Plenaire skincare brand is shaking up the industry with its clean products aimed at a gender-neutral Gen-Z audience. Termed as the Glossier for Gen-Z, we were curious about the brand's unique focus. Read on to get a behind-the-scenes tour with Founder and CEO, Namrata Kamdar.
How did you get started with Plenaire?
I have worked in the beauty and consumer products industry most of my career. I realised there is a gap in the market which established skincare brands were not addressing. There wasn't anything for a younger demographic, which had non-controversial ingredients and was reasonably priced. These ingredients do tend to be more expensive, and it seems as if clean beauty brands are mostly for people in their 40's who can afford to pay a premium.
"I believe it is time to democratise clean beauty by making safe ingredients available to young people early on in their skincare journey."
Young consumers are experiencing beauty, and brands in general, in a completely different way. They want an always-on conversation with the brand - very different from how beauty products were sold and consumed in the past. We realised the importance of crowdsourcing innovation and asking customers what they need, rather than pushing an unrealistic standard of beauty or a single person's opinion onto them.
Sustainability has a different meaning for everyone. What does it mean to you?
Sustainability is at the core of Plenaire's brand ethos because it reflects our customer's values and is more than just using eco-friendly packaging. It manifests in our choice of ingredients, responsible sourcing; packaging materials and how they break down at the end of the consumption cycle. We have chosen to use ingredients that don't have any known links to human and environmental toxicity. We choose to work with suppliers with the highest sustainability credentials. Our outer packaging is Forest Stewardship Council (FSc) and World Land Trust certified.
Equally important is our focus on the emotional wellbeing of our customers. We don't believe in imposing unrealistic beauty standards, especially on a consumer at the beginning of her skincare journey, which is where you have the opportunity to send positive messages and create lifelong habits. Research shows that there is a notable correlation between beauty and anxiety. With Plenaire we wanted to create messaging that is less about consumption and more about the emotional outcome and the feeling you get from partaking in a beauty ritual. We create the messages that are aspirational but don't make people feel anxious about themselves or their physical appearance but instead focus on the wellbeing aspects of skincare and self.
Clean, eco-friendly and sustainable have become marketing buzzwords. How can customers detect greenwashing?
It is very challenging. Many awards, certifications and badges that consumer products carry are for sale, and not necessarily the most trusted ways to tell "clean" brands apart from the noise.
We partner with Provenance, a blockchain company that is on a mission to increase the transparency of "green" claims made by brands. They do great work with home and beauty products to boil down the work brands like ours do by putting our information on the blockchain. So consumers can verify the data provided by brands to get greater transparency on tracking and tracing of ingredients, supply chains, business processes, human and environmental toxicity claims, charitable donations etc.
Sustainability must become more than just about packaging- it's the values with which you treat each other and your customers. Customers aren’t ignorant. The worst thing you can do as a brand today is to patronise them or underestimate their intelligence which is what brands in the old hierarchy tend to do. People can tell when brands add a black model's picture on their generally white-washed Instagram feeds to “virtue signal” or make a statement about their diversity as a hollow marketing tactic. What they forget about is that in practice, their product design perhaps may be less inclusive and the lack of diversity in their workplace in numbers or their inability to collaborate with diverse talent do not support such claims. This is frighteningly true in beauty at the moment.
Brands need to ask themselves - if the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) audience is truly important, are they being represented in their senior management? These are tough questions, but very important for any brand to be honest about. If that makes your leadership team uncomfortable, it’s important to be able to sit with that discomfort and be ok with it. Staying comfortable is part of the problem with race inequality. Staying comfortable doesn’t create change.
"Intellectual curiosity to understand cultural diversity creates great brands."
As a BAME female founder in the beauty sector, I feel I brought a fresh perspective in the market by asking the tough questions at the very beginning of our brand creation by talking to younger people and yes even their parents that had struggled with so many stigmatic issues- from gender dysphoria to self-harm, to anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. My journey with mental health left me wondering if brands can offer the kind of support that is needed not just for young people, but people of all ages who are suffering. Brands meet daily needs but they can also be forces for good.
Coming back to the products, it is essential to have the intellectual curiosity to understand how different racial and ethnic communities lead their everyday lives and to think through how you can solve those problems, as well This leads to not only your marketing message but the product design to be inclusive as well. The recent success of ethnic brands shows there is a significant, underserved and under-represented market out there.
Do you feel awareness about eco-friendly products has grown in recent years?
Our younger customers are much more circular-minded and tuned into the climate conversation. They worry about plastic pollution and want to make more intelligent and better choices as well as using their own electronic and digital platforms to canvas their causes in a way that is much more sophisticated than previous Millennial or Gen-X consumer cohorts. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of ingredients and demand transparency from the brands they use.
What's next for Plenaire's sustainability journey?
We would love to introduce a closed-loop collection model working with the likes of Terracycle to enable a hassle-free way of having our packaging collected, washed and reused.
Your favourite Plenaire products that you cannot live without?
I love'em all, but the queen is our Rose Jelly Hydrating Cleanser. It has sugar and rose water - classic hydrating and exfoliating ingredients. It smells delicious. I could live on just this one product if I had to choose one.
What are some of your Zero-waste hacks?
It is about getting into better habits, choosing materials that can be used over and over again, washing and separating waste and disposing of it responsibly. Food waste is a cause close to my heart. I find it heartbreaking that much of the world's population doesn't have access to 3 meals a day, while a typical UK home's food waste is out of control. In our family, we have been experimenting with ways to reuse food scraps in interesting ways - there is so much creative sharing on zero waste food hacks = which is inspiring.
For birthdays and Christmases, we do fewer gifts and prefer to exchange experiences that are much more meaningful than material items and that also encourage appreciation and gratitude differently. It's important that our kids see that we value emotions and experiences over material objects.
A few of your favourite things?
Some of my fave things are reusable cotton scrubbers from Toockies.
I do love the Laundress Rose 31 on sheets, though it is probably going to be a yearly indulgence.
I am obsessed with the soft white sensitive skin gloves at Waitrose.
There is nothing like a clean kitchen, with a eucalyptus candle burning, freshly mopped floors and a big carafe of mint-infused ice water sitting on the counter.
What's your cleaning jam?
I do love a bit of Guns N' Roses or Metallica when I am cleaning.
How excited are you about Spruce Refillable Cleaning Products?
I think that Spruce refillable cleaning products will fill an unmet need in the market when it launches and I cannot wait to introduce it into my cleaning routine.
Thank you Namrata for enlightening us about sustainability in your business. We wish you the best of luck!