When escentials first threw open its doors in 2001 at the Raffles Hotel shopping arcade, it changed Singapore’s beauty retail scene forever.
The multi-label beauty store brought in one-of-a-kind cosmetic brands that only the discerning, well-travelled, cult beauty junkies recognised.
Today, escentials is still the Singapore exclusive retailer of Le Labo, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Verso, Lipstick Queen, Diptyque, and Creed.
It would not be an understatement to call Chong a tastemaker of the local beauty retail scene.
Over the years, escentials has also introduced many other beautifully understated brands to the Singapore market: Eve Lom, Serge Lutens, Byredo, Annick Goutal, By Terry, Memo Paris, Strivectin and Perricone MD.
And after all, escentials is part of Luxasia, which distributes more than a hundred cosmetic brands – like Calvin Klein and Bvlgari – across markets such as China, India and Myanmar.
Luxasia was founded by Chong’s father Patrick in the mid 1980s.
Chong is managing director of Luxasia; and he runs the business in China, while overseeing the Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines markets.
He is also co-founder of & Co., which specialises in museum stores and F&B, with a focus on collaborations between artists, designers, and artisans.
What is escentials’ raison d’etre?
We noticed a growing group of savvy consumers who wanted perfumes that had more substance than just a big brand name. They were looking for heritage, quality of ingredients, and a story behind the perfumer or brand.
We also wanted to allow our customers to experience perfume in a different environment with a more personalised service; to take their time to understand the brand, to allow for the fragrance to develop on their skin. We also make it our aim to understand our customers and their lifestyles so as to better cater to their needs.
What do you look out for in a brand?
Our team keeps up-to-date on the latest beauty brands from around the world through beauty journals, online blogs and magazines. During our travels, we make it a point to visit the market, and keep our eyes and ears open for the latest brands and trends.
When we take on a brand, we consider the personalities behind the brand; whether it suits our customer profile; quality of the ingredients; trends; as well as the label’s following.
Where do you see escentials in five years’ time?
We’ll be exploring the online commerce space next year. Going beyond our borders has always been on our dashboard too. As with all things, it’s about the right timing.
How has the beauty retail scene in Singapore changed since you launched escentials 14 years ago?
It has changed quite dramatically in recent years. With online retail becoming a strong channel, brands have to learn to adapt and be agile. We also see a shift of sales into retail stores where customers can get more of a luxury retail experience.
At escentials, we have seen a healthy increase in the number of customers. To us, this points towards a trend where people are becoming more discerning and are looking for quality, unique retail experiences, and something different.
We see younger, more well-informed shoppers who know what they want; and we do our best to bring the best and the latest to them.
How many bottles of perfumes do you own?
I never actually counted them. But I do rotate the fragrances I use.
My current picks are:
Serge Lutens – Santal Blanc
Serge Luten – Vetiver Oriental
Le Labo – Benjoin
Diptyque – Philosykos
Maison Francis Kurkdjian – pour Le soir
My favourite ingredient is vetiver.
Which is your favourite skincare label at the moment?
Verso, I swear by it! Since I’ve used it, my skin has felt amazing.
What do you do in your free time?
Photography and nature are my two big passions. Of late, I have also found a new taste for exploring off-the-beaten track spots around the world.
Read more about Alwyn and essentials here.
Portrait: Alwyn Chong
©The Beauty Gazette