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November 16, 2019

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Can a new, foreign brand of men’s make-up make a mark in China?

JENNIFER Urwyler visited this year’s China International Import Expo on a mission: she wants to introduce her men’s make-up line into China, and she reckons her products are just what local men need. But will they agree?

Men are no strangers to the beauty industry in China, and that was highlighted stunningly on October 21 when Li Jiaqi — a male online beauty personality — sold 100 million yuan (US$14.3 million) worth of products in just six minutes, smashing records left, right and center.

Li — or the lipstick guy, as they like to call him — is now Taobao’s most successful live-streaming host, whipping his millions of fans into a buying frenzy with the latest beauty products and special offers. His show on October 21, a kind of Singles Day warm-up, saw up to 31 million people watching at a time, and dozens of specially selected beauty products sell out within just five minutes each.

But his target audience are, far and away, women. Despite being of the male persuasion, Li isn’t selling beauty to men — male beauty is still relatively unchartered territory.

“It’s just that men’s beauty is a bit more underground in China,” Jennifer told me. She’s really done her research.

Based in Switzerland, her brand — featuring foundation, concealer, blush, lipsticks and more — is called Triston, and it’s specifically aimed at men. Young, trendy, metro men, to be exact.

“Men want to be beautiful, just like women!” Jennifer laughed as I chatted with her during the expo. I concur.

“Our objective is to be the brand for every man, something to make you feel great and perfect,” she said.

Is China ready?

Rliny is another male Internet personality — KOL, as they like to call them — in the field of cosmetics. With 850,000 fans on Weibo, Rliny is often called upon by brands for not only advice, but also to promote and market beauty products.

He told me that despite wide promotion of male beauty products being few and far between, China is definitely warming to the idea of men delving into cosmetics. “People’s idea of beauty is more diverse nowadays, and Chinese men’s make-up at this stage is a trend that is growing in acceptance.”

That’s led to quite an explosion in recent months of cheap beauty products for men sold all over Taobao and other platforms, but that doesn’t worry Jennifer.

“Our focus is on premium quality products that not only look good and feel good, but are also good for the skin,” she explained. “Our products are free of parabens, fragrances, silicone and gluten, and our complete line is hypoallergenic.”

That is where Triston stands apart from the myriad of BB creams and lip tints young men can already buy online, she added.

Rliny doesn’t think the proliferation of products online is cause for concern either, but suggests that foreign brands looking to make it here respect the local market and try hard to understand, and therefore better meet, the needs of Chinese consumers.

“First of all, respect should be the basis for launching a new brand anywhere,” he told me. “If China’s basic cultural bottom line isn’t respected, how can a brand expand its influence and gain more customers?”

The second China International Import Expo was “fantastic” for Jennifer and her brand, allowing them to build connections and test the waters in preparation for a launch here early next year. She sees taking part in the expo in the future as a key part of her brand’s journey and growth, and is already planning a “bigger and better” stall for 2020.

As for Triston, it will hit online retailers in the next few months. And Jennifer’s feeling quite optimistic: “If we fail, we won’t give up.”


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