MICHELLE A ENG LEANG
When did I first encounter Immortelle Beauty? Hard question to answer as it’s one of the local beauty brands that has truly spread its wings. Was it one of the local markets? Or maybe a subscription box that showcased local brands. Fact is, this brand has been seen at local markets and on shelves around the country, including SuperPharm, since 2010 and its latest milestone is opening its own space at the Hotel Normandie in St. Anns.
As soon as I walked in, the familiar indulgence that I have always associated with Immortelle Beauty greeted me, along with owner Kathryn Nurse. Nurse, a cosmetic chemist, founded the local brand with the aim of creating “little local luxuries” and as I looked around her new shop, the evidence that she achieved exactly that was all around us.
Immortelle Beauty develops, manufactures three line of beauty and lifestyle products including Esscentials, which includes lotions, shower gels, spray oils, body butters, body polishes and more; Home Fragrances, which includes candles and diffusers and Foot Rehab which includes soaks, scrubs and creams all for the feet.
Prior to opening her space, Nurse sold her products through the local market circuit and many retailers around the country but admits that having her own space was always a part of her vision. “For Trinidadian customers, having a place to go is still very important. A lot of us entrepreneurs, have a very millennial mindset when it comes to selling online and not having a physical space. But many of the customers still really like having somewhere to go,” said Nurse. She believes that not everyone is into social media and websites, so to stay completely digital as a brand may not be wise. "Having a space where we could brand completely was a huge benefit for us. From the minute you walk into the space, it starts communicating things about who we are as a business and as a brand, and the type of products that we sell and the type of people who we want to sell to. So because of that I always saw a store in my future.” Nurse believes that physical shops still have their merit in the midst of all the digital and e-commerce innovation in today’s world. “I don’t really think bricks and mortar are necessarily on their way out. It’s the kind of branded experiential bricks and mortar that are going to survive, and when I started to see the global retail industry and how it was moving, I knew that the space that I wanted to have, always needed to have some sort of experiential element.”
For Nurse, the Immortelle Beauty vision has always been to show people the potential of local. “The vision of the business and my personal vision is to show people that just because it is Trinidadian, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done in a sophisticated manner and to a specific standard or an international standard. So many people still think because it’s local that it’s trashy and basic and not complete. There are so many brands that are out there and people are not taking the initiative to find out about. I wanted to make sure to highlight some of those brands that are operating on our level in the store as well, so literally everything in the store and on the shelves are for sale. Including mine we have six local brands in the store but also we used a lot of local carpenters and sign makers. Everything in the store is made in Trinidad."
With Immortelle Beauty achieving this milestone, I can only imagine how many other local brands may be looking on in awe. So I sought some words of wisdom from Nurse. “To people now starting out who have a vision to get their own space need to focus on building their clientele first. It doesn’t make sense to get a space, to pay a rent and having no one coming into it. Social media is the best way for that right now. Build up your following on social media so that when you do in fact get your space, you have a captive market already there.” As for any advice on building that social media presence as a young local brand? “To build up your social media following, just keep posting as much as possible. Even when you think things aren’t of a great standard, put aside perfectionism and post it anyway. People aren’t going to remember that the picture wasn’t lit as well as you wanted it to be. They are going to remember that this brand continuously shows up and it’s going to become a top of mind for them and they are going to remember your brand.”
The Immortelle Beauty shop features local brands such as Very Verde, Classy Gents, Kyle Naturals and The Inside Jungle.