Stylenanda, the Seoul-based fast-fashion and sweetness model, is an influence within the East however remained largely unknown to Westerners till Wednesday, when it was acquired by L’Oréal for an undisclosed sum.

Born on the Web, the corporate has united a technology of younger, upwardly prosperous Asian shoppers who clamor for a brand new kind of style and sweetness that appeals to Millennials.

Based by 34-year-old Kim So Hee in 2004, the corporate has in 14 years ballooned from an internet service provider of classy items to a $150 million annual enterprise that’s unfold throughout magnificence, style, café and boutique ventures. It’s solely distributed in developed Asian nations, its affect current considerably inside a vacuum, as it is just accessible to Westerners by way of e-commerce. L’Oréal has bought 100 p.c of the corporate, with the sale largely tied to the success of Stylenanda magnificence model 3CE. It represents L’Oréal’s first funding in a Okay-beauty model.

Whereas Kim seems to stay on as chief government officer, additional particulars of the deal weren’t revealed, together with the acquisition worth. Final month, the Korean Financial Every day estimated the deal at $375 million, though it was then reported that L’Oréal was buying solely a 70 p.c stake within the label.

L’Oréal’s client merchandise division president Alexis Perakis-Valat stated of the acquisition: “We’re thrilled to welcome this cool Korean model within the L’Oréal household. Stylenanda captures Seoul’s vibe, edge and creativity. It’s completely positioned to nourish the rising urge for food for make-up of Millennials in Korea, China and past.”

L’Oréal Korea president Yann Le Bourdon added: “With this acquisition, L’Oréal Korea will considerably reinforce its presence within the accessible make-up market. We’re very proud to welcome the group’s first Korean magnificence model and contribute to carry Korean magnificence and magnificence to the remainder of the world.”

Stylenanda’s three distinct pillars — 3CE, a boutique enterprise and an internet retailer — are united by a novel aesthetic that speaks to the Okay-wave. It largely serves up this stylish, brash kewpie-doll temper at retail costs of lower than $100.

In an interview with ModaGab final month in Seoul, Kim described the varied intuitions which have led her to success. She had an early understanding of the ability of on-line imagery and wished to attraction to the Asian market with a homegrown sensibility. She selected the identify Stylenanda, an early-Aughts Korean slang phrase used to explain a trendy lady, as a result of “on the time, the entire shops had Westernized English names and I wished to go together with a phrase that was Korean,” she stated.

The corporate — which Kim started whereas enrolled in enterprise college — was hatched in Seoul’s Dongdaemun district wholesale markets, which she visited repeatedly to supply product for her mom’s lingerie boutique. The younger Kim took extra of an curiosity within the markets’ garments, although, and began to promote a variety on-line by means of Korea’s model of eBay, Public sale.kr.

“I believed on the time, that on the unique entry-level job you solely make $800 a month, and I used to be making $100 a day. So I believed I might be a lot extra profitable than anybody else,” she stated.

The auctions took off, with Kim owing their success to mannequin casting, make-up and styling. “I took photos that conveyed extra of a way of life,” she stated, ultimately beginning her personal e-commerce website in 2005. Two years later, the corporate grew from peddling wholesale merchandise to manufacturing its personal designs, all made in Korea. It additionally continues to promote merchandise sourced in Dongdaemun.

Throughout Asia, there’s a media-driven obsession with the “Korean lady” archetype, a phenomenon that resembles the “French lady mystique” that usually bubbles up in North America. Extra Okay-pop concert events are staged yearly in Japan than in Korea. Clothes from Dongdaemun market — the identical industrious stalls from which Stylenanda was conceived — populates small boutiques all through Asia. The speed of double-eyelid surgical procedures — commonplace for Korean pop stars, fashions and actresses — continues to surge throughout the continent.

As an all-encompassing purveyor of Korean-made and Korean-conceptualized style and grooming, Stylenanda is wildly influential. Mixed, the corporate’s cosmetics and style dictate a sure magnificence ideally suited that’s promoted throughout Asia: a wide-eyed porcelain doll slathered in pink make-up, wearing immaculately stylish garments — all bought inside the final six months.

Kim herself exemplifies this ideally suited — on at the present time wearing a starched white Jacquemus tunic and teetering atop chalky Maison Margiela boots. “I don’t need to take into account myself the founding father of Korean style, however I used to be the one that sparked fireplace within the Korean style business for on-line enterprise,” she claimed.

However greater than a consultant of Korean tradition, Stylenanda has turn into a tradition unto itself. The model’s Instagram account, with 1.1 million followers, makes a celeb of its fashions — who’ve been identified to incite movie-star-like frenzy when noticed on the streets of Shanghai and have every now and then turn into tabloid weblog fodder by courting male Okay-pop stars.

The cosmetics enterprise 3CE, which Kim began on a whim, started with just a few lipstick shades in 2011. It has since quickly grown to embody 70 p.c of the corporate’s total gross sales, with the vast majority of its shoppers underneath the age of 30. Now a full-fledged line of coloration cosmetics, pores and skin and tub care, it has turn into one thing of a Glossier for Asia.

The model’s jewel-like tubes of lip gloss — packaged like small equipment — have turn into Millennial and Gen Z standing symbols, blanketing shops from Seoul to Kuala Lumpur. They’re bought at Sephora outlets in Singapore and on the wonder flooring at Isetan. Take a midmorning stroll by means of residential neighborhoods in Tokyo and it will not be unusual to see a schoolgirl making use of her make-up with a hand mirror bearing the corporate’s block brand.

Kim couched Stylenanda and 3CE’s success on instinct relatively than technique. All the designs she sells are based mostly on “femininity that’s directional, stylish and trendy. It needs to be vivid and daring and really distinctive.” The concept to begin 3CE got here from her life-style method to merchandising: “After we did the look e-book I believed, ‘We can not simply do garments, we’ve to do hair and make-up on the fashions. So someday I believed, ‘Oh I ought to simply open make-up,’” she stated.

“It’s the similar for a way I began clothes — I didn’t have an idea however wished to ship wants for a particular, new buyer. I wished to make the beauty model that I might need to placed on my face, with the colours I might need to put on.”

The L’Oréal acquisition follows a bidding struggle by a number of potential buyers. L Catterton additionally reportedly expressed curiosity — their provide entailing an alleged 10 p.c stake.

Whereas 3CE is usually retailed independently of Stylenanda garments, Kim nonetheless sees the corporate as a holistic enterprise: “I don’t see it as clothes or make-up, I consider it as a complete factor. It’s a way of life. I don’t know the distinction between magnificence and style — it’s a single bundle you need to placed on. You can not simply gown good with none make-up or you may have improbable make-up and have dangerous style.”

Now overseeing 500 staff, Kim stated she encourages a democratic surroundings that replicates the “enjoyable” ambiance frequent in Western start-ups.

“After I run the enterprise conferences, I don’t solely focus on with high executives. It’s an open dialogue that even the folks of their early 20s can take part in. I let entry-level staff communicate freely and get a number of concepts from them that I usually incorporate within the enterprise.”

This jovial ambiance is integral to Stylenanda’s retail technique as effectively. Whereas e-commerce takes barely greater than half of firm gross sales, the Stylenanda boutiques provide an immersive expertise that assist gas digital rapport.

“I don’t take into account ladies shopping for garments and choosing out make-up as work — it’s a type of enjoying round. I feel that is without doubt one of the keys to our shops’ success. I created an environment the place folks really need to come play and placed on make-up — to come back as an after-school exercise. I put a number of deal with that,” Kim stated.

These engineered playhouses take the type of cheeky inns or pool golf equipment. The corporate’s Tokyo store on Harajuku’s Takeshita Dori is an upbeat pink palace of Korean style. In Seoul’s Myeongdong neighborhood — a nexus for beauty purchasing and duty-free tourism — it has constructed a retailer tailored for Instagram. The multifloor complicated is heavy on mirrors with vivid wall colours, flattering lighting and café treats that embrace lattes topped with halos of cotton sweet.

“After I first created an off-line retailer, I actually tried to seek out out what’s the id of Stylenanda off-line. I used to be considering to myself – we’ve completely different sizes, however I solely need one dimension out. We set a worth level that’s like choosing up garments from Zara however [because of the merchandising] it seems like you might be shopping for it from a boutique retailer,” Kim stated. A supply famous that in step with her enterprise savvy, Kim purchases the properties on which her shops are located relatively than renting them.

Whereas L’Oréal alerts the start of a brand new chapter for Stylenanda, Kim believes the corporate “hasn’t actually began.” Whereas she met with ModaGab previous to the acquisition, Kim shied from discussing further particulars because the deal was within the works. She did be aware, although, that she thinks the enterprise can at the least quadruple in dimension — if not attain the billion-dollar mark.

“We haven’t actually gone deep into the Chinese language, European or U.S. market. We need to get right into a distribution deal so we are able to develop even greater,” she stated. “The large manufacturers like Chanel are in shops, duty-free outlets, native shops — after we get an actual distribution channel, we are able to absolutely match or get even greater.”