Namrata Helps Gen Zers Feel Comfortable in Their Skin
Namrata is the founder of Plenaire, a skincare brand that aims to empower Gen Zs in their transition to adulthood. She shares her thoughts on diversity and how we all need to feel a little more comfortable being ourselves.
Namrata, we’re classic millennials. Tell us what you learned about Gen Z when creating Plenaire. We did a lot of research to find out what new products they’re using, what motivates them. There’s definitely a shift in focus towards Gen Z. They’re not millennials, they’re super pragmatic, they’re not looking for a meal ticket, they’re commercially minded but they’re not hanging around waiting for someone to give them a job. They have a different energy, somehow. They’re also more focused on community, not the more individualistic culture you see around typical millennial brands. They’re more interested in self-actualized values, holistic practices, and much more altruistic than previous generational cohorts.
Are you focused on a particular sub-group of Gen Zs? We work a lot with creative people across different industries in an unfiltered way. Creative people tend to be on the fringes of things, rather than the mainstream personas. Our focus is more on the people who are doing things differently, taking risks, putting themselves out there – and that message is starting to get through to people.
Why was your ambition to focus on supporting those who somehow feel “different”? We all have moments of feeling like we’re not like everyone else. Imagine if you have a child and all the time you’re encouraging them to push their feelings down. For example, my daughter’s body is changing and I talk to her about why it’s happening, tell her it’s ok to feel self-conscious, to feel discomfort, it’s all about finding a way to validate what she’s feeling, rather than to politely ignore it. That was the parenting my generation had: you’re bleeding out of your underwear but let’s just ignore that. The issue is then that’s a learned, pretty unhealthy behaviour and it’s easy to habitually dismiss your feelings on other, bigger issues. With that approach, you’ll likely end up in therapy at some point.
What other issues were top of mind for you as you learned more about this younger age group? I rarely see people in the top beauty publications – and in the beauty industry in general - that reflect the diversity of their readers or audiences. It’s not very diverse. But the way the conversation is going, it’s suggesting I should be extra interested in my own Indian background, but really we should be interested in everyone. When we did babycare for Dove, we couldn’t find diverse images of babies anywhere – it was either a perfect European mother in a pastel twin set with a child or images of poverty stricken children in Africa. How is this a reflection of parenthood? It was like baby care was stuck in the seventies.
Where does this come from? I’ve been around very privileged people from all walks of life, it’s about how you’re raised and it’s about curiosity in other people. Cancel culture isn’t addressing the deep seated issues with respect to race. I think it’s important to give people the benefit of the doubt before you assume a sinister agenda.
How did you react to the Black Lives Matter movement on social media? As a brand, we weren’t in a hurry to do the blackout thing. It felt too casual. I get that people did it because they felt scared about what would happen if they didn’t. And so many people have been called out for saying the wrong thing. But this culture on social media to fit in all the time feels like a lot of pressure and sometimes it also to me seems a bit frivolous. I do understand it’s about driving awareness and therefore has the best intention but the execution to me felt a little emptyI
Very wise words. Did you already have a diversity strategy in place for Plenaire? We never felt we needed a diversity strategy, it just felt effortless. I did have an investor asking me whether my product was specially formulated for black skin, because there were so many black people on our feed. We always saw black, white, different genders and ethnicities in Plenaire from the beginning.
We were not also existentially cis-gender – we saw in the research that many children were struggling with gender dysphoria, and their parents were sometimes unable to help them or in some cases come to terms with it, or they got bullied or labelled which has a real impact of their self esteem. If you’re given the message as a child that whatever you’re feeling is ok, then you’re in a much stronger position.
How did this influence the skincare solutions you created? Above all, we felt skincare brands should be telling people to indulge themselves and making young people feel good. What’s with all the acids, scrubbing and the peeling? We almost felt that these subliminal message did self harm were creating issues where there weren’t any! It has to be pleasurable to take care of yourself. No acne products that smell unpleasant or contain Sulphur. We’re not creating anything that doesn’t smell bomb and feel amazing.
Tell us about how you created your products. I hired a chemist, I had a creative vision of each product in my mind. We looked at the research, the gaps, the classic needs that would form the basis of a capsule collection. We didn’t want to add to noise, we wanted to make life easier for the consumer. One of our girls we spoke to was gesturing to all the skincare routines she felt like she had to have in her bedroom but instead was feeling like she wanted to find the one or two things she needs, because she was lost and wanted a more minimal capsule life. Some girls still like to have a variety of products, but others prefer this more minimal approach, and it felt right for us.
And what results were you looking for your products to achieve? Our brand needed to be focused on wellness, where the rest of the market is split between “problem-solution” brands (e.g. acne products) and “results-focused” brands, focusing on an end benefit, like a glossy after shot. We are shooting for the experience and the bit in the middle. We made sure we had a hero product behind everything, and we wanted to create a ritual that people found engaging - as the teens weren’t engaging with skincare the way they did bodycare, for example. Our way in was to create a capsule collection that means people don’t have to buy more. All of our products are wipe-off, no rinse - to create an efficient routine and fit with their transient lifestyles. We also thought carefully about a product platform and a creative expression alongside for each. The rose jelly product is all about “being gentle with yourself”, we wanted a nice sensorial experience.