Cardon – Dress for Success

The beloved tailored suit is a product that many identify as the image of a refined man of power, representing masculinity at its prime voice of elegance. It is to be worn with a sense of pride and ambition of achievement, dressing the part to seek the ultimate win. To gain corporate ascension, dressing for success is not only a visual catapult to the echelon level, it shows worth and value of ones wisdom, projecting quality and respect to his superiors. Reflecting on the past, a crisp and sharp tailored monochromatic suit was unavoidably flooding the streets, as the man on the road to his daily performance was to conform to this inherited uniform. Modern days have introduced a nouveau styled gentleman that is accepted by society and just as respected for his embodied casual looks. While boundary’s of fashion and design are pushed to advanced heights season after season, the classic male suit will always hold its own in a world filled with endless variety.

There has long been a social expectation of appropriate attire required in certain settings, and however broken the borders may be, they will never be lost. Perhaps now one may only wear a suit for a special occasion and our Sunday’s best is no longer what it used to be, there is still a found glory of a decadently dressed man and the allure that it emits. Exuding confidence is collectively attributed by physical appearance and the charismatic nature gained from this, forming an attractive and enticing appeal of accomplishment to those around.

What is considered the modern-day suit was first introduced to society in the early 19th century and also marked a pinnacle moment for men and their newfound grooming routines. Self care and refinement in displaying their appearance would soon set the bar to a cleanly nurtured path ahead. Fast forward, today men’s skincare products are at an all time high and the demand is generously voiced by the younger generation who invite the demographic to jump on board. The newly established apothecary, Cardon, is a prime example of revolutionary (men’s skincare?) products, and to start we have the enticing packaging with a sleek and sophisticated design. Originating from Korea, (girls names) know what the fundamental importances are for long lasting durable skin being naturally immersed in their native cultures interest in the industry that is innovative and progressively leading the way. With products ranging from hydro booting gels and purifying clay cleansers, they service treatments that cater to all skin types. The modern man is catching up quickly in the current climate of grooming, continually adding importance to self care regimes and we have beauty companies to thank for this.

Where does dressing for success stand today? Call it traditional or contemporary, the array of luxury fashion houses continue to stay loyal to their quality of purification with sartorial elegance, while allowing creative elements to make whimsical diverse creations. A significant factor that one must adhere to is the current push for sustainability on all angles of the industry, from development of newly generated fabrics to construction and understanding of reducing carbon footprint. Many may believe that the elite industry provides in excess leaving behind masses amounts of surplus that would never be utilized again. With this astonishing global movement, we are witnessing what contributes to a new process of garment construction where designers are digging deep to utilize what they already have. Suits are made from previous collections material that may once have been a streetwear product, thus naturally creating a modern zest to the timeless item giving a more flamboyant nuance with options that are fashion forward in compliance.

The allure and significance of a man in his power outfit may have eclectic twists that are exceedingly in vogue, whether it is to your taste or not, we go with it and this proves that dressing for success is ejected in variations forms of appearance. You can’t argue fashion, you simply have an opinion, but when it truly comes down to it, the importance of a well dressed man is what ultimately achieves triumph. 

1. Talk to Forbes about how your entrepreneurial spirit helped you develop this brand while studying at the Wharton School of Business. 

NC: Jacqueline and I both chose to pursue our MBAs because we wanted to start our own businesses. Over the last decade, Wharton has become known for its entrepreneurship program and resources, and its alumni spearheaded the DTC movement with Warby Parker, Harry’s, Burrow, and Snowe to name a few. Wharton gave us access to a strong network of alumni, professors, and classmates, one of whom became my co-founder.

Jacqueline and I were both part of the Wharton Semester in San Francisco program, which specializes in entrepreneurship and innovation. We often enjoyed bouncing new ideas off each other and found that we both had a passion for consumer goods, given her background at retail startups like Quidsi and M.M.LaFleur, and mine at P&G. We decided to be roommates during our last semester back in Philly. One weekend, Jacqueline helped me run a consumer focus group with a few of our male classmates to talk about men’s skincare. The event was really eye-opening, because it showed how much interest there was in the category as well as the lack of space for men to talk about it. There was also a clear absence of a quality yet affordable brand that addressed men’s growing interest in the grooming space. After that weekend, I convinced Jacqueline to join forces and we started to seriously work on the idea, which eventually led to the creation of Cardon. 

Our first check was actually from the Wharton Innovation Fund. We were awarded $5k which helped us design our logo, incorporate our company, and build our first website.

2. What is the concept of K- Grooming 

NC: Korean skincare, a.k.a. K-Beauty, is known for gentle, harsh-free formulas and unique natural ingredients. Korean skincare philosophy also embodies a lifestyle of self-care. Routines are more focused on proactive and preventative measures, and building healthy habits. At Cardon, we incorporate the same high quality standards into our formulations and translate the same philosophy in our skincare routine. Cardon products are focused on solving men’s grooming needs and addressing current pain points, such as shaving irritation. That’s why we call it K-Grooming. 

3. How does the Korean’s men’s care market differ from the US marketplace? 

NC: The male skincare consumer in Asia today may seem quite sophisticated; he not only moisturizes, but also has regular dermatological treatments and likely wears a tinted moisturizer or BB cream as part of his everyday routine. However, a decade ago the men’s skincare market in Asia was in the same position that nascent markets, like the U.S., are in today. We see a similar trend of embracing a broader definition of masculinity and an investment in self-care through fashion, fitness, and diet. It’s only natural that personal care would follow. One difference we expect to see is that the U.S. market will have a greater focus on beard care than the Asian market, and people prefer a more simplified routine with multi-purpose products.

4. What is the meaning behind the brand name Cardon?

JO: A common concern we heard from men as it relates to skincare is shaving irritation or having sensitive skin, which makes sense if you’re taking a sharp blade to your face on a regular basis. We chose cactus extract as the hero ingredient in our skincare line because of it’s soothing and healing properties. Cactus extract is rich in vitamins A, D, E, and K. In fact, the Aztec used to use cactus to treat sun burns. Our brand name pays homage to this prickly plant and is named after the world’s largest cactus species.

5. In your words, how and why is a healthy skin regimen important on the path to corporate ascension?

JO: Skin is the most underappreciated and overlooked accessory when it comes to dressing for success. You may have on the best outfit, but if you wake up with dark circles or a pimple in the middle of your face, you’re going to be worried that that’s what people will focus on and that impacts the confidence you project. Having healthy skin helps you feel confident and look less tired, which is a common concern our customers express to us. 

Going beyond just the surface of skincare how it makes you look, having a skincare routine is like meditation. It gives you time to check-in with yourself. Having a consistent morning and night skincare routine gives you the mental space to prep and kick off your mornings, as well as wind down and reset at night.

6.Talk to the consumers, retailers and investors reading here about what makes the current product unique from other men’s skincare brands? 

NC: Everything we do is rooted in solving the pain points that the modern male consumer feels. We conducted in-depth ingredient research to address male specific skincare needs like sensitivity, redness, and irritation from shaving and that’s how we chose cactus as our main ingredients in our line to solve their skin concerns.

We also believe in giving consumers the best value possible. By leveraging the advanced skincare research and technology in South Korea, we’re able to provide products that are significantly higher quality at an accessible price point. Lastly, we’re building a brand that empowers consumers to embrace skincare as part of their lifestyle and self-care routine. We developed our collection to maximize the efficacy and impact with the least number of steps, while providing educational resources through our skincare blog and virtual consultations to help consumers discover the right routine for them.

7. What sustainable attributes does the product and the packaging have? 

NC: We place a lot of emphasis on the ingredients we use. All of our formulas are clean, meaning they don’t contain harsh preservatives like parabens, phthalates, sulfates, or silicones. Our products are made 100% cruelty-free and our ingredients are responsibly sourced. As we continue to build our product pipeline, we want to expand more into sustainable packaging through refillable, recycled packaging and exploring new sustainable materials for skincare.

8. Describe to us what is a good skincare regime for men during office hours in quest for the path of dress for success and healthy skin. 

JO: The most important product to have with you throughout the day is an SPF Moisturizer, which is why we designed ours to be pocket-friendly. A SPF Moisturizer performs two functions: it hydrates your skin and protects you against sun damage. Even windows tend to only block UV-B rays and still let in UV-A rays which cause premature aging. Look for SPFs that are 30+ and are labeled with “Broad Spectrum” so it protects against both types of UV rays. If you tend to have oilier skin or want to squeeze in a quick workout during lunch, you should also bring along a gentle face wash. We opted for a clay-based formula for our cleanser, which absorbs dirt 4x better than charcoal but doesn’t dry out the skin. Also, sometimes you just need a good face wash to refresh your day.

9. The men’s skincare market is worth 18.92 billion dollars. What are your strategy and financial projections for the next 2 years? 

JO: Men’s skincare growth is at a tipping point this year, and the new Zoom culture is a contributing factor. We expect the industry to continue to grow exponentially over the next few years, similar to what Narae experienced in the Asia market. Our mission at Cardon has been the same from the beginning: to provide a simple shopping experience for men to get premium skincare at an approachable price tag. We’ll continue to expand our product line to address current unmet needs and become a go-to resource for customers to comfortably learn and explore skincare. This year, we developed a new skincare blog based on top questions from customers, and launched virtual skincare consultations to help customers find the right products and routine. Building a strong relationship with our customers has been a key factor to our high growth this year. Currently, 1 in 3 customers repeat with us within 3 months and we hope to continue to see that grow.


Q: What was the inspiration behind building a men’s personal care brand?

Growing up in Korea, Narae saw first-hand the pride that Korean men took in their self-care. It was more than a routine—it was a way of life, an expression of self-worth, self-love and enjoyment. While she is working in the skincare and grooming industry in Asia, she was a part of the hyper growth of men’s personal care in Asia. When she moved to the US, she saw the same early indicators of the emergence of men’s self-care arising in the U.S.but there weren’t the same affordable and high quality options that there were in South Korea, where she was from. That’s how we started Cardon – make it personal care accessible to men leveraging K-beauty technology to address men’s specific skincare needs (skin irritation, redness from shaving, etc.)

Q: What did you do before Cardon?

Narae had worked for the skincare/grooming industry as a brand manager at Procter & Gamble (SK-II, Olay and Gillette). She has gained a lot of great consumer insight in the industry and built an extensive network, which helped us secure the largest skincare manufacturer in Korea to manufacture our product to deliver high product quality. Also, she has extensive experience in Ecommerce and growth marketing ad served as an associate director of growth marketing at Walmart Online Grocery 

Jacqueline comes from a retail startups background. She has worked at Quidsi, an Amazon subsidiary, and M.M.LaFleur in a wide range of areas including finance, marketing analytics, and offline retail. She specializes in how to build profitable DTC businesses, and how offline retail has evolved from a sales channel to an experience channel. 

Q: What do you attribute your initial success to?

First, the product has to be good. You can get people to try something once, but to build a business you need to build a relationship with the customer. We do that with quality products and a personalized experience. More than 1 in 3 customers repeat within the first 90 days. We offer a convenient and customizable subscription option as well as text and video skincare consultations. Our customers have grown to trust our quality and our brand; we focus on ingredient knowledge and even make recommendations beyond our product line to help customers find the best solutions for their skin.

Herno Coat

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