Recognising the increasing popularity of indie beauty, former beauty journalist Samantha Freedman saw an opportunity to help smaller brands gain exposure through new retail partnerships. Together with her business partner Margot Vitale, Samantha launched Curate Beauty, a digital marketplace connecting retailers and buyers with some of the best and trending indie beauty brands. Luxury Briefing finds out more…
Can you briefly explain your experience in beauty and what you have seen as the most significant changes in the industry over the past 10 years?
I’ve been in the beauty industry for over 12 years, starting my career as a beauty journalist. Towards the end of my time as a beauty editor at Grazia, I began to see more independent brands launching, created by founders that wanted solutions to personal problems that they otherwise struggled to find – so they made them!
The rise in indie beauty has had a real impact on the industry with consumers opting to support brands that, despite being smaller-scale, have amazing stories and products to match. As I started to speak to more of the brand founders I realised that they struggled with exposure, and the best way they could get that was to partner with new stockists. But with small teams, they struggled to do this alone. So, I left publishing and set up a consultancy and buying company to work with retailers in adding a complementary beauty category.
How did the idea for Curate Beauty arise?
When I was working as a consultant and buyer for retailers, I quickly discovered how antiquated and time consuming the wholesale model was for both buyers and retailers. I thought that there had to be a digital solution. Thankfully, it was at this time I met my business partner, Margot Vitale (who has a buying and merchandise background) and together we decided to build a wholesale marketplace platform specialising in independent beauty brands – the first in Europe!
How does Curate Beauty work and what has been the industry response?
Curate Beauty is the first digital marketplace for indie beauty brands – this means you have to be a retailer or a buyer to set up an account with us. Then, once approved, you can browse and buy from the very best and trending indie beauty brands. We work across multiple categories including men’s grooming, supplements, skincare, makeup, hair care, tools and accessories. Our website is expertly edited into Curated Collections to ensure speedy browsing for our retailers and they can also purchase multiple brands with just one checkout.
The feedback has been incredible, especially for independent retailers who have small teams, little money and are lacking in beauty expertise. We’ve been congratulated on our curation of products and how easy the site is to use, especially for those looking to buy more than one brand.
How did your partnership with The Maiyet Collective eventuate?
We’ve been huge fans of The Maiyet for many years after discovering their sustainable fashion and accessories offering in New York, where my co-founder Margot is from. When we heard they were moving to London with various pop-ups, we reached out to their team. We have worked with them to bring new collections in-store each week for their month of beauty and wellness, bringing some of the best independent sustainable brands from our platform to the South Molton pop-up store and also online.
What do you see as the beauty industry’s biggest challenge?
With around 13,000 new indie brands launching every year, I think the struggle will be for brands to really stand out. Brand stories are such a powerful way for consumers to engage with beauty, that’s what really gives them their USP, so we try to amplify these stories wherever we can; whether it’s sharing across our social channels, brand Instagram takeovers, or our podcast collaboration with the Outspoken Beauty podcast, where the host interviews founders to share their story.
In your mind, who is the beauty customer of the future?
The thing that remains extremely important to new brands and retailers is sustainability. They know that the beauty consumer of today – and the future – is extremely conscious; they care about what they’re buying, who they’re buying from, what goes into products and what brands are trying to achieve. Therefore, I think it’s incredibly valuable for all brands to be as transparent and open as possible in their communications. Customers love a good story, strong sustainable values and brands that encompass a lifestyle approach.
What is your proudest achievement?
A huge highlight for me is our upcoming partnership with Urban Retreat (launching 9 November). We are taking over a space in their new White House location, which will act as a showroom for potential buyers and retailers. It will also be open to the public, who can visit us to experience (and, of course, buy from) 40 new, indie brands across grooming, gifting, wellness and beauty. To be aligned with such a prestigious name in beauty is extremely exciting for us.
What’s the most valuable career advice you’ve received?
To create a great network. I’ve met so many people throughout my career that I have sought advice from later in life or worked with on a partnership. Although it’s trickier in ‘Covid times’, building a strong network is key and there are always ways to connect with people, even from home!
What advice would you give to someone starting out in beauty?
The industry is pretty close-knit, so always present yourself in the best possible manner. You never know who will be asking who for a recommendation, and so you always want to be on your best behaviour, whether you’re an intern or a manager!
What’s next for Curate Beauty?
First, our partnership with Urban Retreat, which launches just in time for Christmas! We will constantly be innovating the space with new brands every few months and hosting in-store and virtual events to educate customers about the brands we’re showcasing. We are also taking a digital approach to traditional tradeshows, so for our b2b customers, we’ll be hosting a much bigger virtual version in 2021 for brands and retailers to get stuck into…watch this space!