Cosmetics company Tarte sparks debate after hosting 50 influencers on luxury brand trip to Dubai

A beauty brand has become the subject of controversy after organizing an extravagant brand trip to Dubai for 50 influencers and their guests.

Tarte Cosmetics, a US-based makeup company, hosted the three-day luxury trip, in collaboration with Sephora Middle East, for influencers this week. The trip has resulted in an influx of sponsored content from social media stars like Alix Earle, Meredith Duxbury, and Monet McMichael.

According to posts shared on Instagram and TikTok by influencers who flew into Dubai from the US and Europe, the cosmetics company spared no expense. The trip began with Emirates business class flights to Dubai for each of the attendees and her companion.

A round-trip business class flight from Dubai to New York costs a whopping $13,254, according toFashion.

Many of the influencers posted room tours on their pages once they arrived at their hotel, the Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach. Each person and their guest were housed in a private villa.

In a video shared by Duxbury, a popular beauty influencer with more than 16.7 million followers on TikTok, she also showed off the free beauty products and merchandise placed in each guest’s room.

“I swear to God, Tarte does a whole shopping spree for every person, every trip. It’s crazy,” Duxberry said as she showed viewers the jewelry, makeup and clothes laid out for her in the sprawling villa.

“Ride of a lifetime. Thank you @tartecosmetics,” she captioned the video, which has since been viewed more than 1.8 million times.

The spate of Tarte-sponsored posts, including videos and photos of the group riding jeeps in the desert and enjoying lavish dinners, has sparked a debate on social media. Some have questioned the appropriateness of the trip amid widespread concerns about the cost of living.

TikToker Lindsay Borow, who uses the username @lblikes on the app, said viewing the ride from the point of view of a “regular consumer” made her not want to buy Tarte products. She said the ride seems “deaf.”

“Like, in this economy and everything, this is so unidentifiable,” he said.

In comments to Borow’s video, which has been viewed more than 57,000 times, some users agreed with her on the grounds that the trip “feels out of touch with the recession and inflation.”

“I can barely afford eggs so not interested in your new product,” one person wrote, while another said: “Listen I would love to be shipped to Dubai BUT let’s read the room…people can’t afford groceries and much less. bronzer.”

Someone else said: “I’m a loyal Tarte customer but…it feels too far away. I know they always splurge, but somehow, it’s just too much and a complete rejection of the brand.”

Others pointed out that hype-brand trips are not a new phenomenon and that Tarte has organized extravagant trips for influencers in the past, including to Bora Bora in 2016 and 2018.

“Influencers have been making brand trips for years, this is not new. I think it’s unbelievable for them,” said one viewer.

Another tweeted: “Why is TikTok mad that Tarte cosmetics are sending a bunch of Influencers to Dubai and spending millions? I guess people forgot brands used to do this all the time before Covid.”

In addition to a conversation about the timing and excess of the trip, others have speculated about the cost of the influencer trip from a marketing perspective. Many questioned how the brand can afford the expensive endeavor.

“Where are they getting this money from?” asked TikToker Jack Mac, who created a video breaking down the costs of the trip.

Speculation has led many to point to the valuation of Tarte, which is owned by Kosé and is reportedly valued between $50 million and $150 million.

“All these people think that Tarte is losing money by sending these influencers to Dubai, yet each of the influencers has posted three to four videos for their more than two million followers. The trip already paid for itself,” one person tweeted.

Another said: “Influencer Tarte’s Dubai brand journey was definitely a smart move, that’s most of the content I’ve seen in my FYP [For You Page] today.”

TikToker Jill Justine, who revealed that she used to work for a magazine that organized trips for similar brands, also suggested that the trip might not be as expensive as many believe. She noted that “most of the time,” things like the hotel, excursions, and meals, were free.

“Because we are associating with the hotels, because we are associating with the event, because we are associating with the experience,” he explained. “Because all of them are also getting exposure.”

Justine also stated that although it was less common, there were also times when the magazine would partner with airlines and get free flights as well.

“The name of the game is exposure,” Justine added.

In a statement to Fashion Business, Tarte founder and CEO Maureen Kelly said she understands the “knee knee reaction” to the trip.

“This is not our first trip, but I can, of course, understand how people can have a knee-jerk reaction to seeing an overload of content like this,” he told the publication. “Every day, brands make decisions about how to spend their marketing budgets. For some companies, that means a big Super Bowl commercial or a multi-million dollar contract with a famous athlete or musician. We have never done traditional advertising and instead invest in building relationships and building communities. We hope that as people see what we’re doing together and what it’s all about, they’ll understand and have a stronger connection to Tarte.”

the independent has contacted Tarte and Sephora Middle East for comment.

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