Last year, Retail in Asia released the #10 Asian brands to keep an eye on in 2019 and just a few weeks ago the Top 10 under-radar beauty brands to keep an eye on in 2020.
This year, the ranking (the order is deliberate) focuses on global brands, which have registered a rapid growth in 2019 in terms of retail doors, distribution channels, global expansion, impactful collaborations; among them are some digital native brands that quickly captured a conspicuous pie of the market by conquering Millennials and GEN Z with their Instagrammable Universe.
From LA to Tokyo, from cosmetics to accessories, the list covers some key trends and new retail components to keep an eye on in 2020.
Founder and CEO Emily Weiss, featured in Forbes 30 Under 30 in Retail in 2015, started the beauty blog “Into The Gloss” in 2010 alongside her full-time job as a fashion assistant at Vogue.
“Into The Gloss” quickly gained popularity generating around 10 million page views a month with 60% of readers checking the site daily, according to Forbes.
Weiss realized that many women were not loyal to any particular brand for cosmetics and decided to create a direct-to-consumer line of beauty products. In October 2014, Weiss launched “Balm Dotcom” lip balms, “Milky Jelly” cleanser and “Cloud Paint” blush priced between US$18 to US$50.
With a retro logo and minimalist packaging concept, pastel colour; Glossier reached 2.5 million followers on Instagram alone as of today.
The company’s annual revenue doubled in 2018, surpassing US$100 million, it gained more than 1 million new customers and it launched a second brand, Glossier Play. The New York-based company now has more than 200 employees across three offices and operates in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, France, Denmark and Sweden.
In 2017, the brand started to expand in off-line retail with experimental flagship stores in New York, Los Angeles and a pop up strategy across different cities, with a first pop up in London, where in November signed a deal with Nordstrom to launch mini fragrance stores far from his initial digital only strategy.
The flagship store concept is a perfect millennial trap with floral themes and IG picture friendly corners, interactive mirrors. The interior was designed to incite maximum Instagram engagement, with eight-foot-tall tubes of Boy Brow and an undulating banquette in the shape of red lips, touch and play cabinets and apple like beauty advisers which are acting like a cool friend to advise and help on a fluid check out.
The estimated billion-dollar valuation achieved by Glossier in 2019 is one of the few female-founded and female-led “unicorns; Glossier is not e-commerce nor is it traditional physically-led retailing. It is what Weiss calls it, “emotional commerce.”
Emotional commerce is the idea that retail is still about discovery and art and Glossier for this must be under the radar of the cosmetic giant groups and will surely continue to expand through online and off-line in 2020.
Founded in 2005 by Frenchie duo Sebastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion, VEJA was one the first fully sustainable sneaker brand — its styles are crafted in Brazil from organic cotton with Amazonian wild rubber soles.
With a minimalist aesthetics and an accessible price point, VEJA appeals to a wide audience, from streetwear kids to suburban cool mums and the traditional luxury fashion trend setters. Today, VEJA sells almost two million pairs of trainers every year in the world, stocked at 2,000 retailers in 45 different countries, including luxury sites like Net-a-Porter.
In the past two years it has carved out a unique niche its signature V has made the brand recognisable, much like Adidas’ three stripes or Nike’s swoosh.
The 2 founders ethically source materials and packaging and clean up their production and distribution processes. They also work with local communities in the Amazon rain forest and always ensure that there are fair working conditions every step of the chain.
Now, after 4 years of research and development, they just launched the world’s first ecological running shoe and may become a very strong challenger for the big players who have been a bit slow to embrace sustainability.
The brand appointed Laure Browne as chief executive officer in July 2019, who has experience in companies in the sector such as Auchan Retail, Yves Saint Laurent or Marionnaud.
After almost 15 years of pretty large wholesale distribution, Veja finally opened their first store in Paris hipster 3rd Marais district. The store reflects also in the NDA of the brand and is eco-friendly in material, lighting, energy.
“Veja” means “look” in Brazilian and for sure we will be looking at it this year.
When Nike and Under Armour started to address the huge athleisure market they built sleek black leggings built to perform in rigorous environments, but Outdoor voice founder Ty Haney had another vision drastically different than what is hyped in most sport brands.
In 2014, Ty in her 25 years old, launched Outdoor Voices for the non-performance-athlete: the daily exerciser. The jogger. The hiker. The dancer. The pilates-goer. The one looking for comfort and fashion aesthetics.
Outdoor Voices has gained traction taking on an increasingly saturated “athleisure” market with giants like Lululemon Atletica and Athleta, and plenty of new niche brands in the mix which are mainly DTC brands or going through multi brands concept like Bandier in the US.
“We really wanted to create a brand that celebrates activity rather than making it competitive. We talk about our customer as someone who is active, but not defined by it. For that reason, we get people from all walks of life,” Haney says.
The brand is distinctive and offers a wide range of sizes for their clients. In November 2019, Outdoor voices opened a large flagship in New York in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, the flagship is the retailer’s second store in Manhattan, after its first store opened in Soho in 2016.
In addition to its two New York stores, Outdoor Voices operates brick-and-mortar stores in Washington, DC; Austin; Dallas; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Boston; Nashville; and Chicago. An additional store is in the works for Houston, Texas. The brand is rolling out very fast retail store but also keep large part of his turnover online.
Outdoor Voices already has an avid 400K IG fan base that rallies around its mantra, #doingthings.
To date, the company has raised nearly US$57 million from investors (including Gwyneth Paltrow) and the company has nine stores across the United States so believe they will soon look at Europe and Asia as a next step of growth.
RIMOWA has built a reputation for designing lightweight and easy to use luggage. RIMOWA’s aluminum luxury suitcases, which cost between US$447 (EU$400) and US$1117 (EU$1000), are popular with Chinese buyers who use to transport excess of luxury goods they buy when traveling abroad.
RIMOWA is known for making the first aluminum flight case in 1937 and the first lightweight polycarbonate suitcase in 2000, and had strong appeal to Asian travellers.
Founded in Cologne, Germany in 1898, it is not what we can call a new disruptive player, however, when the brand was acquired by LVMH group in 2016 for EU$640 million (US$716 million), its first acquisition in Germany, RIMOWA was completely reshaped. In less than 3 years, the LVMH power house machine made an impressive work on the branding, supply chain, distribution channels, retail concept and last but not least the product.
The new RIMOWA CEO and ultra connected, Alexandre Arnaud, 27 years old, with his new executive team opened the door constellation of brands to launch “dream team” collaborations, but also new colours and products which brought the brand to new heights with Supreme, Fendi, Alex Israel, off-white, Dior limited editions.
LVMH cleaned up also the wholesale distribution, taking back control of key markets and started to roll out new stores in key locations and malls in Asia. They have today around 150 stores worldwide and managed to close the bridge between East and West distribution with strong worldwide brand ambassadors like Roger Federer and King Lebron James in the U.S.
Some cool artist initiative seems to target young customers but Alexandre Arnault said recently it is not his strategy and it is very dangerous to only target Millennials. You have plenty examples of those brands which targeted Millennials that have been growing very fast and now are slowing down because it is not cool any more.
If you walk today through RIMOWA stores at Le Bon Marché, Rodeo Drive, Madison Avenue, Harrods or even Barneys New York, the brand’s positioning is way higher thanks to prime locations and refreshed store concept. It became a solid luxury accessory brand very desirable with plenty of rooms to grow in new categories, distribution and travel retail.
Analysts predict growth in the luxury goods industry will remain subdued in the medium term, but high-end travel is expected to continue to grow strongly driven by Chinese travellers.
“I am very happy at RIMOWA and do not ask myself this question too often because I have been here for two and a half years and we are in the middle of a transformation,” Alexandre says. “So far so good…”
GANNI is riding a wave of success. 2020 is shaping up to be potentially a mega year for the brand; the Copenhagen-based label that put Denmark’s fashion contemporary scene on the global map in recent years.
High energy is exactly what fuels the fast-paced momentum of this women brand, combined with private equity money from L Catterton behind since December 2017.
Founded in 2000 by an art connoisseur and gallery owner to design the perfect cashmere knit, GANNI has developed exponentially over recent years and became one of the fastest growing contemporary brand. Based in Copenhagen, the brand is owned and run since 2009 by husband-and-wife team creative director Ditte Reffstrup and CEO Nicolaj Reffstrup,
GANNI is represented in more than 400 of the world’s finest retailers as well as through 21 concept stores across Denmark, Norway and Sweden, UK, Germany and the U.S. The brand has significant digital exposure and a unique colourful and structured style endorsed by KOLs and embraced by a quickly growing base of loyal customers.
“With GANNI, we wanted to do something different than the typical stereotypes of scandinavian fashion, which when we started were either high-concept Scandi-style or girly-boho. Aiming to create a third alternative, we sought after a more playful and effortless approach to design, that represents how I want to dress and look. Without strict dogmas or rules, but with room for personality, contrasts and experimentation.” – Ditte Reffstrup, Creative Director at GANNI.
The GANNI mission is simple: fill a gap in the advanced contemporary market for effortless, easy-to-wear pieces that women instinctively reach for, day in, day out. The perfect mix and max wardrobe for a wide range of new clients from millennial to 45 years old women getting less loyal to traditional brands and more price sensitive as well.
In the last 12 months, They have just simultaneously opened GANNI flagship stores in New York, Los Angeles and Miami this year. More are following soon in other parts of the States – a timely expansion that feels fitting for a brand that has evolved and grown up with its legion of #GanniGirls and strong of 680K IG followers. They launched GANNI Repeat to become circular and increase the longevity of their clothes with a rental service in test currently in Denmark; pretty smart move in this new sharing economy era.
The next challenge for GANNI will be to penetrate Asian markets especially Greater China where they have no retail stores and low brand equity. It might take more time than Europe and the U.S. but they have a nice ticket to ride.
The global coffee market has enjoyed consistent growth for some time now. This is something that is expected to continue into the next decade, with revenues potentially breaking the US$500 billion mark by 2020. However, the type of coffee sought by consumers has been far less predictable, with new trends seeming to emerge every few months around the planet.
James Freeman a struggling musician with US$15,000 investment founded Blue Bottle Coffee in the early 2000s in Oakland, CA, borrowing the name from one of Europe’s first cafes, The Blue Bottle Coffee House. His intention was to roast coffee in small batches (6 lbs. per roast) to sell within 24 hours of roasting, initially as a DTC home-delivery service. Blue Bottle soon ceased deliveries and opened as a traditional cafe.
Soon the brand opened additional locations in San Francisco and elsewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, and then opened its first New York location in 2010.
In September 2017, Nestle S.A., the world’s largest food and drinks company, acquired a majority stake of the brand smelling huge potential on what is now known as third wave coffee movement led by both consumers and manufacturers to consume, enjoy, and appreciate high-quality coffee.
This movement considers coffee an artisanal food, like wine, whose consumption experience can be enhanced with greater education, connoisseurship, and sensory exploration beyond just a cup of coffee.
While the Nestle deal’s financial details were not disclosed, the Financial Times reported “Nestle is understood to be paying up to US$500 million for the 68 per cent stake in Blue Bottle Coffee.”
The chain opened its first location in Kobe, Japan in 2015 (there are now 14 Blue Bottle cafes in Japan). In May 2019, Blue Bottle Coffee opened its first location in Seoul, South Korea. The Blue Bottle Coffee, the premium coffee chain with the simple, yet stylish, blue logo that adorns more than 75 upscale cafes around the world where you can buy a roughly US$5 drip coffee made from high-quality single-origin, freshly roasted artisanal beans.
Walk into any Blue Bottle Coffee shop and it will feel familiar. Every one of their physical locations has the same clean and modern aesthetic you would expect from their brand. From the Bay Area to New York City, Tokyo to their online shop, whenever a customer interacts with Blue Bottle, they will find a consistent design experience. That experience extends to their product packaging as well.
In a world where Instagram shots of your morning cup raise the awareness of a brand, Blue Bottle built their minimalistic design aesthetic to be high-status and easily recognizable.
The chic and clean design of their cafes was a way for Blue Bottle to differentiate themselves from their competitors. In a world where Instagram shots of your morning cup raise the awareness of a brand, Blue Bottle built their graphic aesthetic to be high-status but also inviting. When a customer snaps a picture in a Blue Bottle cafe, they’re boosting their status to their followers, which translates to how the brand is perceived on social media with 365K IG followers.
Blue Bottle Coffee is set to roast more than 2.6 million pounds of coffee beans this year, 20 years ago the founder was an amateur musician roasting his own fresh beans as a hobby…their next move is to achieve “zero waste” by the end of 2020, diverting roughly 90% of waste from landfills and to enter new markets in Asia very soon.
The 31-year-old singer debuted on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women list for 2019, ahead of Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. The women on the publication’s ranking represent women in six categories: business, technology, finance, media & entertainment, politics & policy, and philanthropy.
The “Umbrella” singer enters the list for the first time at No. 61, while Beyoncé is at No. 66 and Swift comes in at No. 71. Other famous faces who are on the coveted list include Oprah Winfrey at No. 20, Queen Elizabeth II at No. 40, Ivanka Trump at No. 42 and Reese Witherspoon making her debut at No. 90. Angela Merkel, Christine Lagarde and Nancy Pelosi top the list.
It has been an amazing year for Rihanna, who struck it big with Fenty Beauty and her Savage X Fenty lingerie line. FENTY, founded in September 2017, generated an estimated $570 million in revenue last year. In May 2019, she and LVMH announced a new luxury apparel fashion house called FENTY, based in Paris. The move made history, with Rihanna becoming the first woman to create an original brand for LVMH along with being the first woman of colour leading a design house there.
The initial instalment of Fenty Beauty was released in stores and online, available in over 150 countries. It included an array of affordable products with eye catching packagings including foundations, highlighters, bronzers, blush compacts, lip glosses and blotting sheets and was praised for its diverse range for all skin colours.
Rihanna broke through the very white and mostly male ranks of the world’s largest luxury fashion group in part because it had already worked with her. Her FENTY beauty line, also part of LVMH under their Kendo cosmetic division ( known for being behind Sephora’s house brands like Marc Jacobs make up, Kate Von D), changed cosmetics when it was introduced two years ago with 40 shades of foundation.
Now CoverGirl, Maybelline, Christian Dior, and Mac Cosmetics all offer at least 40 shades, too. The celeb brand grew in sales in its first year by appealing to women who’d previously settled for makeup that did not really match their skin tone. It seems the brand also resonates with Asian young consumers with very strong initial results in Korea travel retail.
Time magazine named FENTY BEAUTY as one of “The 25 Best Inventions of 2017”, citing the breadth of its range.
Another success for LVMH group having the ability to provide speed to market with super powerful distribution platform to cosmetic brands using Sephora 2,600 stores in 34 countries worldwide to sky rocket brands. FENTY will have plenty of exposure to shine through 2020.
Alain Ducasse is not just a chef. He is a brand, an icon in international gastronomy, and the man with the most Michelin stars in the world. In his 45-year-career as a cook, chef, and entrepreneur, he has built a global food and lifestyle empire, including a restaurant inside Château de Versailles, a very exacting cookery school, a consultancy service, two country retreats in Provence, a food service, a publishing house, and an event and catering service, but it was not enough for him and 2013, he opened the first LE CHOCOLAT ALAIN DUCASSE manufacture in Paris as a stepping stone of his chocolate expansion.
In an era where global e-commerce sales are eroding market share on off-line stores and pushing the brick and mortar stores to transform in something more experimental and showcasing the roots and savoir faire of the brand Mr Ducasse was spot on.
Consumers want to understand better what is behind the price they pay for a brand.”If you want to make chocolate, we start at the beginning,” said Mr Ducasse. We decided to position ourselves as excellent craftsmen, preserving the original tastes and characteristics of each bean. From countries that barely produce enough cocoa for domestic use, we managed to import a few bags that are unique. Maybe only 5% of people will like it. But we make chocolate for lovers of intense and original flavours.
The team selected quality cocoa beans based on their purity as much as on their personality from more than 15 origins, including Peru, Sao Tomé, Madagascar, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Vietnam with high chocolate bar of 75g ranging from EU$7 (US$7.8) to EU$14 (US$15.6) and using the luxury codes in packaging and services.
Alain Ducasse is the artistic director, defining the flavours while the chocolatiers work their magic, taste and fine-tune the ingredients to create these world class chocolates that express the character of their origins, in the way that a good third wave movement cup of coffee would. After only less than 6 years, today, LE CHOCOLAT ALAIN DUCASSE has today more than 10 doors in France ( mono brand and small corners in department, 2 doors in London, 6 in Japan, 1 in Bangkok and will have more openings in Asia in 2020.
Mr Ducasse understands that product is king and to make good product you need good ingredients and vertical control of your production and consistency in your distribution add on flexibility in store sizes when you want to go global and they might expand fast if their franchise model work financially for all parties.
Now called J-Beauty, 3.0 Japanese cosmetics have made their way in the market. Whether it is native Japanese brands, Japanese-influenced brands or “Made in Japan” brands, the “J-label’, just like the French touch, is a highly attractive one – certifying both quality and technology.
Since the launch of THREE JAPAN in 2009 (under Pola Orbis Japan group), their philosophy emphasises a balance of mind, body and skin, and the balancing skincare line was developed for holistic care and clean beauty.
Three’s products comprise no less than 85% naturally derived ingredients. THREE JAPAN offers skincare and makeup products that combine organic plant-based Japanese ingredients with innovative clean beauty technology. In line with its green ethos and new trends, the brand’s products veer away from any artificial colouring, genetic modification, or parabens. THREE JAPAN also doesn’t conduct any kind of animal testing.
Over the last 10 years, building a strong presence in their local market THREE JAPAN has evolved into a lifestyle brand and currently available in several key Asian markets including Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, China (Hong Kong), Singapore, and South Korea, they opened a first store in China Beijing Daxing airport in august 2019 tapping into the huge Travel retail market.
In Japan, they also operate organic restaurants that embody the same philosophy and create a very strong community clientele, again the natural ingredients, the story telling and the clean packaging and store design standing out in a world of clinical cosmetic brands are the key to their growth and in Asia and we believe the brand has strong components with 361K followers on their IG to expand in Europe and US very soon.
JUST Water, an eco-friendly bottled water company, was founded in 2015 by Jaden Smith and his famous dad, Will Smith. The company makes its packaging from almost entirely renewable resources, including “plastic” derived from sugarcane, selling responsibly sourced water from upstate New York that is packaged in a bottle made of 82% renewable resources.
The timing could not have been better as consumers become increasingly aware of the impact of single-use plastics on the planet with huge impact of the documentary plastic ocean released in 2016. JUST Water quickly became known as a better alternative to, say, Bonaqua’s bottled water in the US and resonate with millennial and Z eco consciousness consumers.
Fast forward 5 years, today, JUST Water has three bottling facilities in the U.S., U.K., and Australia and sells its distinctive colourful mostly-paper water bottles in more than 10 countries and is currently sold in over 15,000 retail locations in North America.
JUST Water is expanding to the United Arab Emirates soon, is launching in 21,000 stores in Japan even sooner, and is sending more of its signature Tetra Top Midi cartons of water to line the shelves of Target, Publix, and CVS, as well as signing a deal to be IKEA Australia’s exclusive water provider for the next two years all of which helped the still young water company earn its new US$100 million valuation.
“We doubled our business last year, we tripled the business this year, and are on track to almost triple it again next year,” says JUST Water CEO Ira Laufer who credits the company’s exponential growth to increased consumer awareness of plastic’s environmental problem, good timing with the global push to stop plastic water bottles, and “a very aggressive growth strategy.”
We believe the fun and strong digital social presence of Jaden and his dad helped tremendously the brand to take off with a 418K followers on their IG account.
While the company has grown very rapidly and shows no signs of slowing we hope it will it stays true to Smith’s early vision of a sustainable water company that is good for the planet.
About the author
Samy Redjeb is currently Managing Director at Bluebell HK, Macau & Taiwan, Director of Owndays HK and Brunello Cucinelli Taiwan JVs.
Prior to his position as MD, he was Group Development Director at Bluebell since 2012 and his role was to profile and identify brands to set up distribution partnerships ranking from startups to mega brands in various categories in Asia.
He was instrumental in setting up new partnerships with brands such as Manolo Blahnik, Kusmi Tea, Daniel Wellington, Brunello Cucinelli, Owndays, and more. His expertise covers multi-channel distribution, branding, equity investment, leasing.