Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Last month, over 20,000 beauty junkies made a pilgrimage to the makeup mecca in Los Angeles called Beautycon, a weekend brimming with booths equipped with foldable makeup chairs and LED mirrors, stages that showcase makeup tutorials sponsored by brands like Revlon, and panel discussions where celebrities like Kim Kardashian show up.
Beauty brands have been known to spend over a million dollars for build outs in this single event, and that already gives an indication by how massive the beauty industry has become.
In the last couple of years alone, we’ve seen the rapid rise of beauty newcomers: New York-based startup Glossier, which is dubbed as “millennial’s Estée Lauder;” Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, which underscored inclusivity by offering 40 shades of foundation; and Kylie Cosmetics, 20-year-old Kylie Jenner’s makeup empire that nudged Forbes magazine to give her the title of being the youngest “self-made” entrepreneur.
Glossier and Kylie Cosmetics in particular have had one conscious strategy — it is to speak to the social-media-using audience. Glossier’s Emily Weiss has said that her brand grew because of how social media transformed the way beauty products are consumed and talked about, while Jenner has mainly relied on her Instagram with over 100 million followers for her advertising.
The growth of the makeup industry has also been felt in the Philippines. A report by Euromonitor International states that in 2017, beauty and personal care has continued to record a healthy growth, and a highlight from the report is that one of the reasons for this growth is borne out of the rising influence of social media.
If there’s one retailer in the Philippines that has latched onto this rise of social media to keenly cement and weave together the look and feel of their products, as well as the lifestyle behind them, it most arguably is Sunnies Studios. The brand is once again using an extension of their signature aesthetic for their newest offering: Sunnies Face.
“A big [factor of starting Sunnies Face] was one of our most frequently asked questions to each of us individually is: ‘What lippie are you wearing?’” says Martine Cajucom, the creative director of Sunnies Studios.
This consumer-first mentality, listening to feedback specifically from social media, has informed most of Sunnies’ previous business concepts particularly Sunnies Specs.
“With Specs, we developed it because people were converting their sunglasses into eye glasses. Big thing is, you asked for this so we made it happen,” adds Cajucom.
The new addition to the Sunnies team, Jessica Wilson, who oversees the brand management of Sunnies Face, says that because of social media, there is now a more open dialogue.
“Brands can now ask customers ‘What do you like?’ And the customers can say, ‘Make this.’ Or ‘I like this.’ And they can see what customers are wearing,” she says. “Brands have become a lot more personal and a lot less on the high horse, dictating the conversation.”
Bea Soriano-Dee, the operations director of Sunnies, also shares how on their Whatsapp group, there are a lot of screenshots of customers commenting on their products, voicing out opinions and suggestions. “We all take that very seriously,” she says.
Cajucom explains that they themselves are customers and ardent makeup fans, and she and Sunnies’ marketing director, Georgina Wilson-Burnand, have actually discussed doing a makeup line even before their eyewear business took a life of its own.
“Our tagline is ‘Beauty that gets you.’ And the reason is that we are the consumers. We are you as well,” she says. “We developed it with that in mind and with that, a big factor of it was obviously formula.”
The formula or the chemicals needed to arrive at any desired beauty product is a priority of many legacy brands. It is what will ultimately set their product apart and what is needed for customers to keep patronizing them.
These brands, such as Estée Lauder or L'Oréal, however, have sold a lifestyle of glamour and luxury to complement their premium products. But these may not resonate with those who don’t want an all-done face or who simply can’t afford to buy luxury goods but want makeup all the same.
Sunnies Face has aimed to do both: take that luxury formula but sell it for an affordable price. “Affordable luxury” is an oxymoron, but it’s about a pricing architecture that has driven brands to success. Sunnies Face’s lipstick line, Fluffmatte, is formulated in Italy, and Soriano-Dee says they’re “working with the biggest manufacturer in the world doing all of the big beauty brands.” And yet one lipstick only costs ₱345.
“The number one thing that we can offer that really distinguishes us from other competitors is that we are providing everyone a luxury formula that normally would sell 40 to 50 dollars abroad,” says Cajucom.
Wilson also says that it was hard for the team to come to their price point with that formula because they didn't cut costs on anything. “We thought, what’s a great product if it's not accessible for everyone?”
But this philosophy is also not unique to Sunnies Face. Sunnies Studios’ inaugural product line, the sunglasses, also has kept price points below ₱500, and Sunnies Specs provides consumers prescription eyewear for ₱1,999, an amount already cheaper than other eyeglasses brands, considering the range of designs.
Besides keeping the price at bay, Cajucom highlights that the nine shades they chose for their first lipstick line is flattering on every skin tone. Soriano-Dee shares they shared it on different people, on different faces, and that they actually went through 350 samples before coming into this nine edit — nine warm shades ranging from nudes and peaches to oranges and reds. “It doesn't discriminate on age, it doesn't discriminate on skin tone,” says Cajucom.
The products are inspired by “Girl Crush Beauty,” a term they coined as an all-encompassing reference for what the Sunnies Face look is. “It’s this ‘girl crush look’ which is not intimidating but something that you look up to and are attracted to but you also can do yourself,” explains Wilson.
The girl crush look is seen in their campaigns — the minimally made-up, cool-girl look that invokes a high sense of self-possession. It’s this concept that rejects the beauty queen ideal and sells the idea that women don’t spend hours on their look but still somehow look great.
And while Sunnies Face was built on this pared-down aesthetic, the women behind it do share that prior to their makeup line, they would mix 10 types of lipsticks just to get to their desired shade, and that they’ve always bonded over makeup and speak about obsessing over products that many cast off as vapid.
In a culture that glorifies “masculine” pursuits, such as sports, but diminishes things associated with the feminine, such as beauty, perhaps, the motivations behind Sunnies Face is another lesson on reclaiming femininity.
“We really poured all of our femininity and girlishness into developing it,” says Cajucom. “It's a girl's dream.”
Sunnies Face will open in Glorietta and UP Town Center on Aug. 10.