When it comes to some of our favorite products at NYLON, they are often from under-the-radar brands that have either come recommended to us or have just one day magically landed on our desks. But with a beauty market currently oversaturated with the Etsys of the world, it gets increasingly harder to sort out the good from the not-so-great when it comes to smaller brands. Luckily events like Indie Beauty Expo can do all the sleuthing and sorting for us.
Serving as a platform to discover, recognize, showcase, and celebrate independent beauty, wellness, and lifestyle brands, the trade show was founded a year ago by Jillian Wright, celebrity aesthetician (who has worked on the likes of Kim Kardashian and Kristen Wiig) and founder of Jillian Wright Clinical Skin Spa and Jillian Wright Skincare, and Nader Naeymi-Rad, entrepreneur and management consultant, to support the growth and success of indie brands.
After years of being an aesthetician, the idea of the Expo first came to Wright when she was getting ready to go to market with her line. She soon discovered that there was nowhere to go to introduce her products to the public. “My colleagues and friends and I didn’t have a platform to showcase our products, launch new packaging and formulas, and connect with the right people to elevate our brands for further distribution,” Wright says. And despite her industry connections and reputation, the mass retailers and distributors were no help either. “Even with my very successful spa, I found it difficult to get my products in front of new people,” she says. “The beauty industry, as I knew it, ignored luxury indie beauty brands; it was all about big dollars and mass consumption and I felt—and perhaps this is unfair to say—there was no regard for the consumer or new ideas, such as clean beauty products or green beauty products.”
She quickly learned that, with more competition than ever, it was going to take a lot more than supplying high-quality products to make her line successful. She next participated in a few trade shows, only to realize that they weren’t effective for her business and were not getting her the exposure she needed. “I needed guidance and there was none,” she says. “And I knew I wasn’t alone. As a spa owner. I had learned of so many great new brands and ideas, and I didn’t see them represented at shows or on shelves at all.” Wright took matters into her own hands, and Indie Beauty Expo was soon born with the intention of bringing brands, buyers, and consumers together in a “meaningful, grassroots way, where people could meet each other and connect over these amazing entrepreneurs who have but nothing short of their blood in their businesses.”
In making the Indie Beauty Expo, Wright set out to create an event where she could showcase “the most incredible, hard-to-find products on the market” and give small, independent brands the credit that they deserve in the industry. “Indie brands are changing the way people shop for their beauty. Indie brands are trendsetters; they are looking for new solutions to problems consumers face, new solutions for the environment, new alternatives to canned, packaged marketing.”
The brands, 130 of them at Wednesday’s 2016 event to be exact, are seriously vetted before being selected to participate. “A brand should be ready for distribution, have beautiful packaging, solid formulation, and a reason for people to buy their products. We go for brands that are beautiful, have great websites, are professional, and can support the retail environment,” says Wright. “Most of all, they should have a story to tell.”
With that in mind, we set out to the expo for the very first time. In addition to meeting some incredible on-the-rise indie beauty brands—some brand-new to us, some that we’ve had an opportunity to test out previously, and some that are already stocking our medicine cabinet—and hearing some inspiring stories of their beginnings, we experienced the interactive portion of the show. Titled Shop Indie, it involved live music from Sleigh Bells’ Alexis Krauss, flower crown DIYs, mini beauty and hair makeovers, and even an express peel bar. “This is more than a tradeshow. It’s a spirit and an energy and there is so much potential to keep the creativity flowing and blowing it out year after year,” says Wright of the experience.
And, of course, we got to sample a giant selection of new products. Ahead the 22 that impressed us the most.