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CONTEXT's No-Nonsense Gender Neutral Skincare Line

The new brand checks all the boxes with a clean aesthetic, affordable price point and functional focus

by Nara Shin
on 21 September 2015

During the colorful, romantic and bold Spring 2016 presentations taking place at last week's NYFW, a new skincare brand with noticeably clean, straightforward packaging was being used on Public School's models to prep bright complexions for the runway. CONTEXT caught our attention not only for its appeal to all genders thanks to a modern design aesthetic, but also because of the concentrated focus on functionality and results, rather than bottling promises wrapped in flowery language and pretty colors. The accessible price point (the entire seven-piece collection ranges between $30-$45) adds to the overall goal of inclusivity.

"Having an affordable price point was very important to me. I didn't want to be in the niche prestige business." Arbuthnot tells CH. "I wanted a broad group of consumers who are interested in design and beauty to be able to purchase CONTEXT and experience the brand." And it's no secret that much of the crazy mark-ups on cosmetics are due to pricey packaging and marketing costs; CONTEXT steers clear of both and passes the savings onto the customer.

The fashion world is a realm in which CONTEXT founder David Arbuthnot has been deeply entrenched since the '90s. The former CEO of Gant (who previously worked at Christian Dior Couture, Gucci and Donna Karen) now leads his own brand with a clear-cut vision, which was drawn from his own needs. "We launched CONTEXT with a group of basic essential products. I don't think you need a hundred products in your medicine cabinet," says Arbuthnot. "Our product message is clutter-free. I think consumers are looking for brands which speak to them in a clear, direct way."

"I had been using prestige skincare products, but most were too heavily fragranced," says Arbuthnot. "I wanted either unscented or very lightly and naturally scented products for CONTEXT." For example, the oil-free daily moisturizer with SPF15, unusually, has a faint, pleasant cinnamon scent when applied—it turns out that cinnamon extract also works to control sebum production. We like how it dried, leaving behind touchable skin without a hint of grease. The restorative night cream, on the other hand, has no noticeable scent. Every product boasts powerful antioxidants, botanical oils and natural herbal extracts. Don't let the semi-clinical look of the packaging misguide you: the products are free of parabens, sulfates and phthalates, and you can spot recognizable ingredients like jojoba seed oil, green tea extract and manuka honey on the list.

Arbuthnot notes that he was inspired by minimalist Swedish design aesthetic in his frequent travels to Stockholm for work: "Not only in their beauty products but in fashion, food and home design as well. I knew when I created a brand, I would take a similar design approach." CONTEXT's design attributes were created in collaboration with Kelsen Findlay at London-based Foreigners Studio, and echoes packaging we've seen on Scandinavian lifestyle brands like cult fragrance-makers Byredo as well as anti-aging skincare line Verso.

Overall, we like the idea of being able to share skincare products with your significant other: save bathroom counter space, save money and most importantly, save your skin. Shop the seven-piece collection online at the CONTEXT webshop; there's currently a 15% discount on all orders to promote the launch.

Images by Nara Shin

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