Native Essentials is a natural beauty brand that operates out of both Hong Kong and Bangkok and was founded by Formula Botanica graduate Daniela Pelonara.
Pelonara had previously worked for global fashion companies and has been stationed in Asia for over a decade where she came to appreciate locally found ingredients.
Native Essentials was initially founded in 2011 but has since undergone a significant overhaul.
“The brand has evolved a lot. Initially the brand was more about single botanicals. Then I started getting interest from spas... One thing led to another to a point I had to rebrand because it was a different brand now,” said Pelanara.
Saving time, money and the planet
The latest iteration of Native Essentials is a collection of eight multitasking plant-based skin care products.
Pelonara told CosmeticsDesign-Asia that the range of products was intentionally designed to be very minimalist.
“I wanted it to be very minimalist because the modern woman doesn't have the time. Imagine if you start having kids… you won't have an hour every evening to do all of your own things. You just have 10 to 15 minutes to put yourself together.”
At the same time, having fewer products meant being able to scale the brand more easily and helping to minimise the brand’s carbon footprint.
“They save you money and it also means there are fewer products being shipped, reducing our carbon footprint,” said Pelonara.
With fewer products, the brand advocates a simplified two-step skin care routine.
“I wanted to create an easy, smooth and fast money-friendly, eco-friendly experience with just two products. The products are multifunctional; they do two or three things in one. So, less products means the products work more for you. The philosophy behind it is very anti-Korean. I want to educate people to buy only what you need,” said Pelonara.
Creating a brand experience
Pelonara added that she rebranded to give her consumers “a full experience” by giving the products an identity with a romanticised story that can resonate with consumers.
“You've got to have a technical background. You need to be very specific in what you want to offer. But at the same time, the customers are looking for an experience. A big brand has a lot of assets to develop retail, indie brands are very digitalised. This is why everything has to be very rich in information to stimulate curiosity about the product.”
She highlighted this was especially important in Asia, where consumers enjoy the experience of shopping in brick-and-mortar.
“We really need to be smart and use the digital platforms to create the experience that normally customers, especially those in Asia, like to have through retail stores. Especially in the big metropolitan cities, their customer habits are very linked to retail. They like the experience of going shopping, being pampered and recognised like a VIP.”
As such, the onus is on the brands to create an experience for their consumers.
“Small brands like us need to create a relationship with our customers directly. We need to be transparent; we need to be absolutely open and have a face behind the brand,” said P.
(Ultra) soft launch
The rebranded Native Essentials was scheduled to debut in January, right in time for the Chinese New Year season.
“That’s when things got worse rapidly. I held back because I realised it was a bad time to launch a brand. You can say we had an ultra-soft launch. I think I should be doing another launch, but to be honest, I really don’t know at this point,” said Pelonara.
Pelonara revealed to us that the business has suffered during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis due to supply chain and logistical issues.
“The disruption was major. For four months we stopped production because suppliers said they couldn’t deliver. And business was slow because there were issues with shipping. All of a sudden, our shipping fees tripled. For me I saw a drop in business definitely.”
Pelonara said she will move forward with caution depending on the situation with the pandemic.
“We're still trying to find our ground and make sure we have all the ingredients that we need. COVID-19 is still here, so I have to have a very careful approach. I’ve been approached by a lot of retailers to take my products on consignment because they have zero cash. The business is now undergoing a reshuffling.”
Currently, Pelonara is focused on the upcoming festive season, which has become more crucial during this pandemic.
“The month of October is very important because you need to know if you’re doing a big Christmas, a quiet Christmas? For us in Asia there is also Chinese New Year, from December till then, that is the season we make sales.”