Retail in Asia

In People

Slate Brands’ Judah Abraham on bringing next-generation beauty to market

Founded in New York in 2019, Gen Z and millennial-focused beauty incubator Slate Brands partners with celebrities and creators to bring next-generation brands spanning skincare, haircare, colour cosmetics, personal care, and fragrances to market.

SEE ALSO: What’s next for C-beauty brands: The challenges and opportunities

In addition to creator brands like the fragrance line Hue by Hayley, in collaboration with Asian-American singer Hayley Kiyoko, the incubator also launches in-house brands, such as Insanely Clean, a men’s skincare brand formulated in Korea and launched at the end of 2022.  Slate Brands also plans to launch a new fragrance house in the next few months.

Retail in Asia speaks with founder Judah Abraham to discuss trending products, expanding into Asia, and what makes Gen Z and millennial beauty consumers click.

RiA: What was your vision for Slate Brands, and how has that evolved since?

Judah Abraham: When I founded Slate Brands, my vision was to bring strong and innovative beauty brands that filled a gap in the market while also providing value to the consumer.

With my background in business development and in the fragrance industry, I have seen the importance of organised systems and processes in building long-term success for brands.

By managing multiple projects efficiently, we keep our team lean and deliver strong results. Over time, our vision has evolved from focusing on individual brands and creator projects to utilising data to identify and address additional needs, thereby expanding our range of services. This data-driven approach allows us to spot gaps in the market and develop innovative solutions.

RiA: Slate Brands is defined as a “digitally native beauty brand incubator”. Can you tell us what you look for in the brands and creators you work with?
Hue by Hayley, a fragrance line by Slate Brands with Asian-American singer Hayley Kiyoko. Source: Slate Brands

Abraham: As a digitally native beauty brand incubator, Slate Brands specialises in launching and operating brands primarily through digital and direct-to-consumer channels.

We recognise the tremendous value of creators, such as influencers and celebrities, and their social media platforms in the initial launch and success of a brand. Our licensing arm follows a drop model as the initial strategy and then expands through retail partnerships to achieve omnichannel success.

For our in-house and private-label brands, we take a different approach. We believe in building authentic connections with our customers through interactive online platforms. We actively involve our community in the product development process, making sure their preferences and desires shape our brands. This organic community-based strategy sets our in-house and private label brands apart, creating personalised experiences that truly resonate with our customers.

When selecting brands and creators to work with, we prioritise several key factors.

Firstly, we seek creators who are genuinely interested in building a brand and are willing to invest time and effort into the project.

Building a brand is a journey that requires consistency and dedication, and we have observed that the “initial” success of a brand is closely tied to the creator’s involvement in its development.

Scaling a brand after initial growth requires a different strategy.  Additionally, we look for an authentic fit between the creator and the brand or product. Today’s consumers are highly discerning and can easily detect inauthenticity. Hence, a strong connection and trust between the influencer and their audience are crucial.

RiA: How important is fragrance in today’s beauty landscape? Why do you think there is growing interest in this space, particularly among the Gen Z and millennial consumers that you target?

Abraham: Fragrance plays a significant role in enhancing every moment and creating lasting memories. It is very personal and adds an experiential dimension to our lives, as smell is strongly tied to our emotions and memories.

Moreover, fragrance proves to be a good fit for collaborations and partnerships, thanks to its natural affinity and perceived high value, which seamlessly aligns with authentic connections.

In recent years, we have witnessed increased growth and interest in fragrance, especially among Gen Z and millennial consumers. These consumers value personalisation and seek ways to express their individuality.

Source: Slate Brands

Fragrance wardrobes have gained popularity, allowing individuals to have a wider variety of scents and even experiment with mixing and matching to create unique combinations.

What sets Gen Z and millennial consumers apart is their confidence and openness to breaking boundaries. They actively seek new ways to reinvent themselves and find outlets for creativity. Incorporating fragrance into their everyday lives is a simple yet impactful way to elevate moods, increase creativity, and add a touch of excitement.

RiA: Can you tell us about Slate Brands’ approach to fragrance and how you are utilising digital platforms?

Abraham: Fragrance holds a central focus at Slate Brands. We have developed specific systems and processes to explore scent technology, innovation, and brand development.

Our aim is to create a space for exploration and expression, both for our customers and the brands we work with. However, being a digitally native brand, we know the challenges posed by the scent-screen barrier. How can we sell a product that can only be experienced in person and smells differently for each individual? This question drives us to continuously find innovative solutions.

To overcome this barrier, we leverage digital platforms to bridge the gap between virtual and physical experiences.

We strive to integrate our products and services seamlessly with our customer’s online journey. Through engaging storytelling, detailed product descriptions, and interactive content, we aim to convey the essence and character of each fragrance digitally.

We are also working to integrate technology and AI into our processes in the future, making it easier for customers to explore scents virtually. By implementing innovative tools such as sample kits and virtual try-on tools, we can provide customers with a more immersive and personalised fragrance experience online.

Additionally, we are also working to push a digital strategy to drive awareness through our retail partners from big box outlets to travel retail locations, which we have seen great results from awareness to sales.

SEE ALSO: “A heart-in-the-mouth moment”: How The Body Shop returned to its ethical roots

Slate Brands founder Judah Abraham. Right: Insanely Clean, a men’s skincare line formulated in Korea. Source: Slate Brands
RiA: As you work deeper into creating in-house brands, are you looking to expand further into Asia ?

Abraham: We recognise the strong presence and growth potential of the men’s skincare and fragrance industries in Asia, including Australia.

We plan to gradually increase our international presence across Asia, leveraging organic growth strategies. We are looking at various outlets with a core focus on duty-free locations and traditional prestige beauty outlet partnerships.

We are actively collecting data and conducting focus groups to better understand the specific needs and preferences of consumers in these regions, to assist us with both product offerings, messaging, and pricing efficiency. By doing so, we aim to establish a strong foothold and deliver our products and experiences to a broader audience.