Friday, December 1, 2023

WFH fuels facial fashion!


Work from home (WFH) has impacted people’s sense of fashion among others. How WFH fuelled evolution in facial fashion?

As it is said, every coin has two sides. Or, as Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” Apropos, while the Pandemic has been full of strife, it has also driven imagination, innovation and inspired thinking. Most of the business models have now appreciated the substantial role of technology in whatever business it is about and have integrated Technology in various facets of their models.

Several new business opportunities have emerged, as well. Some in the space, we would otherwise perceive, as counter-intuitive. For instance, one would think that since it’s largely being Work from Home, the need for dressing up – more than just the shirt on top and the wear-under – isn’t a market anymore. However, contrary to such superficial analysis, the truth lies somewhere in the depth…in the nuances.

For her book, A Paradise Built in Hell, the celebrated nonfiction writer Rebecca Solnit studied impromptu, spontaneous, bottom-up responses to some of the world’s worst natural and man-made disasters — deadly earthquakes in San Francisco and Mexico City, the Halifax Explosion of 1917, the September 11 attacks. “The history of disaster,” she writes, “demonstrates that most of us are social animals, hungry for connection, as well as for purpose and meaning.” People rising up to the occasion has been as much a magical & momentous narrative and at the same, there wasn’t any dearth of stories of unscrupulous people and their sinister acts. At the same time, we see what we choose to see.

Apropos, here I would like to talk about, literally, the ‘seeing’ part of it!

WFH has had a direct and substantial impact on some of the aspects of ‘dressing-up’ in terms of what we do get to see. WHF has led to a boom in Video Meetings even with the ferocity of the Pandemic being dialled down; there is also a growing acceptance of Masks as a preventive measure and the Masks are getting better in terms of looks and comfort. Hair, Eyes and Teeth, therefore, have increasingly come into focus in terms of Personal Care or Grooming.

Cosmetic dentistry to hair cutting/styling to hair spa to hair colouring/tinting business, eye-makeup, overall salon business and employment of related professionals; each and every category and the sub-categories, have been seeing and are projected to see a robust growth of 6-8% through this 2021-30 decade. In the years 2020 & 2021, for instance, growth in oral care, as well as eye makeup products, have seen astronomical month on month numbers ranging from 75% to 150%!

There’s a Zoom Look’ and there is also a ‘Mask Makeup’. As the cliché goes, Lipstick Index may now be the Mascara Index! Cliches apart, innovative new Products & Services in terms of Hair, teeth and Eyes are emerging every day and the related business are seeing an upsurge. Toothpaste providing for instant (sic) Whitening, Porcelain Veneers over Teeth are some of the highly functional though whacky new products. Similarly, many products and ‘ways’ to make Eyes up have emerged.

The trend is underscored strongly by the data. While Eye-makeup products are seeing growth in sales, the comparable numbers for Lipsticks have dropped! Noteworthy that while Lips makeup has numerous shades and forms, viz., Lip-colours, gloss, highlighters and so on, the humble Mascara is just black…at least, till now. Similarly, the phenomenon of video meetings has brought too much focus on just the Faces. It has everyone staring at each other’s faces, for endless amounts of time. Moreover, in WFH there are so many distractions and noises. So, there’s increasing effort to look closely at the mouth – for the lip movement – of whosoever is speaking. Video meetings thus are brutally revealing dis-colouration, stains, chips, and snaggleteeth!

In fact, various makeup categories are seeing an upsurge with men too, jumping in on to the bandwagon! As Meloney Moore, associate dean at the School of Business Innovation at Savannah College of Art and Design, says, “We are experiencing the democratization of makeup across gender lines.”  While we may snigger at the point, please do take note of the fact that the Pandemic has seen major chaos in the job market. People have lost jobs in droves. Businesses too, have closed down.

There’s a focus on Employment and/or ‘Earnings’ opportunities with most of the initial engagement happening over Video meetings. With the aspects of Proxemics not in play, for instance, body language, there’s reliance and focus on the Face and face-alone! At the same time, Covid related effects and concomitant Stress & Anxiety-related effects, have had a substantial negative impact on Hair health & Facial-skin health. The need and desire for mouth health, both at the cosmetic level and in real terms, shouldn’t be viewed in lighter-vein nor should it be seen as a passing fad.

‘Cosmetics’ in terms of its connotation doesn’t really have that gravitas. The entire aspect of Appearance, so to say, is in fact has been downplayed with the Indian Socio-cultural paradigm having extraordinarily high value for intellectual and inner dimensions on the one hand and actually discouraging too much weight to external appearance. That’s another discussion, all by itself.

Nevertheless, the entire aspect of self-care is indeed a point for earnest discussion. The need to love one own self; not in the self-centred sort of way, but more from the self-belief, the fortitude and the self-confidence perspectives, have emerged as crucial to be able to able to hold oneself together, in these times of such extreme incertitude and strife. Health & Well-being thus, is of immense importance, with Hair, Eyes and Mouth being significant within that.

Aspects of WFH, whether it is Facial make-up or making-up for social interactions, are being and have to be, in focus and in our discussions as we negotiate the turns, the twists and the hairpin bends in our challenging journey driven by the Pandemic and beyond.

Also Read: #hypevalue: Unreal valuation. Real hype.

(Sanjeev Shukla is a corporate strategy and marketing leader with three decades of experience with Hyundai, Hero MotoCorp, Ford and the advertising world.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)


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