There is an old French saying that most people have heard in some form or another, usually while on the verge of buying something stylish but uncomfortable: Il faut souffrir pour être belle. Translated loosely, it means “beauty is pain,” though it sounds a bit more elegant in French.
Whether that statement is true is an age-old debate in beauty and fashion. But however one feels about the pain requirements for beauty, no one can argue that sometimes, it hurts.
And beauty is also expensive.
Particularly at the designer level. A 50-millileter jar of Guerlain Orchidée Impériale La Crème (which Kim Kardashian swears by) will run the average consumer around $404. But even building one’s skincare routine around the “drug store gems” recommended by beauty editors for buyers with average budgets will cost over $100, and in some cases well over $300.
The choice in beauty products for consumers often ranges from expensive to insanely expensive.
And while beauty startup Akira is not pushing to make cosmetics and beauty products inexpensive, they are looking to give more budget-conscious consumers access to designer products by brands such as SK-II, Givenchy, Clinique and Living Proof, among others, at prices 10 percent to 40 percent below retail pricing.
Those discounts, according to the firm, are intended to simplify the process. When customers buy beauty products, they are paying for more than just the goods they are getting, according to Akira. They are also paying for the packaging, the marketing and the “free” samples that tend to inflate costs in the cosmetics industry. Akira’s innovation is to strip away all the excess, sending only what the consumer ordered with only as much packaging as is necessary to protect the item in transit.
The products are sourced globally. Akira has buyers in London, Paris, Rome, New York, Tokyo, Poland, Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo and Taipei, and the company says all products are individually screened for authenticity.
“Akira’s goal is to make luxury brands accessible to consumers who want to buy them, and who are investing in beauty products and perhaps aren’t getting the best out of their investments so far,” said a company representative. “We offer consumers access to top-performing, top-rated products without compromising quality.”
The California-based firm also notes that through the Akira platform, consumers can gain early access to regional releases instead of having to wait for them to go on sale in the U.S.
Consumers usually just want the product, the firm noted, and the packaging is a secondary concern. When given a choice, most buyers will prefer higher-end products with fewer preservatives and a better track record for success – but price often dictates that choice. Shoppers tend to purchase the best of what they can afford, usually treating designers or luxury products as an occasional or splurge purchase (or not buying at all).
“We believe everyone should be able to choose the products that suit them best while having an elevated beauty experience,” the founders shared in a press release. “That’s why we set out to make international luxuries more accessible for everyone.”
It is unknown how exactly Akira’s buyer network functions, or how they authenticate the products they offer – particularly given that cosmetics counterfeiting is a large and growing global business. The brand did affirm that each item was “personally inspected” for authenticity by expert buyers.
The effectiveness of those experts and the process remains to be seen. Akira publicly launched earlier this month. The firm said its goal, for the time being, is to recruit users to the site and to expand its beauty and wellness offerings.