New Clean Brand Plenaire Encourages Gen Z Consumers To Be Kind To Themselves Through Skincare
Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir were among a group of impressionists in the 1800s that specialized in painting outdoors to capture natural light. Called en plein air or “outdoors,” their style broke free from the predetermined confines of studio art.
When Namrata Kamdar developed Plenaire, the impressionist movement spoke to her desire to spearhead a transparent skincare brand that burrows beneath the artifice of the beauty industry. She says, “For us, this is an analogy for what’s happening in beauty today, where everybody is creating their own narrative outside.”
Kamdar chose to focus on gen z consumers beginning at 15-years-old because she believes there’s a gap in the skincare market for products catering to teenage girls at that awkward age when they experience their first pimples and shop for their first bras. She argues the gap in the skincare market exists because big companies don’t quite seem to understand what gen z is looking for.
“I just felt like the options out there were kind of limited and also pretty patronizing to young girls. There was lots of messaging around, ‘We know better. We know what’s for you.,’ the doctor in the lab coat, all of that phony stuff,” says Kamdar, a veteran brand manager with lengthy stints at big companies such as Unilever and PepsiCo on her resume, adding, “The average teenager today is very switched on, and she can smell an ad a mile away. She’s pretty cynical, and she’s really careful with her pennies.”
Kamdar continues that gen z consumers are interested in multitasking products supplying real value for their price and sticking to sustainable principles. “There’s a huge trend around minimalism, so this is not somebody who wants to do a huge Superdrug haul,” she says. “They’re rejecting fast fashion more and more. They’re questioning how we can be more circular and how, in the industry, things are being sourced in the right way.”
“A lack of patience can stop you from being successful. You have to give things enough time.”
To grasp gen Z preferences, Plenaire checked in with teenage girls in Los Angles, New York and the brand’s hometown London, conducted focus groups with them, observed them shopping, and studied their bathrooms and bedrooms. “We talked to them with their moms and without about really important issues in their lives around anxiety or depression,” says Kamdar. “What are the hormonal changes that come with being a young person today, comparisons on social media, just all kinds of things? And we did this to really get under the skin of the category before we even got started.”
The consumer research led Kamdar to create a capsule collection of eight vegan, cruelty-free Plenaire products—three more are launching toward the end of the year—crafted from clean ingredients and manufactured in the United Kingdom with eco-consciousness at their core. Its tubes and jars are recyclable; cartons are biodegradable; inks are vegetable-derived; and coatings are water-based.
Plenaire’s products are grouped into cleanse, energize and relax categories. Its assortment includes £30 makeup remover Rose Jelly, £34 exfoliating clay Tripler and £34 lightweight moisturizer gel Droplet. Designed with Pentagram to have stripped-down aesthetics, the entire concept is driven by the attributes Kamdar discovered are important to gen Z consumers. Of course, being online is critical to reaching them.
While Plenaire is digitally proficient, Kamdar doesn’t know if one distribution model—e-commerce or brick-and-mortar—is better than the other. “Retail is being recreated today,” she says. “As much as we would like to believe that online only is the holy grail, it’s probably not. I think people, especially when it comes to skincare, are keen to see how the product works, to swatch it on skin, to have the whole experience, and come in and try things, and interact with a brand.” She’ll be able to test her theory over the next 10 days at the brand’s pop-up at department store Liberty London. Plenaire will also be sold on Liberty’s website.
“What will differentiate us, as we move on, is this idea of empathy and emotional well-being. We’ve seen that that’s what’s needed today.”
The brand is less than a month old and, in the next eight months, Kamdar’s goal is for it to generate million pounds in topline revenue or $1.2 million at the current exchange rate. However, she isn’t in a rush for Plenaire to explode. “What hurts businesses is a lack of patience,” she says. “There’s so much venture money flowing around, which makes it hard to understand which brands are really successful and which brands are successful because they’ve put a lot of money behind them. I think a lack of patience can stop you from being successful. You have to give things enough time.”
Kamdar’s ultimate objective is to introduce Plenaire products that last and make people—specifically young people—feel good. She’s learned that gen z girls are self-effacing, pragmatic, politically-conscious, and interconnected with technology in a way previous generations weren’t. But life hasn’t become easier as girls become increasingly socially-aware and tech-enabled. Kamdar laments they fall victim to unrealistic beauty standards and the message that they have to sacrifice in order to be pretty.
“We’re just the opposite of that. The most important thing that we want to establish with young women is this idea of being kind to yourself,” she says. “Sure, we have a story. We have the typical claims, but I don’t think that that puts us at an advantage because, actually, anyone can have access to those raw materials, ingredients and great recyclable packaging. I think what will differentiate us, as we move on, is this idea of empathy and emotional well-being. We’ve seen that that’s what’s needed today.”