By Johanna Ferreira
After undergoing postpartum depression and stress-related burnout, Namrata Nayyar-Kamdar started approaching life differently. During her recovery, she became much more interested in seeking a healthy and balanced life. It was during this time that it became clear to her that beauty, well-being, and mental health were all inextricably linked. This all led to the launch of her beauty brand Plenaire in 2019.
“Plenaire is from the French expression for “in the open air,” having the qualities of. Natural air and light,” she tells thirteen lune. “We see it as a reflection of a broader shift in beauty today, to a more relaxed, pleasurable and open approach. Holistically, it is derived from the 1840 painting technique “en plain air,” emphasizing direct observation of nature, over a narrative and stylized depiction.”
Kamdar wanted to create a line that didn’t just deliver high-quality products that were sustainable and made with ingredient transparency that was reasonably priced, but she also wanted to use this as an opportunity to bridge beauty and mental health for her consumers.
“Beauty and mental-health were becoming inextricably linked; during our research we saw that every conversation around beauty seemed to lead back to anxiety and mental health,” she says. “Physical well-being and emotional health were the new currency of a “a life well-lived” with younger customers and, with their parents' awareness of these issues, is reaching a real tipping point. We wove in all four of these shifts: the consumer journey, the dated competition landscape, ingredient transparency, and focus on emotional well-being to create the brand.”
Get to Know – Namrata Nayyar-Kamdar
Do you have a beauty philosophy?
I love this question! I have very few rules about beauty. I’m a very intuitive person and am pretty mood based when it comes to beauty. Sometimes you crave minimal: purity and plain textures, but then sometimes you want something special and more exciting. I’ve definitely learned that less is more when it comes to beauty, so to find things that are designed with integrity and created with raw materials and to keep coming back to them! Overall, the use of gentle sulphate-free cleanser of micellar, an effective sunscreen and regular weekly exfoliation is important. At night, it’s all about recovery, adding back hydration, of course, manual massage with an oil-based cleanser is great at night as well, and an addition of a light serum or cream. Finding an effective occlusive cleanser and makeup remover is also key, once you start wearing makeup regularly. I don't have too many rules but one is saying away from makeup wipes. With Pleinare, we have created hemp and bamboo flannels that do an amazing job of makeup removal as well as make the perfect partner for removal of Skin Frosting and Tripler. The backbone of my philosophy for skin care would be just to make sure you are making that time special for yourself somehow. Maybe light a candle, play some music and take time to focus on yourself. With Plenaire, it’s much more than just about how you look. It’s always going to be about how these moments make you feel, and that’s an investment in yourself in a completely different way.
Where are you from originally? Where do you live now?
I was born in India and moved to Falls Church Virginia when I was 2-years-old. I lived in India from 12-23 and then in the US for grad school and back in India between 2003-2007. I moved to London for my career and have lived here since 2007.
What does self-care look like in your life?
Following my own mental health crisis in 2015, I retrained my brain to appraise things differently and to be able to get back in touch with all 5 senses. For me self-care is about learning to stay grounded and present and to spend time with yourself appreciating the small things. A freshly baked scone, pour over coffee. Ink on thick paper. Paintings, old polaroids, fragrances that bring back memories. Soft weighted quilts made of natural materials that take me back to when I was growing up.
What were some of your first memories of beauty growing up?
My father worked for the World Bank, so I grew up surrounded by that international culture juxtapositioned against eighties suburbia. It was pretty idyllic yet cosmopolitan. We’d eat pizza in Georgetown, visit museums in the city on weekends and were lucky enough to travel internationally from a young age because of his job. My earliest beauty memory was of my mother using Lakme lipstick at her dressing table, always donning a chiffon saree with signature pearls even in the dead of a Washington DC winter. And then Nina Ricci’s Lair du temps. Her most prized possession was a strand of pearls from Mikimoto, which my father bought her on a trip to Japan in 1984. She always seemed to be able to effortlessly manage everything in a saree, and was able to entertain and create the most elaborate meals from scratch in our tiny townhouse kitchen.
There was an elegance and a grace that I feel has perhaps gone forever with our generations' more practical and contemporary tropes of motherhood and femininity. I absolutely love brands with layers, textures and ancestry. I started using Kama Ayurveda recently. They have a Jasmine body milk which I generally layer before wearing a really light muslin kaftan at bedtime– reminds me of being young and holidaying in India, my grandmother would always bring jasmine home from the temple. In lockdown I try to use Coconut oil on my roots and I’ve also started my daughter on caring for her hair with coconut oil. Most mornings I’ll use the Tripler Clay mask and I love Rose Jelly for cleansing at night, followed by a light serum. We are also, excitingly, in the process of creating a set of more active formulations as a follow on from our range of beauty staples launched already. The pandemic has really highlighted beauty needs in a different way and in a sense given us a much broader canvas to create from for our audience. 6. What inspires you most about the beauty landscape and industry today? It’s been really inspiring to see how independent beauty brands have gained strength and popularity over the last decade. It’s also encouraging to see that diversity of thought and ideas are being welcomed more and more in what was previously a more tightly controlled narrative.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting your business?
Without a doubt the most challenging aspect has been keeping up with our customer and getting her the solutions that she desires, quickly. We love developing ideas for skincare that are based on emotional well-being and bridge the gap between that almost dreamlike state and skincare. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. The customer is never ever standing still, and it is being able to anticipate where she is going next that is critical.
What has been the biggest win thus far?
Ironically our biggest win has been creating a brand with limited resources that has been shared by so many amazing people in such a short space of time.
What would you like to see more of in the beauty industry when it comes to diversity and inclusivity?
I feel a great sense of hope when I look at what we are seeing across our social media platforms and by what is happening in the industry today. I think that the consumer will continue to hold brands and the industry accountable to a high standard and to raise awareness about issues like privilege, race, and sustainability. A typical Plenaire customer has a disproportionate share of voice as they are often using technology via their social platforms to raise awareness of these issues within their circles and influence the media in a way that previous generations have simply not been able to. They question norms and believe in their ability to make a real impact on changing the way that we live.