Beauty retailers like MECCA have helped revolutionise the way we think about beauty today. As its newest New Zealand store opens in Sylvia Park, its founder Jo Horgan reflects on how the industry has evolved to keep up with changing beauty ideals.
She chats to Bethany Reitsma about the move towards more accessible makeup, how Covid-19 has affected the industry, and what beauty trends we can expect to see in the future.
When Jo Horgan opened the first MECCA store in 1997 in Melbourne's South Yarra, the then-29-year-old had no idea the brand would expand into more than 100 stores across New Zealand and Australia.
A store in Ponsonby, Auckland was the brand's first foray outside of Australia, opening in 2007. Locations in Wellington, Newmarket and Christchurch quickly followed.
Horgan's goal was simple: to bring the best beauty brands home for the consumer. And it's helped make beauty more accessible to New Zealanders who wear makeup.
Walking into a MECCA store is a far cry from approaching the intimidating beauty counters in department stores, all locked cabinets and dizzying mirrors.
"I found the traditional department store beauty experience, where you moved from one big-name brand counter to another, too restricting," Horgan explains. "I wanted to try an approach where we could provide independent advice across brands."
Yes, MECCA offers higher-end brands like Tom Ford and Yves Saint Laurent, but you can also find your trusty NARS and Too Faced here. House brands Mecca Max and Mecca Cosmetica come at an even more affordable price point.
It's that everygirl (and boy) quality that appeals to Kiwi shoppers. Whether it's skincare, makeup, fragrance, or candles, there's something for every taste and budget. We no longer have to go online to find beauty products we've seen on our favourite beauty bloggers in the UK and US.
"Accessibility is also about information and education," Horgan tells the Herald. "Everything we do is about demystifying the beauty experience, brands, products and ingredients.
"From the outset my vision was that we would democratise beauty. I wanted to upend the industry, the beauty culture of the time, because I felt that all the power resided with the brands and retailers, and not with the customers."
But it's not just accessibility and affordability that we're looking for at the makeup counter in 2021. Clean beauty and wellness have become more important than ever. A recent US study found that over half of beauty products contain toxic "forever" chemicals that have an impact on our health and on the environment, and it sparked calls to regulate the makeup industry in New Zealand.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also played a part in forcing us to rethink how we access and consume these products, and how they affect our overall health and wellness.
"Self-care is an important part of beauty, and in recent years we've witnessed a real blurring of the lines between beauty and wellness," the beauty boss says.
The pandemic made at-home beauty treatments and routines a necessity - but now more and more of us are choosing them, she observes.
"Skincare has become increasingly popular with customers creating new rituals and routines whilst also trialling devices to recreate the results of professional facials at home.
"It has really forced retailers to innovate at a much faster rate especially in the digital space and now that virtual services and live experiences have been introduced, they are definitely here to stay. This really has been the silver lining to the pandemic."
Viva magazine's beauty editor Ashleigh Cometti says MECCA's appeal lies not only in its carefully curated mix of products, but in its customer service, which goes a long way to make the experience less overwhelming.
"Beauty junkies and novices alike can have as much or as little pre-purchase interaction as they like.
And she says social media plays a large part in the stores' continuing appeal.
"Apps like Instagram and TikTok are driving the desirability of Mecca exclusives as Kiwis scramble to get thir hands on the same products as some of their favourite influencers."
The beauty business is one that's ever changing, but that's what Horgan loves about it - and that's what draws Kiwis back time and time again.