CTK’s very own Ironman - Beauty Industry Insights | CTKCLIP

CTK’s very own Ironman


CTK’s very own Ironman

Tony Lee - Vice President, Beauty Division

Meet Tony-our Vice President and also an esteemed founding member of the team. With his unparalledled knowledge in cosmetic packaging, he is undoubtedly a ture expert in the industry often called as our Ironman.

Even before he became a founding member of CTK, Tony had been an important figure in the beauty industry for many years. Tony possesses a remarkable ability to envision an engineer groundbreaking packaging mechanism.

Through this interview we will share valuable lessons from his expertise and experience by hoping you'll get some great advice that will inspire you as much as we do!

Thank you for this interview and your precious time Tony!

Could you please share a little about yourself to our readers?

Before joining CTK, I had been working in the cosmetics industry for about 8 years, I had my own business and started engaging in global business early on. I gained various experiences working in cosmetics-related manufacturing, trading, and distribution, including positions at companies like LG Chemical. 

At that time, people didn't think too much about exports because there was a strong perception that exports were tricky. Moreover, achieving desired results through domestic business alone was possible, so there was no need to venture into the complexities of export business. Unlike the typical trading businesses that focused more on trading companies than understanding the conditions of the factories, I wanted to engage in a trading business that could grow together with the factories. 

That's why I joined the current owner of CTK, Ian Chung, and became one of the first pioneer of the company. Since its establishment, I have been involved in various product development projects for over 20 years, including leading the packaging innovation team.

Could you explain what’s the role of the packaging team in CTK?

Simply put, our role is to create what customers want. We manage the development of packaging from ideation to sales. Our development tasks can be broadly divided into two categories: CTK Company's Mold Projects and Custom Projects.

For CTK Company's Mold Projects, we address the needs that buyers couldn't fulfill or areas that were lacking or unsatisfactory. We continuously brainstorm and create simple, convenient, and excellent items based on these insights.

In the case of Custom Projects, we handle product idea proposals, promotions, design, engineering, mold development and crafting, eco-friendly material, product development, sourcing, and finally, we also conduct training for our partner companies. As a result of these projects, about 300 patents have been registered, and dozens are still in progress.

What are the challenges you and your team faced in the process of developing new packaging?

Our company operates a factory free platform, CTKCLIP, where we match products tailored to the brand from product planning to delivery.

We identify customer needs and develop suitable packaging, and the production is outsourced to external factories. A significant challenge lies in managing external factories, helping them understand trends, and coordinating the entire project. We have been addressing this challenge by developing packaging in-house and proposing right solutions to the issues we faced. However, there is still a long way to go. Breaking the fixed mindset of manufacturing partners is particularly challenging and always requires overcoming obstacles, but it is essential to do so for creating high-quality products.

You have designed many innovative packaging, which one do you like the most and why?

I think it’s difficult to pick a favorite product because each of them holds significant meaning and purpose. However, if I must choose, I can categorize them into five sections:

1) In the first year since CTK foundation, a French luxury brand requested a package renewal. 

The challenge was to create the thinnest yet luxurious product in the world, which was a unique demand. Due to the difficulties in terms of mass production, there was no company in Korea that could make such a product at the time. Despite manufacturing challenges, our innovative solution not only satisfied the client but also established the product as a hero item for the brand, which meant a lot to me.

2) Recyclable Packaging for a Cosmetic Group (2004): 

We developed a recyclable packaging made from aluminum for a well-known cosmetic group. I personally visited aluminum recycling factories, ensuring that the product was genuinely eco-friendly as we needed a "real" eco-friendly product, not a trick. It was one of the first eco-friendly products produced that holds a special place in my heart.

3) 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Generation Powder Products:

The conventional 1st generation loose powder products required users to open the cap, pour the content onto the lid, and apply it using a puff or brush. To reduce the inconvenience of having to pour the content, we created the 2nd generation powder packaging with a sponge and a puff, allowing users to apply it directly to their faces by tapping. This product was an innovative solution that alleviated the inconvenience for many people, leading to numerous global cosmetic brands showing interest and eventually placing orders.

But we didn’t stop there and continued to evolve. To address powder spillage, we introduced the 3rd generation packaging with a mesh netting placed on top of the powder. And then, we further enhanced usability with the 4th generation tap-tap powder. I believe that persistently pondering for a better product is the attitude that developers should maintain until the end.

4) Series of Packages for a Luxury Korean Brand:

In the cosmetics industry, it's common for each packaging to be commissioned to different companies. I still remember ordering and delivering packaging in a series within a short period of time. I was in charge of the packaging of Korean luxury brands, by completing the whole process from design to the manufacturing of 120 molds during 5 months.

After successfully delivering the first package series, it felt even more special because the second and third packages were produced in full. This is undoubtedly a series that involves about 20 years of experience and skills.

5) Bottoms-Up Stick:

The Bottoms-Up stick, designed to use the whole product from the first beginning to the very end, is an innovative eco-friendly packaging that worldwide cosmetic brands were paying attention to when launched. We successfully supplied this product to renowned cosmetic brands in the United States, marking a path to success. Being made of a single-material and refillable, this packaging has become my most cherished item in recent times.

What do you think of eco-friendly materials? What are your predictions on the future beauty trends?

As we all know, eco-friendly materials are the direction and goal we should pursue, making them indispensable. When discussing eco-friendliness, regardless of race, we all must think of ourselves as "citizens of one Earth". Therefore, eco-friendly materials are essential resources and coatings for us, and we are sincerely grateful for them. That's why CTK is also contributing to this initiative by continuously developing eco-friendly materials such as biodegradable plastics and green coatings.

The future trend is ESG management (Environmental, Social and Governance), where the focus must be on eco-friendliness. Everything is expected to transform into products aligned with the Earth's environment. CTK BioCanada's materials, leading the way in these changes, are distinct from conventional biodegradable materials as they are free of microplastics. While regular PLA contains microplastics, our subsidiary, BioCanada, produces eco-friendly materials without any. 

Moreover, in order to protect the environment while keeping aesthetics, we also developed coating agents without harmful ingredients such as green coating. Now, we must focus on the Earth in all our actions and decisions.

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