Skin in the game
After more than a decade as the creative director of womenswear at Calvin Klein, the Brazilian-born Costa “felt something was missing” from his celebrated fashion career. While in Rio de Janeiro, working on the ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics, Costa decided he needed to venture into the Amazon.
“I thought, ‘I have to do something for myself that I have never done before and discover what Brazil is for me at this moment,’” Costa said. “I spent 12 days with the Yawanawá tribe, and it was the most incredible, vulnerable experience that brought me to another level of understanding.”
Although Costa had already begun building what became Costa Brazil, his time with the Yawanawás “changed the narrative and the direction of how to start the brand,” he noted.
“The inception of Costa Brazil was really about co-creation,” he said. “Having their participation and acquiring their knowledge and working with them as true long-term partners helped me transition from my years at Calvin, where co-creation didn’t exist. Here there was a seminal moment for something new—the truth, authenticity and simplicity of building your community from something that is completely real.”
Engaging with and learning from the Yawanawás helps Costa understand “what the core of the brand really is.” Whereas his previous career in fashion focused on how to dress women, now his work is centered on how to dress the skin in a more intimate way.
“And the reaction has been tremendous,” he said. “We are a small brand, but we’ve done it correctly because we are very respectful of the people we work with.”
Dove shared a similar authentic and intimate connection with its consumers.
“The brand started with testimonials of real women applying Dove products and telling you in their words what those products did to their skin,” said El Honsali. “Dove is a brand that comes from a legacy of real beauty. That’s how we built our advertising not only product-wise but also purpose-wise.”
Co-creating the brand
El Honsali noted that Dove’s 2004 Campaign for Real Beauty was all about real people telling their stories, which was very different from what the beauty industry was doing. And so the movement to creators was quite organic for the company. Dove decided to build a creator community around shifting beauty away from a source of anxiety and toward a source of happiness and confidence.
“What creators and influencers are bringing today is the trust that some brands have lost,” El Honsali said. “What drives the authenticity is the fact that you share a belief system—values—with them. And we share strong values with the community that we’ve built. That makes a difference that then shows up in the content as very authentic, very real and very much what Dove stands for.”
El Honsali pointed to Dove’s #TurnYourBack campaign as content that exemplified the brand’s authentic connection and shared values with creators and community. Not long after the panel ended, the campaign won the Cannes Lions Media Grand Prix.
“Before we launched the campaign, a lot of our community of creators were challenging a TikTok filter called Bold Glamour,” El Honsali said, referring to the technology that applies makeup and sculpting effects to users’ faces, and which may create an unrealistic beauty standard among young women.