In a world that has taught you not to, it’s a defiant act to love yourself unequivocally. Rioting against the pursuit of perfection to remould what it means to be beautiful, smart brands are creating a space for customers to do exactly that. Empowering, kaleidoscopic tour de force beauty brand GLU is one such gamechanger - a sparkling beacon at the end of a long and dark tunnel of beauty standards. Hamda Baker, President of Beauty at GMG, and the founder of the UAE based beauty brand sat down with us to share her inspiration for starting GLU and why there’s so much power in radical self-acceptance.
Birthed as an honest reflection of her own personal definition of beauty, Baker founded GLU in 2020 to champion unapologetic self-love for all. “Personally, I’ve always been an advocate of self-expression, and pushing people to feel confident, and powerful in their own skin.” Baker tells us. “I see a lot of beauty and power in being able to do that, and honestly, that was the simple inspiration behind starting GLU - I wanted to provide a platform to be able to give and do that for people.” Celebrating each and every customer as an individual, it’s something that’s striking a chord in particular with Gen Z’s affinity with authentic expression.
GLU joins a wave of plucky new brands founded on the principle of honest body positivity, where ‘flaws’ are worn with pride, and that refuse, quite rightly, to retouch the appearance of models, as filtered perfection gladly falls by the wayside in favour of unfiltered authenticity. “The whole idea behind GLU was to create a place for you to be you, no matter what that is. You can rock a neon liner, or simply put no makeup on at all - we love you for who you are, and we celebrate exactly that.” explains Baker. This refreshingly candid ethos is built into the fabric of the brand; from the niche, indie brands they stock, to their models, and their inclusive approach to beauty for everybody, every face and every you.
Seeing a gap in the market for young, Instagram-enamoured clean beauty brands such as Sigma and Unicorn Glow, with tribes of young followers behind them, Baker recognised that they needed more of a platform to shine and set about creating GLU as a space for their customers to connect with the products on a deeper level through touch, feel and play. Taking up residence in Debenhams Mall of Emirates, in 2020 GLU made its debut to retail with a bold and playful eruption of colour, and since then, the brand has launched an array of pop-ups across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain as a taster of GLU ahead of its debut flagship launch later this year, designed in partnership with Green Room.
What is normal, anyway?
“Looking back even five years ago everyone was talking about the best filter to put on or how to hide your imperfections.” Baker tells us. “You can see a huge shift going from that extreme, to the extreme of being comfortable in your own skin.” The Kardashian flawless, picture-perfect aesthetic that was put on a pedestal as the gold standard in beauty has certainly started to tarnish - and about time too. “Beauty has transitioned into something that comes from within…people are embracing a new era of beauty, one that’s inclusive, equitable, regenerative and positive.” Baker continues.
It's a shift that’s rewriting beauty’s lexicon, too - Unilever last year announced it would be dropping the word ‘normal’ from 200 products and across all of its advertising. “The transition of that itself holds so much power because you no longer see brands pushing for perfection, or pushing towards a certain ideology. There's a lot of power in telling someone to just be who you are, we're going to love you regardless. There's so much strength in that, there's so much beauty. It's a very strong message to stand behind.” Baker tells us. A seemingly small change but one with unimaginable impact in painting a far greater spectrum of beautiful.
It's no secret that a lack of inclusivity has been endemic in the industry, but couple this with influencer fatigue, rife online skincare misinformation, and a greater consumer thirst for product knowledge, and it’s created the perfect storm to push the industry to take a long look in the mirror to foster the beginnings of a more genuine, transparent, and welcoming community for all. “A red lipstick is no longer just a red lipstick.” Says Baker. “It is the story of what the brand stands up for, its ethos, the ingredients being used in the making.”
Beauty gets personal
In its quest for better, beauty is fast becoming complementary to our wider identity. “Beauty has become integrated into almost every part of our lives, and the sky is no longer the limit with what we can do. It’s an experience at the end of the day, it's not just a product that you buy. It's something very personal because it's something you put on your skin. It's something you carry with you everywhere.” Baker explains. All the nuances of our lifestyle, from fashion, to nutrition and healthcare, are trickling into beauty as part of a bigger purpose, making the industry more transient and all-encompassing.
This shakeup is throwing beauty’s potential wide open for fresh interpretation by new players. Brands such as Zara and Asos are betting on beauty as their latest category conquest, meanwhile members’ club Soho House is adding a new skincare line Soho Skin to its roster of offerings, as a complement to modern living. And as the scientific lens placed over skincare products dominates consumer interest, the melding of beauty and healthcare that’s taking place will no doubt continue to flourish as a natural meeting of minds - something that’s winning over genned-up, ingredient cognisant consumers.
And it’s a move that aligns with Baker’s plans for the future of GLU. “It's your personality, it's your lifestyle - beauty is the way you dress, the way you feel, what you eat. For you to feel pretty, it's not just a product that you put on your face, it's so much more. I see GLU being able to expand into so much more, outside of just the fashion space.”
As a vehicle for self-expression, enabler of identity, and now an integral part of our wider lifestyle, brands have an even greater responsibility to truly understand and acknowledge the multifaceted layers of their customers lives.
The future face of the industry
There’s been vast leaps of progress in the industry over the past few years, but Baker’s definition of beauty has been steadfast since the beginning of her career; “the base of beauty remains the same to me- it is never about having the correct makeup on, or your winged liner perfectly even. Beauty comes from within, from loving yourself…being able to push boundaries, and try new things. And as you learn more from life, it evolves with you.”
With brands like GLU helping to steer a revitalised and long overdue redefinition of beautiful, other brands that don’t follow suit, or merely offer tokenistic messages, will pale into insignificance by an increasingly discerning, empowered customer, as the forgotten, ugly side of the industry. But with great power, comes great responsibility, and if beauty brands can change how men and women across the world view themselves, for the better, choosing to not monetise their weaknesses, but champion their strengths, then they are only serving to nurture a kinder and more self-accepting world.
“Changing the perspective one person has of themselves and being able to put a smile on their face, that means I’ve made it, to me personally.” Baker tells us. Body-positive beauty leaders like Baker are changing the game as the cheerleaders in your corner that you never knew you needed, telling you that you are enough - and for that, we thank you Hamda.