Part 2 Interview: Representing Culture and Creating a ‘Third Option’ in the Global Cosmetics Industry, SUQQU's Overseas Strategies in Making the Breakthrough
Where do you plan on opening your stores in the future? Are you planning to open a directly-managed store?
"Currently, we have duty-free shops in the UK, Taiwan, Korea and Thailand and we’re planning to cross over to the continents in Europe. We have in mind to expand our bases in China and the US, however rather than prioritizing the expansions in sales, the strategy of enhancing the presence of each location is probably the best. In a business sense, it may seem slow but I'd rather take the time to build a solid brand rather than multiply the number of shops in speed. We’d also like to have our own main boutique store in Japan, but we haven’t come to a solid conclusion yet. What I think is best for now is to create a world conscious view of the brand which is our focus at the moment."
Are you planning to expand the sales channels at duty-free shops and cross-border Ecommerces?
"We’ve already included duty-free shops and there is no doubt that we’re going to expand our sales channels in the future. We understand the importance in keeping the way things are in our existing local shops. Like I’ve said before, our focus is not of the prices alone but on the global customers who understand what we stand for. Cross-border ecommerce is not so far off in the future and is expected to be done soon. We haven’t gone so far as to think about other omni channels such as social media networks, but at Selfridges and Harrods, the ecommerce seems to be doing well and it’s only a matter of time to which extent the channel will expand."
ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is also a market with high potential. Could you please tell me about how things are at the Thai stores?
"Thai stores are still a bit lifeless compared to the current Taiwanese and British market, which I feel we need support in. East Asia and Southeast Asia are close, so the usages in the colours, the climate conditions, and skin tones are all factors to keep in mind. The international team are currently researching to provide shades that match people in Thai and Southeast Asia and working on another strategy so I think it’s worth mentioning for people to keep their eyes peeled for what we’ll reveal."
How do you make use of the J-Beauty boom that’s occurring?
"Many articles write how after K-Beauty, J-Beauty came right afterwards, but we managed to be in a steady position and came so far without standing out too much. The boom is accepted in a positive response, but is only in the sense that it’s an opportunity. With that being said, Western countries are now beginning to understand the differences between Korea and Japan due to the big changes which creates a world of diversity that I feel is the right timing to show what the true idea of the Orient beauty is. Most J-Beauty articles place their emphasises on skin care which I feel is a little biased, but we wish that SUQQU can establish itself in makeup within J-beauty standards. K-Beauty has a lot of the emphasis on trends in specific ingredients, and in the Western world, their focuses are mainly in the makeup. We use very fine pearl colours that gives eyelids a chic wet look, while naming each delicate colour shadows using poetic Japanese names associating meanings for each colours. The texture, quality, and colour payoff will give people a second opinion in the aesthetic sense that’s created with Japanese sensitivity and J-Beauty will not only be known for representing technological innovative skincare.”
Do you feel that the use of poetic Japanese names as influences are one of the factors that will gardner people’s attention for Japanese makeup?
"I insist on using Japanese naming for our colours and when SUQQU was established from the very beginning, we used traditional Japanese colour names and will continue to express new colours this way. The colours don’t have numbers to identify and names such as pink, rose, etc. Using Japanese names gives character and creates meaning, so I feel that it’s one of our weapons to say the least. By using Japanese names as is, in the West, the local staff will be more inclined to understand the meaning and commitment as a brand.”
Are you thinking about collaborating with Japanese people and Japanese cultural aspects (such as Kabuki, Geishas, etc.) that are familiar to the world?
"Until now, the model we’ve chosen for our brand is not an Asian figure idealized in the West. We’ve always chosen models who we feel are beautiful. In terms of collaborating with Japanese cultural aspects, is not unlikely but SUQQU is a brand that’s catered towards modernity following a strong sense in respecting Japanese tradition in affinity creating a modern, present day brand. Though the package of SUQQU is supervised by Tokujin Yoshioka, other Japanese brands that have been successful overseas, other than beauty products, do not give the necessary push that Japan needs. We aren’t here to indulge what the Western world’s views are of Asia. We want to provide what can be deeply rooted in everyday life and to aim something that hasn’t been discovered yet. "
As a representative of J-Beauty at the summit of the largest Association for Department Stores worldwide (IGDS) this month, can you tell us why this turn of event happened?
"Selfridge are in charge of the summit this year and our participation in the panel discussion was a request from them. Selfridge Oxford is the largest flagship store, and renewing the counter of SUQQU this year with expanding the sales floor area to three times its previous size totaling to 40 metres square. The only Japanese brand currently on the main floor’s cosmetics section is SUQQU and the summer collection released right after the renewal opening day, sales were considerably high on the first day. I suppose with that result that we received the invitation. We also received comments coming in from other store fronts that we should expand our sales space.”
J-Beauty is not an everlasting trend. What is left when the real value of the brand is questioned a few years later will be a brand like SUQQU that does not change its axis but permeates the world view in a way that fits the region. Would it be possible to build a third opinion in the industry? We’re looking forward to the world map that SUQQU draws.