Prestige delved into the philosophy of Amorepacific’s brands as manifested in vibrant Seoul to pristine Jeju Island. Liviani Putri reports from South Korea.
Suh Sung-whan, the late founder of Amorepacific Group, established the company in Kaesong in 1945 with dreams of going global. Today it is the number one cosmetic empire in South Korea and home of 26 brands, including its five champions: Etude House, Innisfree, Laneige, Mamonde and Sulwhasoo. The group’s philosophy and path to innovation were showcased in early April under the theme of “Connectivity with Indonesia.”
People and Art
My journey began at Amorepacific’s headquarters in the busy business district of Yongsan-gu. The building stands out with its elegant shape and colour schemes that reminds me of Korean porcelain moon jars. It was designed by world-renowned architect David Chipperfield to convey a sense of singularity in the heart of the city.
Spanning 22 floors—and seven basement levels—the building is a workplace for seven thousand people. As the company aims to facilitate communication and interaction between nature and the city, three roof gardens have been established where employees can rest comfortably and watch the changing of the seasons.
Besides the aforementioned gardens and a host of other impressive facilities, including the iconic O’Sulloc green tea café, Amorepacific’s headquarters is also known for the APMA or the Amorepacific Museum of Art. This feature was added in line with owner Suh Sung-whan’s love for art and the company’s mission to promote Korean traditional and contemporary art.
The museum was reopened for the public in 2018. Currently, APMA houses a modern art collection titled ‘Chapter One-From the APMA Collection’ which includes 40 works from various mediums including photography, sculpture and media by both Korean and international artists.
At the venue, I also met with Timothy Park, Senior Vice President of Group Strategy, who elaborated on Amorepacific’s strategy and vision. “ASEAN is the most strategic market as it has the third biggest population after China and India, he began. “Since it is home to people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds, the demand for multi-brand products is high. That’s why we introduced Etude House, Innisfree, Mamonde, Laneige, Sulwhasoo and hair products like Ryo to the ASEAN market.”
Customer and Innovation
For the next leg of the trip, I took a 54-kilometre journey to visit the Beauty Campus in Osan, Gyeonggi-do. The highlights of the visit included the Story Garden and the Amorepacific Archive to observe the manufacturing and logistic processes, as well as the journey of beauty that inspired the company to innovate.
True to its name, the Story Garden tells the beginning of the company, all the way to the kitchen of the founder’s mother where camellia seed oil was made. This was the origin of ABC Pomade, Korea’s first pure botanical product. The story then continued to various past eras dotted with milestones from the company’s history, from the creation innovative products such as the sleeping mask to Ginsenomics, cell trap technology and more. The end was a glimpse of a future where the company hopes to touch the lives of even more people.
Amorepacific’s archives, meanwhile, included different rooms that showcase the evolution of trends in products, advertisement, merchandise and even uniforms. The company’s first machine used to make powder, its first R&D laboratory and a family gallery was also on display.
Nature and Heritage
Only a couple of hours later, I found myself on a flight bound to Jeju-do to discover Amorepacific’s famous organic green tea farm. The first stop on this leg was the O’Sulloc Tea Museum in Seogwipo to learn about tea culture from the Silia and Goryeo eras. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions and draws 1.1 million visitors every year.
Across the street from the tea museum is the Seokwang green tea farm. Previously a barren wasteland, the farm was born from the founder’s concern for Korea’s traditional tea culture that was close to disappearing. Facing drought, frostbite and poor irrigation, he successfully converted rocky patches on the island into a green tea farm in 1979. Currently, Amorepacific is the only company in the world with its own tea plantation, which is run alongside a research and product development centre.
My visit to Jeju Island also included a stop at the Camellia Village, where a hearty lunch of bibimbap (traditional Korean mixed rice) with fragrant camellia oil awaited. From there, I continued to the Camellia Visitor Centre to see how the flowers are grown and try my hand at soap making using oil from the plant.
Before the journey came an end, I made one last stop in Myeong-dong to see the flagship stores of brands such as Etude House, Innisfree with its Green Café, Laneige, Primera, Mamonde (which will soon arrive in Indonesia) and Aritaum. It was definitely a fitting finale for a journey that highlighted Amorepacific’s concept of connectivity—whether it’s connectivity with its customers and innovation or with nature and its rich and colourful heritage.