To say that the Korean Beauty market is saturated is like saying water is wet—pretty much every retailer has a section devoted to K-Beauty and new brands are debuting in the U.S. just about every month. But while Korean skin care may dominate the market, there is one major category that is conspicuously absent: cosmetics.
Blame it on a lack of interest or a lack of shade diversity, but Korean makeup brands haven’t yet managed to garner the same fanaticism as their skin care counterparts. Despite this gap, Sephora thinks American consumers are ready to embrace Korean cosmetics, which is why they’re doubling down with a new cosmetics line created in tandem with Memebox, the global K-Beauty platform and brand developer.
Called Kaja (which means “let’s go” in Korean), the 47-item line was created and developed by Memebox with support from Sephora. It features blushes, highlighters, concealers, lip colors, tinted brow gels, a primer and eyeshadow sets with a price point between $14 and $24.
Described by the Memebox team as “K-Color cool, bite-sized, and bold,” the line represents the first Korean cosmetics brand available at Sephora. “Cosmetics was a white space opportunity for our brand as well as for Sephora,” said Memebox’s VP of Sales, Jaimee Holmes. “There are so many beautiful Korean skin care brands already on the market, but nobody has really brought anything like Kaja to the forefront for the global consumer.”
In addition to filling that makeup white space, the Kaja line-up also benefits from including the same advanced technology as Korean skincare lines. “The latest innovations of Korean technology were applied to this label,” said Memebox CEO Dino Ha. Those innovations include a proprietary “glitter arrangement technology” that allows the Beauty Bento eyeshadow trio to provide “uniform, precise glitter application in every swipe,” and a water capture feature for the Cushy Vibe lip stain that retains lip’s moisture while still providing a velvet matte finish.
This isn’t the first cosmetics brand Memebox has launched—they also have a full line with beauty blogger Hye-Min Park (a.k.a. Pony). It is, however, their first collaboration with an outside retailer. For Dino, partnering with Sephora made perfect sense. “They have the most understanding of [beauty] users in the U.S., which we needed for the development of a new brand that is starting from scratch,” he said. “We thought that Sephora is the expert, Sephora has a great understanding of who their audience is, and they have a great reach. It was a very obvious decision for us.”
For Sephora, the collaboration was a natural fit as a way to reach a younger consumer and be first to explore the category with a dedicated line. Alison Hahn, Senior Vice President of Merchandising for Sephora, said via a press statement, “Memebox and Sephora had a natural partnership with very similar traits; we’re restless with a desire to lead trends and champion innovation with a cadre of beauty fans that give us real-time feedback. With that, we leveraged the best of our collective talents to create a truly unique color cosmetics collection featuring amazing new textures and formulas never seen or felt before.”
As for the retailer’s involvement in the brand, “Sephora has an incredible voice on weighing in on what they think is relevant for their consumer here, so they are very much in the kitchen with this,” said Jaimee, “But by no means do they dictate what the brand brings to life in their stores. We have a very distinct point of view because we bring our team of experts from Korea and they are really in tune with what is the latest technology or formulation coming to market there.”
Stand-out products from the line include the Mochi Pop and Mochi Glow Bouncy Blush and Highlighter, each with a buildable and blendable formula that applies like a cream and finishes like a powder; the Cheeky Stamp, a cushion compact blush that features a heart-shaped sponge to “stamp” color onto cheeks; and Don’t Settle Flexible Concealer, which comes in 12 shades, including five tones for darker skin. In the past, Korean complexion products have suffered from only have two or three shades, all on the light end of the spectrum. With Kaja, “We cover shades from the lightest of the light to the darkest of the dark,” said Jaimee. “We brought something forth for everyone.”
The line launched exclusively online at Sephora.com on September 18 and will be available at Sephora stores in the U.S starting September 28. Memebox said it will also be available later this year online at Memebox.com.