Femmue CEO Kelly Chung founded the brand in 2015 to share the mentally and emotionally soothing effects she had experienced with flower therapy.
The former beauty buyer took up flower arrangement at the behest of a friend as a way to unwind and get away from the pressures of her career.
"Back in the day I was so focused on working on my career. I felt like my mind and body was so imbalanced. I realised that I needed to take care of myself more. Taking up flower arrangement was a game-changer. It wasn’t just about simply arranging flowers – I enjoyed breathing in the scents and feeling the soft textures of the flowers and doing so gave me a lot of positive energy.”
Femmue was born from Chung’s ambition to bottle up these ‘healing aspects’ of flower arrangement and flower therapy.
“At Femmue, we're not just focused on the skin, but the mind, which is very important. It’s not about chasing trends but focusing on yourself. I believe if you focus on yourself you will be empowered,” she said.
Chung invested four years on research and development, collaborating with bioscience researchers to create a line of products that were not only effective, but sensorially luxurious.
The product’s star ingredient is the Camellia flower, also known as the oriental rose, which has antioxidant and anti-stress properties to restore the skin’s moisture barrier and fight damage-causing external pollutants.
“I wanted to find a flower that was special for my brand. There are many beautiful flowers in Europe, but what flower can represent Korea or Asia? I felt that Camellia was that flower. We source our Camellias from Jeju Island. We use all the parts - petals, seeds, leave, stems,” said Chung.
The company is also actively researching and developing new ingredients, especially flowers, to utilise in its products.
Slow but steady
For the first three years, Chung recalls that sales were sluggish as the market struggled to understand the brand
“When we first launched the market, especially in the Korean market, was very focused on ingredients like snail slime and aloe vera. The customers weren’t ready to accept us,” said Chung.
This prompted the company to focus its efforts overseas, in markets such as Japan, the US and UK, where consumers were more receptive to the brand’s message.
In the past year however, the accelerated consciousness of wellness and self-care caused by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic has placed brands like Femmue in the spotlight.
According to Chung, the brand has grown two and a half times in the past year alone.
“We saw our sales grow much faster than before. I guess because of COVID-19, people have realised how important it is to focus on themselves, treat themselves,” said Chung.
Today, the brand is available in eight markets, through both online and offline retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman, Net-a-Porter, Revolve and CosmeKitchen.
This year, the company intends to use this momentum to further the growth of the brand. Chung’s strategy is to focus on the brand’s core markets – Korea, Japan, the US and UK.
“In the past few years, I was very concentrated on expanding into more countries but now I think its best to focus on our key markets. These countries are very important to us and I think there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done there.”
Last year, Femmue was one of the five start-ups selected by German personal care major Beiersdorf’s NIVEA Accelerator (NX) programme.
Through the programme Femmue is able to leverage Beiersdorf’s global network. For instance, the firm helps the start-up with product development and formulation, as well as sourcing of suppliers.
Furthermore, Beiersdorf is able to support Femmue as a mentor for market insights and go-to-market strategies.
Focusing on core customers
Chung told us that aside from strengthening the business, she is also focused on building a strong community around the brand, which she believes is essential today.
The brand intends to build its community not just by engaging with them on social media, but also through private offline events for its customers
Chung said: “In the past few years, I’ve been busy on market expansion and the numbers, but I’ve realised it’s important for me to communicate with our Femmue Lovers. Today’s customers are very smart. They don’t just focus on products, they want to understand what is behind the brand, what is the founder’s vision.”