A 25-year beauty industry veteran, Claire Gittus left her role as the director of a skin care company in the UK 10 years ago and moved to the Middle East. She started Aspire Beauty Trading ﬁve years ago and last month launched Aspire Beauty Co, an e-boutique featuring a curated mix of vegan, organic and cult brands.
Why start online platform as opposed to opening a bricks-and-mortar store?
It’s the way that the industry is going. It’s the way that consumers are purchasing products. There’s been a real shift from the beauty salon, versus the retailer, versus the online platform. So I felt that it was the right time to start a beauty only platform.
What were the considerations you took into account when it came to product curation?
The whole platform is centred on clean beauty. All of the products that we have in the diﬀerent categories – skin care, hair care, body care and accessories all come under clean beauty. Some are cleaner than others.
How do you deﬁne 'clean beauty'?
Clean beauty is a very broad spectrum. Some may be certiﬁed organic, recyclable packaging and use soy ink for the printing. Others come under natural, vegan and obviously cruelty free. That goes across the board. We don’t have a brand on our site that’s not cruelty free but they might not tick all the boxes of the whole spectrum of clean beauty.
Can a product still be considered clean if it isn’t certiﬁed organic?
To actually get a product certiﬁed as 100% organic is actually a very diﬃcult process. So you can have very clean beauty products that use organic ingredients but don’t actually qualify for the certification. So it can be 98% organic but it could be a process that a particular ingredient goes through that prevents them from having that certiﬁcation. The certiﬁcation is made diﬃcult for a purpose. They don’t want every brand out there calling their products organic when they’re not. You will have products that use certiﬁed organic ingredients but aren’t actually classiﬁed as certiﬁed organic.
Is demand for clean beauty growing in this region?
When I came to this region 10 years ago, people didn’t even use the words ‘clean’, ‘organic’ or even ‘natural’. Vegan brands have seen a global increase over the last couple of years and that’s internationally and here in the Middle East. For the Middle East it’s still a fairly new thing but it’s certainly something that Middle Eastern women are embracing. We also live in a very multicultural society so we have lots of expats here that come from countries where clean beauty is huge.
Is there a country that’s leading the way in terms of clean beauty?
We’re seeing a lot of clean beauty brands come out of Australia. For Australian women, it’s in their DNA. They’ve been brought up around clean beauty. But I can see a shift in consumers of all backgrounds and ages just by what they’re searching on the internet and trending hashtags on social media. I would probably say the Middle East will see the largest growth in the shortest amount of time.
Is social media integral to your marketing strategy?
Social media is a big part of our marketing campaign. I am not a social media expert but I’ve employed people to do that side of the business for me. I understand the importance of it and the need for it and I think with an online platform, because the reach that we will have will be the whole of the GCC, we need social media.
Was it a challenge to ﬁnd the right logistics partners?
People now are very demanding. That’s not a cultural thing, that’s just a female thing. We see it, we want it and we want it yesterday. For me it was really important to partner with good courier services. We’ve partnered with a very big international brand (DHL) so we have 100% faith that they will deliver for us to ﬁt the demands of our clients. We will have a same day service for Dubai which is de is delivered within four hours of you making your purchase. We will have same day or next day for the UAE and 48 hours for the rest of the GCC. I could see that it would be a big challenge but because e-commerce has grown so massively, across all industries in the past couple of years, these courier companies are very up on the demands of the consumers and can supply the services that we are looking for as an online platform.
Would you say Dubai is a good place to operate from?
Absolutely. Even down to the brand searching. Many brands that we stock were already here, which is fantastic, but probably 35% of the brands we launched with weren’t in the region. To actually reach out to these brands in the US, Australia, the UK, everybody’s interested in Dubai and the Middle East. Some of the brands are big cult brands but some of them are very niche so this is a great way of getting them into this market.
What are some of the brands that you’re bringing in?
We have real pioneer clean beauty brands. One of them being Grown Alchemist. We also have a fantastic sun care and tan range from Australia called Eco Tan, which was the ﬁ rst organic tanning brand in Australia. There’s a great story behind it. We also have a new start-up brand from the UK called Project Lip. It’s by an ex-makeup artist who has launched a clean, vegan and cruelty free lip plumping range of products. A product I think it will do incredibly well with Middle Eastern women is called The Quick Flick. It’s from Australia and it’s an eyeliner stamp that creates the winged eyeliner look. For the non-makeup artist, it’s very easy to use.
Are you planning to make Aspire Beauty Co an interactive platform?
I think the community side of it will grow organically through our consumers. For us, it’s really important that ladies feel confident to go in to our site. The key for me is that every product on our site has been tried and tested by us. So we’ve done the research for you, we’ve read all of the ingredients, we’ve looked at what’s in the product and we’ve looked at the results of that product is going to do. We want consumers to be able to visit our site and not have to worry. We’ve done all that for you. So hopefully the community will build from there as a lifestyle choice rather than an educational choice.
Why do you think clean beauty has become so popular?
There are many reasons why people may choose to shift into the clean beauty movement that’s going on at the moment. They may be a vegan, they may not. They may be an eco-warrior, they may not. I want to be able to say to everybody ‘try these products. I think there’s a lot of perception about natural and organic products. A lot of women think they may not perform as well as products with chemicals in them because the mind-set is that they must be putting those chemicals in there for a reason. Perhaps people think that they deliver better results but now we can have it all. We can have clean beauty products that give us the results we’re looking for.
What would you like to achieve with Aspire Beauty Co?
If nothing else, I would like to bring these brands into the houses of women across the Middle East and get them to try the products. If I can achieve that, mission accomplished!