The first stop on my Asia trip this May was Seoul, for Cosmobeauty 2018 trade show (check out my trade show review here) but also to do my customary store research. This is something I do whenever I travel; even if I have visited the country/city before.
I visit as many health & beauty retailers as possible; at least one chain per distribution channel: drugstore, perfumery, department store, organic store (or equivalent) and whatever specific retail channel a particular country might have.
And then I spend hours in-store until the security staff and/or sales personnel is starting to give me suspicious looks ; ). I’m checking out the products that are displayed on the shelves: are there any interesting new beauty launches – any new key ingredients? Product types? Packaging designs?
Does the retailer have any own label brands and if so, what do they look like? Is there just one own label range or a diversified portfolio of proprietary product ranges? What is the overall percentage of domestic brands vs. international brands? And what do the retail chains look like; do they offer any in-store services, features or activities to make shopping in a bricks ´n mortar store more exciting?
I also take pictures, usually discreetly because retailers in Asia often forbid you to photograph their products or store interiors. Case in point: Chicor and Olive Young (more info in the article!); in one particular Olive Young store I was told no less than three times (by three different staff) that taking photos was not allowed! Although I am a law-abiding citizen by nature I tend to disregard these strictures and as a result I’ve become very good at clandestine photography : )
This was my fifth visit to Seoul and after the first couple of days I was struck by how rapidly the Korean beauty retail market is changing at the moment. And it all started less than two years ago.
There are three (!) new beauty retail chains on the market which offer a European-style perfumery multi-brand concept (and for the Korean beauty market this is is nothing less than revolutionary – again, more info on this in the article!) while drugstore market leader Olive Young is hastily refurbishing its stores across the capital in a scramble to keep up with all of the new competitors.
One week was barely enough to visit all of these new retailers and because so much is happening in the Korean beauty market at the moment, I think it is time for an overview article on all of the new beauty retail chains (with plenty of high-res pictures, of course).
Click on the link below!
And here – as promised – is the brand profile about Jath, the new organic beauty brand from Korean natural products manufacturer Jallon. I had met Jallon at Cosmoprof Asia 2016 back in November; the company has recently taken over the marketing for my all-time favourite beauty brand Whamisa. At the trade show, Jallon presented two new organic brands: Nature Belle (you can read my article about Nature Belle here) and Jath.
Jath is a premium anti-ageing face care range which was launched in the summer of 2016. Like its sister brands Whamisa and Nature Belle, Jath is manufactured by ENS Korea, certified organic by German association BDIH (Cosmos) and the entire range is completely water-free: the first ingredient in all five products is aloe vera leaf water.
The Jath line-up includes an eye cream, a face cream and three serums/elixirs which are packaged in glass bottles and jars; the outer packaging is made from stiff cardboard. All products have been scented with a similar blend of essential oils (rosewood, bergamot, geranium and lemongrass) and the fragrance is rather invigorating: zesty citrus notes, aromatic herbals and spicy wood accords.
At Cosmoprof Asia last month I also met one of my favourite organic beauty brands from Korea: Whamisa. Whamisa’s manufacturer ENS Korea was a first-time exhibitor at the trade show, together with organic manufacturer Jallon which has taken over the marketing and promotion for the Whamisa brand.
And Jallon presented two new certified organic product ranges: premium anti-ageing range Jath and children & baby care range Nature Belle. I’ll post a more detailed article on Jath soon. This brand profile is about Nature Belle. Click on the link below for more information, ingredients and pics!
Well, I’m back in Seoul! I’ve only been here for a few days and already spent a lot of time in various beauty stores to check out what’s new in Boons, LOHBS, Olive Young et. al. (you can see some of my finds on Instagram: @annika.trendtraveller – or scroll down the page to the Instagram widget on the left sidebar).
I’ve also been stocking up on some of my favorite Korean and international beauty brands, including the famous Starting Treatment Essence from Korean brand Secret Key, the Skin Soothing Gel from organic US brand A24 which I discovered during my last trip to Seoul; and the Deep Rich Toner from my favorite organic Korean beauty brand, Whamisa!
However, one of the reasons why I came to Seoul was to visit Cosmobeauty 2016 trade show which took place as part of Health & Beauty Week from 28th April to 30th April 2016 in COEX exhibition centre. There were three trade shows actually: Cosmobeauty (retail and salon cosmetics), Organic Industry Expo (organic food) and Health Industry Expo (supplements and lifestyle products).
First of all, this is not a product review or comparison. It is more of a presentation – three interesting products from different brands, taken from the same product category. In this case: face cleansing. All three brands are from Korea.
So, let’s dive right in! What we have here is a solid cleanser based on coconut oil and glycerin (Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick), a creamy white foam based on sea water and sea salt granules (Sea Salt Perfect Cleanser 40%) and a cleansing oil whose key ingredient, besides deep sea water, is Epidermal Growth Factor cell activator (Pure Propolis Washable Cleansing Oil).
The three brands are equally different: Su:m37 is from the luxury sector, Innisfree is a mass market brand with a very wide distribution and LaCell is firmly rooted in the niche/online retail channel.
[EDIT: 6/5/2017 – the Belport chain is now called A.G.B. (Art Goût Beauté). The flagship on Garosu-gil has also changed its name to A.G.B. The ground floor of the store still has a Jo Malone shop-in-shop but makeup brands have gone, instead there is what appears to be a MAC shop-in-shop. The spa in the basement is still there; the first floor was unfortunately closed for renovation. I think the brand portfolio might have been adjusted too, so the information in this store profile is probably no longer correct. I’m not sure why Belport reinvented itself; if anyone can shed any light on this I’d be grateful!]
A few days ago I visited Korean perfumery chain Belport’s flagship store in Seoul’s trendy Garosu-gil street. Garosu-gil in Sinsa neighbourhood is known for its designer boutiques, uber-stylish cafés and concept stores.
It is also one of the latest hotspots for beauty in Seoul: over the last five years or so a number of Asian and Western beauty brands have opened stores there, including Melvita from France, Kiehl’s from the US, Lush and Neil’s Yard Remedies from the UK and premium Korean brands Su:m37 and The History of Whoo.
Domestic beauty chains The Face Shop, Banila, VDL, Clio and Skin Food have also opened outlets along Garosu-gil, and there are several drugstore retailers including Olive Young, Watson and LOHBS. And exactly one year ago, Belport opened its very first store on this street.
One of the things on my to-do list for this trip to Seoul was a visit to Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), a landmark building designed by architect Zaha Hadid. Around ten years ago the city of Seoul decided to redevelop the old Dongdaemum stadium site into a central location for culture, creativity, education, design and commerce.
In 2007 the city held an international design contest and the winner was Zaha Hadid’s “Metonymic Landscape”: a three-dimensional fluid structure decorated with over 40,000 aluminium sheets. DDP is a truly spectacular creation (especially at night-time – there’s a definite space ship vibe!) and according to the official website, it is also the largest three-dimensional amorphous architectural structure in the world.
The DDP opened in 2014 and houses a design museum, several exhibition and conference halls and a very cool design store plus a central square (Oulim Square). The whole ensemble sits next to Dongdaemum History & Culture Park which in turn incorporates a number of buildings and attractions – potentially confusing but everything is clearly signposted and there are fold-out maps available, so it is comparatively easy to navigate the site.
DDP has a busy event schedule – the bi-annual Seoul Fashion Week is currently taking place in Oulim Square – and there are always exhibitions and installations to look at. At the moment, DDP is hosting “Alessandro Mendini: The Poetry of Design” which celebrates the work of the renowned Italian designer and architect. I was familiar with Mendini’s designs for Italian homeware brand Alessi but didn’t know much about his other work so I decided to check out the exhibition. Click on the link below for more pics!
Check out my new favourite dessert! This is Injeolmi Snowflake Sherbet (as prepared by Sulbing Korean Dessert Café): a great big pile of shaved ice – I have no idea how they manage to achieve such fine ice grains! – layered with a mixture of powdered Injeolmi (glutinous rice cake) and toasted soybean and topped with an extra-thick layer of Injeolmi powder plus flaked almonds.
This kind of traditional Korean ice dessert is called bing-su (which translates as “shaved ice”) – you can get it with different kind of toppings but my favourite is the Injeolmi version – it’s completely addictive! I read that Sulbing uses frozen milk in the ice mixture; you get a small dish of sweetened condensed milk to pour into the dish once you’ve eaten a path into the interior. When the ice starts melting, the Injeolmi powder turns chewy. It’s delicious!
I arrived in Seoul, the first stop on my Asian tour, a few days ago and my goodness, it’s wonderful to be back! Luckily I don’t get troubled by jetlag when I am flying from Europe to Asia (on the way back it’s a different matter unfortunately) because I arrived on a Wednesday evening and at 10am the very next morning, the 13th International Beauty Expo Korea trade show opened its doors in COEX Convention Center.
It was an interesting show: as far as I could tell, the exhibitors were primarily salon brands and smaller Korean cosmetics labels looking for distributors. There were only a few brand names that I recognized – like Elishacoy and Incoco – but since I like discovering new beauty labels, I found plenty to occupy my attention.
[EDIT 11/5/2018 – Following a major relaunch of the Olive Young store brand across Korea, and the opening of several new (and considerably larger) Olive Young outlets in Seoul, the Myeong-Dong Lifestyle Experience Center was completely remodelled in line with Olive Young’s new look. The store looks entirely different now, with a new interior design and a different brand portfolio; more style and less hallyu. You’re therefore about to take a step into the Olive Young chain’s retail history ; )]
On my very first evening in Myeung-dong area I was randomly walking along the streets, enjoying the very special Myeung-dong evening experience: crowds of shoppers pushing along the narrow streets, music blaring from every store and restaurant, sales staff standing outside the beauty stores announcing special offers to try and lure customers inside, food stalls everywhere, more crowds, more noise…..
Then I drifted past an Olive Young store, one of the many branches that Korea’s leading drugstore retailer operates in the central Seoul area. This particular outlet looked different though, so I drifted right back to check it out. The store was much bigger than the average Olive Young retail space; new, stylish and sophisticated-looking – and indeed, as it turned out this is a new Olive Young retail format. The “Lifestyle Experience Center”, opened in 2012, is an attractive beauty concept store with an integrated café area and a strong hallyu flavour.