The brand’s founder, Nicolas Travis, started the brand with the money he painstakingly earned from packaging gift bags for an order-fulfilment company.
The brand first started with only one product, its famous 1A All-Day Pollution Repair Mask of Skin but today it is recognised by beauty aficionados in over a dozen countries.
Fresh and effective
Currently, Allies of Skin is available in 15 countries and in some of the most reputable stores such as Barneys New York, Space NK, Net-a-Porter, JOYCE, and Lane Crawford to name a few.
It is a feat considering the brand only had three products in its first year of business. Even though the line-up was small, Allies of Skin stood out with its fresh concept.
“We had the world’s first day mask, it was effortless and it was different from legacy brands that tell you that you have to use everything from them or you won’t get the best results,” said Travis. “It was a different way of thinking about skin care and consumption.”
Ultimately, he stressed, it all boiled down to the fact that Allies of Skin had products that worked.
“Having clean effective products that deliver results is what put us on the map. Yes, we only had three products, but they worked. Fundamentally it always comes back to how good is your product. You can have $10 million to spend on marketing, but if your product sucks it will catch up with you – you can’t outrun it.”
If the key to happiness is doing what you love, Travis has found the secret to creating winning products: making products for yourself.
“It became about creating products for myself, but I knew there were more people that were looking for the same thing. I always believed there was a market for what I was trying to do,” said Travis.
“After all, I am a consumer first and foremost. I create products from the standpoint of a consumer. I create what I think is missing and what I want to see.”
“Stalk” your way to the top
In its infancy, Allies of Skin did not have the budget for marketing and it still does not, said Travis. Instead, it relies on word-of-mouth to grow the brand organically – the same helped the brand get into the best retailers internationally.
However, the company would not have gotten where it is without Travis’ relentless obsession with creating a global brand.
“My dream was to create something that will be internationally recognised,” Travis said. “I wanted to get my products into as many hands as possible. I wanted to be the first Singaporean brand to be in those stores. It became my goal so I just went for it.”
That drive pushed Travis to trawl through Instagram and LinkedIn to find contacts for beauty editors and retailers, he said.
“There’s no science to it. It’s just about how badly you want it and I wanted it really badly. I did it by going on Linkedln and stalking everyone – that’s the great thing about social media. You can even find their emails if you’re savvy enough, by figuring out their email variations.”
No signs of slowing
Allies of Skin is not done expanding globally. This spring it is launching the brand in Germany, Austria and Switzerland via beauty chain Douglas. The brand has also won a spot in Galeries Lafeyette’s new concept store on the Champs-Élysées that is scheduled to open in Spring as well.
“It’s an indie, cult brand focused beauty store – no legacy brands. Just hand-picked products in this beauty emporium that’s just opposite from Louis Vuitton,” Travis described.
He added that he is currently in negotiations with Sephora Europe as well.
Even though he admits the brand’s focus is mostly in Europe now, Travis has not neglected Asia. Plans are currently in the works to launch the brand in Indonesia at the end of the year.
“We’re doing registration for Indonesia right now, and I’m also trying to get registration for the Middle-East as well because we got a distributor… so the brand is going to be in Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales in the Middle-East, as well as online.”
As for China, the world’s second largest consumer is still a big question mark. Travis revealed that he has been approached by Sephora China, but will not enter the country unless the country changes its laws on animal testing.
“Sephora China know who we are, they have the products and they want to continue the conversation. It will happen eventually,” he added.
All these opportunities have been exciting yet stressful for Travis. “It’s really exciting because we have all sorts of opportunities coming to us. I don’t even chase retailers now,” he said. “But as a start-up, you have all the opportunities but not enough cash to support it properly.”
In order to fulfil the orders and the potentials of Allies of Skin, Travis said that the brand is currently in the process of raising money.
Aside from expanding the brand distribution and creating new products, Travis said that he is constantly updating existing formulas
“Once I launch I’m always working on the next one. It’s because of feedback, sometimes we run into regulatory issues,” he explained. “A lot of times, it’s about doing better. R&D takes about two years, and by that time the technology has changed so we have to be better.”
Looking to the future
Travis is certain the clean beauty trend will continue to persevere as he believes consumers will continue to be more conscious of products and demand transparency.
“I think consumers are going to want to know what’s in their product. So you’re going to see more transparency. People are going to start talking about the percentages,” he said. “Before, brands could say ‘this product has berries harvested at four in the morning by monks’. Now people are going to ask: how much is in the formula?”
Another skin care concern he believes will be the next hot topic is adult acne. “As a category, adult acne is one we’ve done incredibly well in. Our Promise Keeper Blemish Control is out best-seller. When you think of it, it’s because of pollution and stress that adults in their 40s are getting acne… and I feel that it will only get worse.”