs and Bain Capital announced they would buy a majority stake in Carver Korea for $500MM which accounted for about 60%. This would value Carver at around $833MM.
Fast forward one year later, and Goldman Sachs and Bain Capital sold Carver Korea to Unilever for 3x (3x!!!) the value. In one year!Read More
The title of this post is a question I've gotten a few times so here are a few reasons why I think Innisfree will do well in the US market.
THEY HAVE A STRONG AND COHESIVE BRAND STORY
Say what you will about whether or not Innisfree actually lives up to their brand story with their formulations, but their brand story is strong and cohesive. Touted as the first natural Korean beauty brand in Korea, Innisfree emphasizes ingredients of the earth, sourced from Jeju Island (described as the Hawaii of Korea) and their product lineup boasts things like Jeju volcanic clay, green tea, lava seawater and the like.Read More
To be honest, it's been a slow news cycle in the K-Beauty world. Perhaps it's because it's summer but there hasn't been much new news these days. So, I thought I would write a kind of state of the union in K-Beauty as I see it in the US.
B2C is about the 3 Horseman
The past few years have been witness to a deluge of new direct-to-consumer e-Commerce sites offering Korean beauty products but it's really all about the 3 Horseman.
Soko Glam, Peach & Lily, and Glow Recipe are really the three to watch and the ones that have made the most meaningful inroads in the US market.Read More
Back in April, when CVS announced that it would be launching an assortment of Korean beauty brands in 2,000 of its stores and online, a bunch of stories came out proclaiming that yes, finally! K-beauty is not just a fad and it is definitely here to stay.