Local cosmetics brand Too Cool for School has established its own territory in the extremely competitive global beauty market by targeting a niche group of women interested in pampering themselves rather than pleasing others.
The success lies in the idiosyncratic "cool factor" attracting women who are outspoken and confident, and do not care what others think about their looks, said Cho Hye-shin, general director of the company.
Launched in 2009, the company has expanded by opening 46 stores across Asia and another one inside the prestigious Parisian select shop Colette, on top of 29 stores in Korea.
The company is also scheduled to open dozens more in China, the US and the second in Paris later this year.
"We believe that we have attracted a certain category of women ― those who wear makeup for themselves instead of imitating certain celebrities or what men like," Cho said in her interview with The Korea Herald.
"They value our spirit of mixing design factors with the product packaging. They identify themselves with the cool and sassy illustrations and prints on the bottles and lipsticks, and love to show them off," she said.
The most popular Dinoplatz line illustrates city landscape and possible UFOs while Glam Rock line products come in gothic-sexy bottles.
The signature Art Class line products are released in jars in the shape of old records or antique bottles, and Anke line, in collaboration with German artist Anke Weckmann, depicts girl power within every age and race.
The blue, green and other colour eyeliners are conspicuous and the shades of lip tints are red and pearly.
"They are definitely not girly and very different to people who are used to the 'organic' or 'natural' concepts adopted by other cosmetics companies.
But the design factor based on the cool spirit were proven valid ― all our overseas stores were opened upon request from foreign buyers who liked our differentiated spirit," Cho said.
Another success factor is that every product is based on data analysis of Korean women's demand over decades.
Too Cool for School, whose mother company is Toda Cosa, one of the first cosmetics select shops in Korea in 1990s located across the country, keeps information about various women's skin types, common dermatological troubles, preference and other information that shows what women want.
Based on the analysis as well as long and complicated processes taking up to years for development, universally-appealing products are born, Cho said.
In order to keep up with the global demand, the company is considering expanding its lineups to cater to people with different skin tones, features and bone structures.
"While we need three conventional tones for foundations in Korea ― commonly No. 13, 21, and 23 ― people in the US, France and Southeast Asia need more specified and classified tones, textures and others," she said.
"Going global means a great deal. Not only do you have to diversify your product lineups you also have to understand foreign policies, taxation, and even culture.
But we are taking this challenge with great fun because, this proves that even without a lot of money and brand power, great marketing concepts and quality products can still make you win the world," she added.