Mindful resistance: Myanmar-duo creates luxury beauty brand that speaks to the spirit of Gen Z
Gabar debuted in October with three fragrances inspired by the natural landscape of Myanmar. It was developed by Myanmar-born Phway Su Aye and Su Zar Wain Hnin, two former investment bankers.
The concept for Gabar was conceived in 2020 with the intention to develop a beauty brand that could represent and showcase the beauty and culture of Myanmar.
“Both of us are Buddhists by birth and that Buddhist philosophy is so ingrained in us. When we started this brand, we conceived of it more as like three bottles that channel that message of mindfulness and conscious living,” said Aye, who was previously involved in the development of a CBD beauty brand.
On the morning of February 1, Myanmar's military seized power in a coup d'état, crumbling the nation’s fragile democracy. This event steered Gabar towards using the brand as a platform to spread a message of resistance.
“We were building this brand throughout COVID and at the beginning of this year, the Myanmar coup hit. With all this chaos that was happening around us, we couldn’t just ignore it and build a beautiful product with blinders on to everything horrible that is happening in our country,” said Aye.
“We thought it was really important to honour that energy of resistance, to honour the youth that were sacrificing their lives, and even livelihoods, to fight for change and fight for freedom.”
Aye told CosmeticsDesign-Asia that its perfumes turned out to be an elegant medium to convey its message of mindful resistance.
“It felt so fitting mainly because we'd always intended to be a brand for young people like as we wanted to teach people in the early 20s, these ideas of mindfulness to kind of nurture a new generation that was always part of the DNA… When it comes to true resistance, it’s an internal change and it's changing your state of mind. And we channelled that through smell and fragrance.”
From us to Z
With most fragrance brands targeting millennials and older, Gabar sought to differentiate itself by speaking to a younger audience.
“There's no fresh young [fragrance] brand that is speaking to the young Gen Z. For us, it’s so exciting to build a brand that has a new fresh energy for a new generation. Sure, it can attract an older crowd, but we love the idea of speaking to someone that hasn't really been spoken before,” said Aye.
“We want to be supporting a new generation to do better, and do good. And that for us ultimately means helping them lead better lives and lead calm and clear lives so that they can do all the work they want to do.”
Aye added that it made commercial sense to target Gen Zs, as they were emerging as the key growth leader in the luxury sector.
“In terms of luxury spending, the Gen Z's are a growing group. If they value a company, they love the product and those values, like they will set aside the funds to purchase and they will. They are loyal customers,” said Aye.
Furthermore, Gen Zs wielded the power to help small independent brands like itself go viral.
“If they love it, they'll spread it. From a commercial standpoint, it helps in terms of our growth as we don't have to rely on so much paid marketing to spread the word.”
A new journey
In October, Gabar debuted a collection of three sensorial fragrances in the UK, where the company would focus launch efforts on first.
“This was a strategic decision. In the UK, there’s not as much activity in niche perfumery. There are few brands and even fewer targeting the market we are. There’s also a colonial connection between Burma and Britain. This obviously has complications, but we love the idea of reclaiming that heritage in a way that honours Myanmar,” said Aye.
The brand would also be shipping to the US. Down the line, it has planned to move the brand back to Asia and is eyeing markets such as China, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
“Mainly Hong Kong because we see that it has the same kind of energy brewing among their Gen Z. For instance, the political consciousness is very high there. I think Hong Kong is at a place in their economic development, where people are starting to think about these bigger concepts and looking to advance themselves internally,” said Aye.
Gabar does not intend to stay in the realm of perfumery for long. It already has a development pipeline of new products such a facial oil that it is hoping to launch soon.
The company’s goal is to develop products that could tap into the wellness and conscious beauty movement, Aye emphasised.
“I don't see us going into just any beauty category. We want to pick the kinds of products that help enhance your well-being. Later down the line, we're really curious about home products that can enhance the space and help you relax.”