This woman entrepreneur’s vegan beauty brand aims to produce ‘free and equal’ cosmetics for all
Beauty brands and the cosmetics industry have been accused of promoting the idea that fair skin is beautiful.
However, and thankfully, we must add, several brands are taking on the stereotype and creating cosmetics that go beyond lighter skin shades.
Karishma Kewalramani who founded FAE beauty - an acronym for free and equal was also concerned with the narrative that the industry was selling to consumers.
With the launch of her vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics line, Karishma hopes to tackle the preconceived notions of beauty and create a community where make-up works as a liberator and not an inhibitor.
From managing brands to creating her own
Karishma worked as a managing consultant at AT Kearney in San Francisco, USA. While managing beauty brands, she realised her childhood passion of working in the beauty industry. After spending seven-and-a-half years away from home, two of which were spent in Bengaluru, she returned to Mumbai, the city of dreams with her own dreams.
Rather than working in the industry, she took a bold move - and decided to start up on her own.
“I realised two things when I came back - one that, in the time that I had been gone, the beauty industry had exploded, people were now using many more products that they used to. They were also very conscious about their purchasing patterns, and were looking for cleaner and healthier options.”
However, she found that when people looked for such options in India they had to forego “trendiness”. Only big brands were able to offer both these qualities, but they weren’t affordable to all. In the US, she was exposed to brands that were able to combine the two. She wanted to bridge that gap in the Indian market and decided to start FAE beauty.
After returning to India in 2017, she decided to educate herself, went to make-up school and worked as a make-up artist for a year which led her to the realise that the biggest problem with cosmetics in India was the lack of representation when it came to beauty products.
“We still were not doing a good enough job in terms of ensuring that every scale and every spectrum of skin tone, type, and texture was being represented in our beauty brands. Not only represented but also catered to in an affordable way,” she says.
With money she had saved from working in the US, and a little help from friends, family and mentors, she started working on formulating the brand in early 2018 and launched FAE Beauty in August 2019.
She calls her brand's way of approaching beauty as ‘democratic beauty’, where all skin types, colours, people are represented. Right from products to advertising campaigns, the brand is representative of all. It uses real people and not just models, they don’t photoshop images, or use lighting techniques to show unreal beauty standards.
“In our campaigns we have a gender-fluid person, we also did a campaign with drag queens for Pride,” she says.
In terms of products, the brand currently offers colour adapting lipsticks that multi-purposes as blush and eyeshadow. The lipsticks adapt to the natural skin tone, as it goes from a sheer lip tint to a matte coverage with each swipe.
With the help of a cosmetologist who worked as a freelance R&D specialist for FAE, the brand has five lipsticks that are hundred percent vegan, paraben free, and cruelty free. The products are available on their website and on ecommerce platform Nykaa.
The Indian beauty industry is teeming with brands; from MNCs, startups to local products looking for a share of a large pie.
Karishma faced multiple challenges while starting up – the most important being getting people onboard with the idea, especially a manufacturer who was willing to manufacture her formulations. Hers was a bootstrapped firm with no backing from major investors or big MNCs supporting it. However, she persisted with the idea.
“I would go to business meetings with my brother who also works at the company, and manufacturers would just direct their attention to him, and not even look at me. This happened until we found a manufacturing partner who respected us in the right way, regardless of me being a woman or not,” says Karishma.
Karishma says that FAE is building a community first and products later. “The ultimate goal is to create a community, a safe space where no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, it's not judgmental, it's honest,” she says.
In terms of products, the brand follows the “slow beauty” concept and plans to add three to four products every year. It wants to bring to the market products that are different from what already exists. “We don't want to bring just another concealer, or sell just an eye shadow palette, it needs to be something that works differently and works specifically for people in this country,” she adds.
With adequate representation for all as a core of its philosophy, it wants to keep pushing the boundary in beauty. “We constantly want to ask questions that are difficult, we want to be transparent and authentic and never want to compromise on that idea.”
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)