[12 MINUTE READ]
Happy Friday everyone! What a week it’s been eh? This week with more and more lockdown restrictions coming into force all over the country, we are going to be spending more time indoors again. And if you’re anything like us, more time indoors means more time that we get to spend on our skincare routines...
This week we caught up with Namrata Nayyar-Kamdar, the founder and CEO of Plenaire Skincare. Plenaire Skincare is a brand that is all about celebrating your skin chemistry and providing gentle and effective essentials for everyone. Basically, inclusive, sustainable and championing every skin’s uniqueness… all the values that we love! So grab your morning cup of joe and let’s get into it...
Morning Namrata. Thanks for joining us. Could you start by telling me a bit about your childhood and how you feel that has influenced you today?
I was born in a small town in India and moved to the United States – Falls Church Virginia when I was two, where I spent my formative years as my father worked as an Economist for the World Bank.
I then moved to India when I was eleven, and back to the United States at 23 to get my MBA, specialising in Marketing and Consumer Behaviour. I worked in the US for Coca Cola, Frito Lay. In India I worked for Hindustan Lever across their local portfolio: Feminine Care, Color Cosmetics, Skincare and Haircare. In 2007, I was moved to London to work at Unilever’s global HQ and lead one of their Global Brand Development teams, working on product innovation and brand management.
"Getting back to my desk never interested me as much as sitting down with a consumer and asking her to show me how she looked after her skin."
Wow, you certainly moved around alot! How did your career progress after that?
During the last phase of my career at Unilever, I launched the Baby Care extension of the 7 Billion Euro Dove brand in Latin America, which is where I really got interested in clean formulations and how it relates to beauty, motherhood and also caring for younger people’s skin with cleaner ingredients.
Four years later, my career took me to the Nordics where I worked for the largest beauty brand in Finland. They formulated their products with local Finnish water and I had the privilege of working alongside some truly amazing cosmetic scientists. Here, I discovered the trade-off between pricepoint and using high-quality plants/raw materials.
That sounds like the perfect background for starting up your own skincare company. So when did you decide to start up Plenaire Skincare and why?
During my late thirties, I experienced stress-related burnout and a bout of postnatal depression, so I took time off to work on myself. My own subsequent journey with mental health and what I learned during recovery, coupled with the desire to lead a more balanced life was the impetus for me to create Plenaire Skincare.
Over my 18-year career in marketing, culture, and what that means for business has always fascinated me. Asia, Brazil, China, Africa, and the Middle East were markets I visited frequently, but what made these trips attractive were always the people, their routines and the products they used; including the cultural aspects that defined their everyday lives. Getting back to my desk never interested me as much as sitting down with a consumer and asking her to show me how she looked after her skin, whether that was with kitchen ingredients (in Asia) or new mothers in the UK explaining how they blended aromatherapy oils safely in pregnancy. Working exclusively on female-centred brands really set the stage for creating my own beauty business.
Then, I really started to think differently about the impact of beauty when I fell pregnant with my daughter Tara. I had been diagnosed with Endocrine disorder early on and regularly suffered from forgetfulness, tiredness, unexplained exhaustion and extremely dry skin and hair. Five years later, when I was pregnant with my son, my father was diagnosed with throat Cancer. More than a few friends had been affected by this disease. Suddenly, it didn’t seem like Cancer was a rarity anymore; it was happening to a lot of people in my age group. I started to make the connection between what we put into our bodies, and how it affects us long term.
Thanks for sharing that! It’s so moving to hear. With health and wellbeing in mind, do you think that consumers’ mentalities have changed in relation to the products and brands they are buying into?
Definitely! We could see that younger consumers were researching ingredients and brands ahead of making purchase decisions, as well as educating others via their own social platforms on how to make better product decisions too.
Despite the thousands of products and brands being launched, we came to the conclusion that there was a gap in the market which established skincare brands were not addressing. There just wasn't anything for a younger demographic, which was transparent about sustainability and ingredients, and was reasonably priced. These ingredients do tend to be more expensive, and it seemed to me as if clean beauty brands were being marketed towards a more privileged consumer, perhaps in her 40's, who could afford to pay a premium price point. At the other end of the spectrum, was a highly knowledgeable and sceptical younger consumer that rejected advertising in favour of doing her own research.
We have definitely noticed that engaged, younger demographic increase too. Those are our readers! Can you talk a little bit about the ingredients you use and why they are important?
We’re focused on our ingredients as well as what’s not in our products. Firstly, we’re plant-based because many of our younger consumers are living a more plant-based lifestyle nowadays. We obviously don’t formulate with any typical controversial ingredients like mineral oil, silicones and sulphates because we want to provide a more delicate and luxe consumer experience. This, in my opinion, cannot be achieved through typical mass raw materials.
The young people that we spoke to cared a lot about the environment and were living a more plant-based life, so we wanted to support that through our products. That being said, we’re not trying to put people in boxes; vegan or non-vegan, etc. We want to stay open-minded and we’re more likely to ask a question than to ever push an agenda.
Plenaire Skincare definitely gives off that energy as a brand! What strategies have been key to the success of Plenaire Skincare? What rules do you live by?
As an entrepreneur keeping an open mind is pivotal! You never know where one path might lead you and you can only really decide whether something is workable after trying it out. I’ve really learned that it’s important to be bullish and take measured risks; when it feels wrong you can go back and undo it, but sometimes you won’t know or have the benefit of the learning until you try it out first! Secondly, not having any set expectations of anything is very valuable and never saying yes to anything unless you really mean it. Lastly, trusting your intuition about things is crucial!
I completely agree with you! So, what is your favorite thing about having started Plenaire Skincare?
I love every aspect of Plenaire Skincare from the crackle of the brown tissue paper when I pack an order, to pitching our business to a beautiful new retailer. The design process is also amazing. I love really great design so when I find that symbolism and match it with beauty and symmetry, it is so rewarding!
And how does sustainability factor into your business?
Very early on in our research, we saw that attitudes towards consumption were shifting dramatically. Gen Z consumers were actively seeking ways to minimise their own (and their family’s) waste. These consumers were even educating the older generations and influencing their peers to take a more thoughtful, conscious approach to consumption. With Plenaire Skincare, we sought to recognise these ideas through our products. We began with the premise that every Plenaire Skincare product had to meet multiple needs at once and provide guidance on how to take a more circular approach to skincare. That was the motivating factor behind encouraging our consumers to upcycle our Violet Paste jars and use them again.
"We specifically chose rosewater not just for its gentle, toning properties, but because it is often used as a mood enhancer. It rids you of feelings of anxiety and promotes emotional well-being, thereby making you feel more relaxed."
That is such a brilliant idea! What inspires you?
I feel a great sense of hope when I look out across our social media platforms and what is happening in the industry today. I think that the consumer will continue to hold brands and the industry accountable for issues relating to sustainability and the environment. A typical Plenaire Skincare consumer questions norms and believes in their ability to make a real impact on changing the way that we live. I am proud of them – and inspired by them every day.
What a wonderful relationship you have with the Plenaire Skincare consumers! Right, changing lanes a little, what would be your absolute favourite product that you have ever created?
It’s tricky to pick just one. For us, it was important that each product become a pleasurable and beautiful sensory experience for the consumer; from the fragrance to the softness of the mono-material tube and the gentle, loving message. For something to become a daily ritual, it should spark joy and make you feel better.
This is why I love the Plenaire Rose Jelly Gentle Makeup Remover. In this product, we sought the use of a technology that gently dissolves makeup on contact with a few drops of water. It even dissolves stubborn eye makeup, so that you can treat your skin with gentle kindness. The effects of massaging the Plenaire Rose Jelly Gentle Makeup Remover into your skin and wiping away with a warm flannel can have positive effects of your well-being. Rosewater is an essential water of the rose, which is a by-product of the production of rose oil. We specifically chose rosewater not just for its gentle, toning properties, but because it is often used as a mood enhancer. It rids you of feelings of anxiety and promotes emotional well-being, thereby making you feel more relaxed.
That’s so cool! I never knew that. On this journey so far with Plenaire Skincare, what has been your biggest “pinch me” moment?
Watching our windows being unveiled at Liberty on Great Marlborough Street was a pretty surreal moment... The best moment though was having my dad come and visit, as he is my main investor. I remember the look on my kids’ faces when our products were placed in the windows, and that was super rewarding!
But honestly, there have been so many magical moments! Watching our products go down the factory line, watching the scale-up process, getting our first purchase order, a piece in the FT Weekend, a write up in Vogue... We have been so lucky! I really don’t know how this all happened. I’m so grateful for every moment.
You deserve it! It’s so inspiring to hear your story from beginning to present. Do you have any advice for fresh female entrepreneurs out there?
Stop comparing yourself to other entrepreneurs! Also, never fully dismiss what people think, but equally, don’t give it undue importance. It's not going to matter in the long term, but you need a thick skin to ride out creating something, building it, and standing by it. So, be cautious about the company you keep. Women are underestimated all the time, and I think being underestimated is one of the biggest sources of motivation for me.
Absolutely! What’s next for Plenaire Skincare?
We have a lot in the pipeline… Crucially, beauty, well-being and mental health are becoming inextricably linked. During our research, we noticed that every conversation around beauty seemed to lead back to anxiety and mental health. Physical wellbeing and emotional health are the new currency for “a life well lived” with the younger consumer, so we want to make sure that we prioritise our consumers’ mental health through every product we create!
Like what you read? Just head to the Plenaire Skincare website to shop now!
Alternatively, if you fancy checking out some of our previous interviews, you can find them here. Want more from CAROLINAGMX? Check this out: Tranexamic Acid: The New IT Acid You Need To Know!