Beauty Enthusiast’s Heaven: Indie Beauty Expo NYC 2017
For someone who spends her lunch hour lurking around beauty shops and returns to work with swatched arms, the Indie Beauty Expo (IBE) is my literal heaven. Having stumbled upon it last year through a co-worker’s suggestion, I made sure to attend this year’s as well.
My initial goal, as Spoken Black Girl's Beauty Editor, was to visit booths specifically catered to or founded by Women of Color (WOC). However, overwhelmed by the brand list, I decided to opt-out from overworking and instead enjoy and observe the experience as a WOC in a beauty world that has yet to make solid progress to include WOC. The said initial goal also consisted of focusing solely on natural beauty. Again, that proved to be a bit overwhelming. The beauty industry lacks in unified definition of what it means to be clean, organic and whatever other fancy words they like to throw around. For the sake of this piece, I will go by IBE's description. Clean Beauty are minimal to zero carbon footprint and naturally derived as possible-no villainous ingredients per Beauty Heroes' criteria. Green beauty are packaged, branded and distributed with minimal carbon footprint, and of course, are non-toxic.
As a disclosure, please note that this was an event I attended as an individual, not as a SBG rep. IBE is an Indie Beauty Expo, as in indie. Though many indie beauty brands embrace natural beauty, not all are entirely natural. The photos are mostly "raw" to give a real exposure as to what you'll be seeing as a consumer. I like to keep it real.
Compared to prior events (for those who are familiar), this year’s event was huge! The venue was a lot more spacious, and the list of the vendors attending IBE was definitely longer than last year’s.
I attended IBE as a VIP. General Admissions cost $29 and includes: a shopping tote, access to workshops, presentations, and deals and discounts. VIP Admissions cost $129 and includes all of GA’s perks as well as rapid check-in, tote bag full of goodies of samples and full-sized products, and priority seating at presentations and panel events. My VIP ticket was $99 as I had purchased the ticket during IBE's early bird special.
I arrived at the venue around 5:20pm, but did not enter the premises until 5:45pm (so much for “rapid check-in”). At first I was confused because there were two long lanes full of people; thankfully I was on the correct VIP-only lane. For the “inconvenience”, we were given a carton of water. You read that right, carton. Eco-friendly FTW!
The first booth I went to was Saint Cosmetics I purchased their Devil's Punch Bowl lipstick last year, and I loved the product so much that I had planned on buying more after swatching on some new colors. Unfortunately, their pay processing tech was out of service so they could not proceed with sales (even cash).
Next booth was Flora1761. Sadly, none of the staff assisted me, though to be fair, they were greeting waves of attendees pouring onto the floor and their booth was by the entrance area. I found two colors I liked but again, I could not make any purchase. They had no outlets to charge their pay processing tech so it was out of service.
Third booth was Lauren B Beauty. I was greeted and encouraged to try the polishes, and was told that the polish lined in first rows were testers. I had 30 seconds of fun when a lady came over, scolding me for trying on polish. She grabbed the bottle from my hands to place it back on the front row. With my "WTF b!tch?!" face on, I tried to explain to her that I was told that the first rows were testers, and pointed to other customers having their fun - I don’t think she understood. With third disappointing experience in a row, I was pretty livid by that point. Fortunately, the rest of the night, IBE was fantastic! See below for some of the pictures I took of the exhibits.
Compared to the previous year, there were a lot more nail polishes, perfumes and hair care products. There was a definite increase in the presence of color make-ups as well. I presume that we'll be seeing wider ranges of beauty products in the future events. The music /DJ was great, and the restroom facility was better than last year. Sinks even had soaps sold by one of the brands (awesome utilization and product promotion!). For tired and exhausted friends and partners dragged to the event, there was a small, but comfortable seating area. And most importantly, open bar!
To add fun to what can be an overwhelmingly exhausting event, IBE also had several photo booths and a flower crown booth. As with any Instagram worthy activities, they all had wait lines; I was only able to participate in one booth through Pour Moi Beauty. For the most part, the brands were generous with giving discounts and tester samples (and I have yet to get to the VIP tote bag!). It was great to see WOC in attendance. Sure, the industry can be exclusive at times, but by showing our presence, we are saying that we are also a consumer market and that we too are interested in beauty.
Not all products displayed were for sale. I expected to be able to purchase items on site as I am not a fan of purchasing un-tried brands and products. It also cumbersome when the brands lack physical stores and I have to deal with returns and exchanges via snail mail. #Igotnotimefodat
Not many founders in attendance. I like to interact with founders because they’re very passionate and knowledgeable of their "babies". I want to engage with someone who can share my enthusiasm for beauty and answer any questions I might have. Some booths clearly lacked any founder/brand presence - no passion for the products whatsoever. Needless to say, I did not linger around these booths.
Unclear discount policies. Though General Admissions perk includes discounts, some booths had additional discount for VIP, but it was not vocalized thoroughly. I was at a booth and a staff saw my VIP bracelet and told me I was eligible for VIP discount. When I proceed to make a purchase, the other staff made no mention of any discounts. It wasn’t until I mentioned what was told to me that the discount took place. My friend who was there with me was not told the same by the staff and I again had to mention it. I couldn't help but wonder how many other purchases I made at full price while others enjoyed discounts.
VIP tote bag. Definitely worth the VIP ticket. It has various samples targeting different beauty concerns.
Diverse beauty products. From hair care to foot care, skin care to cosmetics to perfumes, there were a great number of beauty products to choose from based on your concern/interest.
Increase in WOC founders. It's always worthwhile to see more racially diverse individuals showcasing their line. Having someone who can relate to your specific beauty concern is like finding a needle in a haystack these days. As much as I hate to generalize, someone who is closer to my skin tone is much better at recommending products that work for me.
Great Finds and Personal Favorites
VIP Tote Bag (aka Goodie Bag)
Check the brand's shipping policy. Brands will sometimes offer discount codes to use for online purchases on items they do not sell at the expo. Make sure to check their shipping fee policy. You could end up paying more for flat rate shipping than for the actual product. Talk to see if they can waive the shipping fee.
Be prepared for a lot of walking. Wear comfortable shoes and have water with you (energy bars as well!.
Sign up for the IndieBeautyExpo to receive early bird discount codes for tickets. Remember, I paid $99 for VIP ticket that's $129.
Study the map! Plan your route carefully, especially if you don’t want to miss specific brands. Prior to the event, IBE sends an email of the floor plan with list of vendors. I made the mistake of ignoring it this year and could not get to experience in full the group of vendors towards the end of the floor.
Be aware of your allergies. Food-based products are in trend these days. If you are highly allergic or sensitive to certain foods, LET THE BOOTH STAFF KNOW! Before you let them apply products on your skin, let them know if the products contain whatever it is that you're allergic to. Better safe than sorry.
Know where you draw the line. As mentioned earlier, the industry is not quite unified in its definition and use of such terms. As with many products from IBE that I've noticed, it can be labeled as clean beauty but you'll come across ingredients that make you go "Come again?" or be labeled green beauty but their packaging can make you think about the environment way more than Al Gore can. It helps to study the brand list prior to attending the event and know which brands you will want to pass by if you question their green/clean claims do not live up to your standards. As much as brands need to be more transparent, us consumers also need to be smart.
Overall, I really enjoyed attending IBE-NY 2017. If I were to attend again next year, I will probably go for the General Admissions ticket and study the floor map/brand list and really focus on all natural beauty as well as those that cater to WOC needs. My personal wish is that there is an event that showcases ONLY natural beauty products (as in no synthetic ingredients and no long/difficult words I can't pronounce). Until then, I'll be sure to enjoy the new additions to my beauty collections. If I do like certain products, I'll be sure to share with them via Instagram @chleesbg.