DRAKE x TOPICALS
Topicals' journey began in August 2020 with a bold mission: to redefine the discourse around skin conditions and instil a sense of fun and empowerment...

Understanding and connecting with Generation Z can often seem as perplexing as deciphering a foreign language. Yet, for Olamide Olowe, the visionary behind the US skincare label Topicals, this task is anything but insurmountable. As a Gen-Z member herself, Olowe, at the age of 26, has harnessed the core principles that resonate deeply with Gen-Z consumers: advocacy for mental health, racial inclusivity, and a dynamic dialogue between brand and consumer. These tenets, serving as her brand's bedrock, have garnered not only the loyalty of consumers but also the investment of venture capitalists. Olowe's remarkable feat lies in being the youngest Black woman to secure over $2 million in venture capital funding. As of April 2023, she has raised an impressive $14.8 million, all while aiming to craft efficacious products for chronic skin conditions that transcend the boundaries of Generation Z.

Olowe's journey has illuminated the profound significance of community in the beauty realm. Drawing a parallel between a brand's community and a nation's citizens, she emphasizes reciprocity in loyalty. "You feel like it owes you something, but you also feel like you owe it something," she states, encapsulating the symbiotic relationship she envisions between brand and consumer.

A New Era of Skin Positivity

Skin positivity, though a noble aspiration, has often been elusive in an industry focused on flawless complexions. Topicals, however, refuses to tread the conventional path. Olamide Olowe, a trailblazer herself, identified the need for a brand that could address the diverse needs of individuals, particularly those often overlooked in the beauty aisle. In her words, "I felt like I never saw brands that truly represented me." This realization was the catalyst for the birth of Topicals, a brand that celebrates skin in all its forms.

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Olamide Olowe of Topicals is the Youngest Black Woman to Raise $10m in Funding

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The initial strategic phase was marked by a deep exploration of the evolving narrative surrounding skin conditions. This shift was captured from skin negativity to skin positivity, and the emerging wave towards skin neutrality. This exploration reframed the conventional dialogue, challenging the conventional paradigms of insecurity and activism. Amidst these dynamics, The Digital Fairy set out to craft a unique brand narrative for Topicals.

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A Nostalgic and Empowering Aesthetic

The heart of Topicals' creative direction was deeply influenced by y2k visual culture. This resonated strongly with the Gen Z community, allowing them to revisit and redefine their childhood experiences through a lens of support and celebration. The infusion of interactive elements like a skincare quiz, a digital "skindex" glossary for scientific terms, and a scrapbook-style e-commerce site added a layer of playfulness and vitality to the brand. Topicals' entire identity was intentionally crafted to foster a DIY spirit.

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www.mytopicals.com

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The brand's visual identity ingeniously embraced imperfection and asymmetry, turning skin flare-ups into a visual spectacle. Tie-dye patterns inspired by skin flare-ups, combined with embellishments like appliquΓ© flowers, cherries, stars, and stamps, transformed the experience of living with skin conditions into an empowering celebration. This aesthetic reframed skin conditions from burdens to unique art forms.

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Gen-Z's Aspirations from Beauty Brands

In a conversation with Business of Fashion, Olowe shares her insights on Gen-Z's expectations from beauty brands. She delineates that beyond mere product quality, Gen-Z, often financially constrained, demands substantiated efficacy. Reviews and before-and-after comparisons hold paramount importance in influencing this customer segment. Moreover, Olowe underlines the power of storytelling. Gen-Z's proclivity for nostalgia and narratives that echo inclusivity resonates with their democratisation efforts. Stories that embrace the LGBTQ+ community, diverse racial backgrounds, and differently-abled individuals shape a multi-dimensional perspective of beauty.

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Challenging a common misconception, Olowe asserts that Gen-Z transcends age, representing a psychographic rather than a demographic. The internet acts as an equalizer, disseminating ideologies across generations. This dynamic is reflected in individuals well over 50 who exhibit Gen-Z traits. The notion of Gen-Z's fickleness is debunked; loyalty thrives when aligned with authenticity.

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Olowe identifies a common mistake brands make in attempting to engage with Gen-Z: striving to be everything for everyone. Instead, she advocates for a focused approach, exemplifying her own strategy. By honing in on individuals with chronic skin conditions, a love for culture, community orientation, and a concern for mental health related to skin issues, Olowe successfully tailors her brand's message.

TikTok's Influence and Community Building

Reflecting on the role of TikTok in shaping Gen-Z's beauty preferences, Olowe likens it to "Google 2.0," a platform combining visual elements and peer-driven information. For Topicals, TikTok has facilitated brand awareness and mental health discourse. Users transform product presentations into opportunities for candid conversations, making skin conditions part of a broader dialogue.

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@topicals Faded and her friends πŸŽ€ πŸ“Έ: @β™‘οΈŽMinaPlaysβ™‘οΈŽ ♬ original sound - TOPICALS

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While the allure of emerging platforms is strong, Olowe advocates for a discerning approach. While brands strive to remain at the forefront, limitations in resources necessitate thoughtful choices. Early adopters must dedicate time to lay the groundwork, but being in touch with community needs is essential.

Olowe crystallizes the essence of community connection: it transcends followers and customers. A true community is akin to citizenship within a brand's universe. This citizenship engenders a mutual sense of belonging and responsibility. Topicals, for instance, endearingly refers to its community members as "Spottie Hotties," embracing the skin conditions they may have been teased about.

Advice for Aspiring Gen-Z Founders

To the next wave of Gen-Z founders, especially those from diverse backgrounds, Olowe imparts valuable insights. Acknowledging venture capital as rocket fuel, she underscores that its pursuit demands a profound commitment to building a substantial business. Understanding the implications of venture capital is pivotal; it may necessitate eventual detachment from the business. She encourages founders to raise capital aligned with their vision and execute relentlessly.

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Topicals' Future Trajectory

Looking forward, Topicals is poised for ongoing innovation targeting various skin conditions. Olowe's ambitious goal includes educating 10,000 skincare professionals on psychodermatology and skin of colour by 2026. The brand's mission extends beyond products, nurturing both mental health awareness and inclusivity within the industry.

Olamide Olowe's Topicals stands as a testament to the power of authenticity, community, and innovation. By aligning itself with Gen Z values, Topicals redefined skincare discourse and transformed it into a celebration of individuality. As the brand continues to flourish, its impact echoes far beyond skincare – it embodies the potential for transformation and empowerment through thoughtful branding and engagement.

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