Founded in 2019, the Los Angeles-based brand specialises in complexion products like its serum-infused skin foundation and loose powder.
Its founder and CEO, Shih Yu-Chen, told CosmeticsDesign-Asia that the brand was inspired by her experiences as an Asian woman who was unable to find a foundation that matched her Malay-Chinese complexion.
“As an Asian consumer, I spent my entire life trying to find a foundation that worked for me, and I just got disappointed over and over again… I surveyed 117 Asian women and over two-thirds reported they were knowingly settling for the wrong shade, or they were mixing two or three different shades to the get right colour.”
Since its launch, the company has been growing at a double-digit rate annually, even in the midst of the pandemic.
“During the pandemic, I was so close to thinking of shutting down because there was so much panic in the US – we didn’t even have food, would people think of buying make-up? We ended up being a bit pandemic-proof. Of course, I think our rate of growth could have been a lot higher, but it hasn’t slowed us down,” said Shih.
The brand primarily operates online but is available at select retail outlets, including US luxury department store Neiman Marcus.
A return to its roots
In January, Orcé made its debut in Singapore, marking the brand’s return to its roots in Asia.
“I grew up in Singapore and the launch gives me an excuse to be close to my family. But from a business standpoint, Singapore is so global and diverse – that makes it a great place for us to test and see how well our products will be received in Asia.”
The brand’s foray into the international sphere roughly coincides with the imminent expansion of its foundation shade range.
Orcé currently only has six shades in its foundation line-up due to the initial lack of financial resources, which meant the company had to be very targeted with the shades it developed.
“Six shades were as much as we were able to produce in the beginning. I wanted to start with the women around me. The lightest shade is based on my younger cousin in Taiwan who is extremely fair. There’s a shade based on my friend who is Cambodian. I made a shade for her and tested it on people just like her. In fact, I can give you the name of the women that inspired every single shade,” said Shih.
By developing shades based on real women in her circle, Shih inadvertently filled a real gap in the market for underrepresented Asian women, such as Cambodians or Filipinos, despite having a fraction of the foundation shades some established multimillion-dollar brands have.
This year, the company will be expanding the range with 12 more shades so it can reach a wider range of people. This shade expansion was based on data that the firm collected from over 300 women.
“They told us what brands and what shades they were wearing, basically giving us data on what shades to create rather than just blindly copying it from a colour book or copying it from another brand,” Shih explained.
Shih told CosmeticsDesign-Asia that she was not playing a numbers game like many colour cosmetic companies do with their foundation line-ups.
“Inclusivity should be more than just performative. I think the idea of inclusivity these days is having resources to create as many different colours as you can. But what is it based on? Did you do your homework to make sure these are actually the shades people need?”
The brand will be available in Singapore via its online website and the online platform of local department store Tangs.
Shih views Singapore as a starting point to expand the brand regionally in South East Asia.
“I think there’s a cultural awakening within the Asian community, not just in the US but even in Asia and places like Singapore. Singapore is very globalised and international, where people are exposed to this sort of thinking that we Asians have unique skin needs and our needs matter. I’m hoping to further this message and with Singapore being such a global arena, hopefully, it has a ripple effect as we launch into countries surrounding Singapore.”
With the expansion of its international footprint and new shades on the way, the company expects its revenue to at least double in 2022 as it reaches a wider range of people, said Shih.
“In previous years, we've increased by double-digit percentages, but I feel like this year, hopefully with the pandemic smoothening out soon, we can hit our numbers and we aim to breakeven by 2024.”