Combine beauty hackers with bombs of creativity, and you get “indie brands”. Find out how these disruptors drive the beauty market today, seriously challenging the future of legacy brands.
How does one spot an indie brand? “They are hard to miss” says Leïla Rochet, founder of trends agency Cosmetics Inspiration & Creation. “Indie brands, or independent brands, are reinventing the rules of traditional cosmetics with new textures, gestures, products, as well as brand new ways of communicating.”
AN “INDIE MOVEMENT” LED BY A SOCIETY SHIFT
Beauty and society have always worked hand in hand. “Our contemporary era has led to the upsurge of the Indies. ” explains Leïla Rochet. Looking back to history, beauty has experienced three important stages throughout the last century. Back in the 20th century, consumers sought inclusion among the elites which led to the upsurge of emblematic luxury brands such as Chanel, Dior or Estée Lauder. In the 80s, the influence fashion and supermodels caused the rise of makeup artists brands (Mac in 1984 or Bobbi Brown in the 90’s), and backstage became the epicenter of style. Today, we live in a fragmented society widely shaped by social media, the explosion of indie brands is driven by a quest for disruption (Milk Makeup, Glossier, Kate Von D or the K-star Pony Effect). “These influences have built an incredible market, more segmented, where each brand now has its legitimacy but where the rules are modified”.
“In small we trust” is the new sign of the times: consumers will more likely trust smaller brands, and have become “explorer-consumers”, eager to discover and share new talents.
THE 3 COMMANDMENTS OF INDIE BRANDS
1. DIGITAL INVADERS, THOU SHALT BE
In the US, 20 cosmetic brands capture 90% of the dollars going to brick-and-mortar retailers, and those same companies capture just 14% share online (Source Nielsen). This number that speaks volumes on how indie brands manage to shine online thanks to massive sales and branding strategies."A good example: the brand Glossier. Born from an online media, Into the Gloss, became immediately successful because it match with consumers’insights at at the right moment" deciphers Leïla Rochet.
Indie brands have found the perfect combination to target “Beauty Natives”. Indeed, 74% of Millennials and 80% of Instagram Gen Zers say social media impact their shopping habits (source: Yes Lifestyle Marketing Report). This generation uses Beauty as an empowerment tool for their personal branding.
2. BEAUTY HACKING, THOU SHALT DO
The big difference with institutional brands? Indie brands dare, and they dare to create fast, especially in niche segments without interest for legacy brands. The new rules? “There are no rules, as indie brands reinvent them” explained Jennifer Ritter*. With new gestures (the wave of stone-roll-ons or Gua Sha tools), disruptive textures, avant-garde packaging (cf flower inside), they truly innovate on the market. Their small structure also allows them to grow and innovate even faster.
Moreover, their inspiration draws directly from consumers thanks to social media, like the last collab Asos X Crayola inspired by the (unsafe) beauty hacking trend of Crayola makeup. Indeed, indie brands’ innovation power is twofold: they are trend creators when they take the Web by storm with their new products. They are also trend hunters when they transform online trends into concrete products.
Just like in fooding, Indies have taken the “mono-product” trendy path. They can create their whole brand around one concept and one product only (hello faux-freckles ink by the Insta brand Freck), hacking the traditional “complete beauty line” process (100% lipstick brand like Lipstick Lobby or 100% glitters by Lemonhead.)
3. AN AUTHENTIC CONNECTION, THOU SHALT CREATE
Whether they are LGBTQ-friendly, feminist, organic or cruelty-free, indie brands are tribe creators, with either a political claim or simply overindulging in a hedonist lifestyle. Their small size allows for more intimacy and to stand out from the big players in the industry. Transparency and authenticity are at their very core, which contributes to them creating a relationship of trust and an authentic connection with consumers, a connection amplified by the realness of their influencers-ambassadors and their hyperactive social medias.
“In a nutshell, the key to the success of Indie brands truly lies in their capacity to generate much more than products. They embody, true lifestyles, and authentic connections carried by strong personalities. Friendly brands, intimate brands, with desirable products that are an invitation to sharing,” concludes Leïla Rochet.
The Cosmetics Inspiration & Creation agency, beauty trends hunter, presented Indie Beauty: Between Fascination and Disruption during the last Makeup In Paris event ( this article is a lighter version). The team has developed several studies for clients in this field. More about this trend? Or about the agency’s quotations and latest projects? Contact us.
* Special thanks to our US partner, Jennifer Ritter who co-hosted a session with our team on Indies in the MakeUp in Los Angeles and New York and inspired our work on Indies