Pretti5 was founded in 2018 by Dorothy Chau who observed more women around her with sensitive skin.
“Somehow, even if they didn’t have sensitive skin before, I noticed their skin getting sensitised and develop issues like redness, irritation and acne. I thought it was the pollution, stress and increased travel,” said Chau.
This led her to consult two traditional Chinese medical practitioners who explained that factors like air-conditioning and frequent travel compromised the skin’s integrity.
“In Hong Kong, shopping malls and restaurants are always freezing, then when you step out its warm and humid. These abrupt changes in the environment damage your skin and weaken the skin immunity because it can’t adapt fast enough.”
To combat this, Chau was prescribed a Chinese herbal tea containing adaptogenic ingredients such as snow fungus, licorice root and Chinese skullcap, which she decided to adapt into a topical formulation.
“For a year, I worked with a Japanese lab to develop a formula to combine these TCM adaptogens with modern skin care ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, vitamin B3 and B5. It was also important for me to have a formula that was vegan, clean and safe to use for sensitive skin.”
After a year in research and development, Pretti5 was scheduled to launch in March this year but the COVID-19 outbreak derailed its plans.
“We planned to launch in March and then July, but we had to postpone that as well. So, we’ve started to sell our brand in April, but we will launch the brand officially at the end of October,” said Chau.
The launch will coincide with the brand’s expansion into brick-and-mortar retail. “We will have our launch in a new independent store in Hong Kong. It’s one of the new hot places in the city right now.”
Education trumps influencer marketing
While the health crisis has presented challenges, Chau noted that the brand’s positioning as ‘healthy’ skin care brand will resonate with consumers especially so right now.
“Because of COVID-19, people are more aware of the health and wellness. We designed the formulation around our health and our immunity system. Even though Hong Kong consumers are not familiar with the term adaptogens, they know these TCM ingredients. When we explain what it does for the skin, they get it very quickly, because these are the ingredients we’ve grown up with.”
According to Chau, clean beauty and skin health are some of the biggest trends in the Hong Kong beauty market today. Additionally, they are looking for alternatives to the big-name brands.
“Our core consumer group are aged 27 to 38 I would say. They’ve experienced more, done their trial and error. They’ve used the big brands and are now looking for alternatives. That’s where we can jump in,” said Chau.
The brand’s strategy is to gain new customers with very strong education.
“Using Key Opinion Leaders are good for brand awareness, but it won’t drive our customers to make the purchase decision. They are more sophisticate and discerning and they won’t buy a product just because someone famous is holding a bottle in a pretty picture,” said Chau.
She continued: “Our customers need a lot of education to drive them to make the purchase. We rely on media interviews… whenever we have an article about our brand in a magazine with an education angle, we see more interest in the brand.”
Moving forward, the company plans to continue expanding its physical retail footprint through independent stores and is aiming to conduct a pop-up store if the time is right.
“These consumers are looking for a more lifestyle-centric, intimate experience. We want to build the experience around our consumer. In this case, even a nice café could be one of our locations.”
It is also looking to expand the brand overseas. Chau revealed that the company is already in talks with a Japanese retail beauty chain.
“We are super excited that we were able to begin discussions with a Japanese company. It’s a huge deal for a Hong Kong brand that the Japanese are interested in our products.”
The company is also looking for opportunities in China and Singapore, said Chau.
“For China, we will wait until the regulations straighten out because we are a cruelty-free brand. I’m really interested in Singapore because from my research, I’ve seen that Sephora Singapore has taken on local brands. Sephora will be a good partner for us as a jumping point to expand overseas.”