The first thing that stood out about our interview with the Sarah Shahdan, founder of cosmetics brand Marcella & Co, was her clear love for her family.
In fact, her brand seems to be a physical expression of her hopes for her daughter, and was even named after her.
“My source of inspiration is my daughter, Marcella. In Latin, Marcella means a strong woman. I want her to grow up into a woman who takes charge and OWNS IT.”
These are the same hopes and aspirations that she wants to inject into the Marcella & Co brand: a strong message for the empowerment of women.
Launched in November 2016, Marcella & Co is a local cosmetics brand that specialises in selling lip creams, particularly their lip mattes (basically, lipstick that isn’t shimmery). Their formulas are developed in the UK, but produced here.
It’s a thoughtful entry into a beautiful but saturated market.
Lipsticks and local beauty brands are a dime a dozen nowadays in Malaysia—early last year we put together a list of 14, but there have already been numerous new entries.
Sarah knew how saturated the local cosmetics market is today, but “I was determined to turn the idea into reality”.
“We spent a lot of time doing R&D, creating the right formula and strategising our marketing before launching it. I believe in preparation especially in such a competitive market such as this.”
As a result, Sarah and her team finally developed a line of lip creams that is intended to also nourish your lips—containing argan oil, hip rose oil and Vitamin E.
This perhaps explains why each tube goes at RM55 a pop—a slightly higher price compared to many local fares which generally range from RM20 to RM30 a tube.
It seems that Malaysians will pay that RM55 though, because Marcella & Co makes RM18k of monthly revenue, according to the team.
But what’s the point of beauty without a conscience?
Thus, Marcella & Co lip mattes are vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, KKM-approved and are pending a halal certification, which is in progress.
When asked about why she went through all of the trouble to ensure all of this, Sarah informed us that it is a strategy to stay relevant in a competitive local cosmetics market.
“This was based on my personal principles but at the same time it is also where the market is heading,” said Sarah.
“I think the beauty market in Malaysia is growing at a rapid pace which in hand means consumers are also more aware of and conscious of the products they use.”
And a strategic partnership helped them kick off to a good start.
Sarah has only been working on the brand since 2016. As luck would have it though, she’s good friends with famed makeup artist Khir Khalid.
So she brought him on board to collaborate with her on a limited edition line for Marcella & Co.
“We decided that we should collaborate with an individual who is experienced in the beauty industry as quality is key for our brand. And who better to collaborate with if not the best makeup artist in Malaysia?” said Sarah.
Called the Nude Vibes luxe lip cream collection, the three shades developed are created based on Khir Khalid’s penchant for nude makeup.
When asked if other high-profile collaborations are in the works, Sarah informed us that they want to focus on extending Marcella & Co beyond just lip mattes.
The team has since sold 1200 units of the collaboration, with only limited quantities available for sale now.
That isn’t the only expansion they’re working on.
The team isn’t too comfortable sharing any figures regarding their profitability, but Sarah assured that they’re on track.
Marcella & Co has seen international demand for their lip creams since the very beginning. Due to some recent hike in demand though, they’ve gone into beauty e-commerce site MELUR, in Brunei.
They’re also currently available offline via Fashion Valet, and in Parkson, which the team marks as one of their biggest achievements.
They plan to expand to Indonesia next year, and already a presence in the Brunei market.
When asked about the timing of her entry, Sarah reaffirmed her belief that “this is the best and also the most competitive time to be in this industry”.
And it’s not a small pie to be part of. Back in 2013, Malaysians spent an estimated US$407 million (approximately RM1.624 billion) on cosmetics and toiletries products, most of which was mainly met by imports.
This means that if local brands can show themselves to be on par (or even better) than imported products, there is an opportunity for Malaysian brands to take over. The saturation of the industry is partly because local brands aren’t getting the usage and recognition that international brands have.
“This is great news for Malaysians as competition drives brands to improve and excel further which in hand benefits consumers. I would also like to stress that it is very important for us as a brand to hold the highest level of quality, that is something we are not and will not compromise.”
- Launched in November 2016, Marcella & Co is a local cosmetics brand that specialises in selling lip mattes.
- After an extensive R&D, Marcella & Co developed a line of lip creams that is intended to also nourish your lips, containing argan oil, hip rose oil and vitamin E.
- To stay relevant in a competitive local market, Marcella & Co lip mattes are vegan, cruelty free, paraben free, KKM-approved and is pending a halal certification.
- A collaboration with famed makeup artist Khir Khalid helped get Marcella & Co’s brand name in the sphere.
Feature Image Credit: GramDude & Marcella & Co