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Typology: The Conscious Beauty Brand, from Paris with Love


Beauty products have had their fair share of ups and downs throughout history. Despite the effort to address the perilous effect of certain beauty brands, many consumers still chose to turn a blind eye to the health considerations included.

Noticing the ongoing industry conundrum, and the use of toxins in skincare products, Ning Li took a sudden career switch and abandoned his furniture business to create a line of beauty products that meet all environmental and health-related criteria.

Ning presented Typology as a digitalized and clean beauty brand offering skincare enthusiasts a line of environmentally friendly, vegan, and 100% natural products.

Toxin-free and organic, Ning’s Typology transformed into a global household name that deserts traditional retail marketing and instead focuses on the direct-to-consumer model for faster and more efficient product distribution.

Although oftentimes challenged and questioned by rivals, here’s how Ning muted the outside noise and delivered one of the most affordable and top-quality beauty brands.

Born to Be Daring

Although initially born in China, Ning Li moved to France at the age of 16. Despite his unripe teenage years, Ning has always been superbly organized and business-driven. When he first moved to the country, Ning didn’t speak a word of French and had to learn the language from scratch. Besides the language barrier, Ning also had to self- finance his college education and spent his teenage days working at a patient shop in French Chinatown.

After gathering the funds to expand his education, Ning enrolled at HEC, Paris, where he graduated in business. Understanding the value of each penny spent, Ning was a conscious shopper who didn’t mind paying for top-quality products and services. When he bought his first apartment, Ning went hunting for the perfect furniture and soon enough, found the ideal sofa for his space.

After he had sent a photo of the sofa to a friend in China who worked in the furniture industry, the latter recognized the product as their own. Despite the lucky coincidence and just out of curiosity, Ning asked his friend about the original product price and learned the one he had purchased came at a staggeringly escalated price of €2,000.

Driven by the purchase injustice, Ning decided to become a middleman between his friend’s company and its customers and create his very first business, called Made.

Soon after Made’s launch, Ning tied the knot with his better half and moved to Paris as a new family. Here, Ning drastically expanded his business knowledge and found his greatest forte to be eCommerce - a valuable professional asset that would serve Ning in all his future ventures.

What’s Beauty Got to Do with It?

Ning was a self-proclaimed control freak and an appreciator of small details that made big differences. Whilst still running Made, Ning had no intention to involve himself in another line of business, at least not until he had become a father.

However, once his daughter was born, Ning’s whole universe changed from the core. Whenever Ning hit the shops to buy baby products, he would always read the item’s label in detail and ensure his daughter was only using safe and health-friendly products. Sadly, Ning failed to find even a handful of clean products to buy, as each cream, lotion, and powder contained toxic chemicals, and no beauty brand was held accountable for it!

To end this trend, Ning decided to take matters into his own hands and get busy developing a beauty line that would forever abandon the use of toxins and harmful chemicals.

To find the time for it, in 2019, Ning had to give up the reigns of Made and commit to crafting his beauty-related business idea. Despite his determination, Ning soon realized that doing it all on his own would be a problematic task to accomplish.

In order to prevent that, he gathered a team of dermatologists and pharmacists who would help him create the perfect vegan and eco-friendly skincare line, called Typology!

Rewriting the Rules

After its launch, one of the first breakthroughs Ning’s team managed to reveal was that, unlike the 4 skin types many beauty experts had claimed to have existed for years, there were actually a total of 24 skin types that required customized skincare. This finding alone testified to Typology’s business transparency.

As for its way of tending to consumers, Typology answers the most complex skincare questions and provides clientele with a clean, safe, and healthy skincare line, suited to everyone’s preference.

The brand not only offers top-quality skincare products, but it also enables consumers to fill out diagnostic tests via the Typology website; add information related to their skin, and find the perfect course of medical and cosmetic care for them.

By listening to what consumers had to say, Ning was able to swiftly conquer the beauty industry and offer a catalog of natural skin products intended for consumers of all ages and backgrounds.

Less is More

It didn’t take Typology much time to attract its fair share of investors, like Alven Capital, Marc Simoncini, Xavier Niel, and Firstminute Capital, all of which enriched the company with a $10 million investment.

Initially, the company employed a handful of people, but soon enough, their workforce expanded to twelve and then forty professionals. Taught by previous experiences, Ning framed his company based on the ‘less is more’ concept, thus allowing the quality of his products to top its business strategies.

In essence, Typology reawakens the idea of minimalism, and their products contain only the essential and naturally active ingredients. As soon as it got traction, Typology’s team of pharmacists and dermatologists offered their Parisian-inspired beauty treatments across various laboratories in Bergerac, Aix en Provence, and Compiègne.

Besides the carefully chosen ingredients and beauty formulas, Typology is also a committed eco-friendly brand that offers partially biodegradable product packaging whilst aiming to make them entirely plastic-free. To meet that goal, Typology’s product packages are made of easily recyclable aluminum. The packaging also prevents air from penetrating the products, thus ensuring their freshness, quality, and sustainability.

On Challenges and Strategies

The cardinal challenge Typology faced was to become a leader in beauty products in Paris, a city more often known for high couture. Aside from expanding the Paris markets industry, Typology also had to overcome the issue of becoming known and more importantly, beloved among customers.

To steer clear of traditional retailing and on-the-spot buying, Ning and his team decided to instead advertise their products via social networks. Unfortunately, this move was less than ideal and it cost Typology more financial losses than gains.

Not the one to crack under pressure, however, Ning translated this misfortune into a valuable lesson and decided that it is in the company’s best interest to improve the quality of their products and optimize their customer service and brand loyalty.

By implementing these seemingly simple changes, Typology managed to use digital advertising to increase its profits by 20%, whereas the remaining 80% stemmed from good old mouth-to-mouth advertising.

Unlike other retail brands, Typology fosters the traditional Parisian D2C strategy.

Being a pioneer in eCommerce, Ning believes that many businesses will transition from physical to online stores soon enough. Nevertheless, this decision birthed a more practical problem - convincing customers to buy a skin product online without trying it first.

Everyone knows that when it comes to skincare, two things prevent customers from purchasing products online: scent and texture. Although there isn’t an advanced way to offer this experience online, the company does share images of the ingredients used in each product on its roster.

By simply remembering a product’s scent or recognizing safe ingredients to use, like hyaluronic acid, consumers were soon convinced that purchasing quality cosmetics online can be as simple as visiting the stores.

A Clean Slate

Once the company assured consumers of their quality products only sold online, the story of the brand gained immense recognition and appreciation. Currently, Typology has a total worth of $9.4 million and boasts over 40 employees.

Although Paris-based, the company has recently made its first attempt to break international markets as well and is slowly making a name for itself in Europe as well as the US.

To Ning Li, growing a business is far less relevant than doing it right. By following the circular economy model and standing up for product sustainability, cleanness, and safety, Ning’s typology is on its way to becoming the most beloved eco, health, and budget-friendly beauty brand of the 21st century!