Introducing our annual list of fashion and beauty’s biggest changemakers
Throughout 2020, a number of fashion and beauty insiders rose to the numerous challenges of the moment. In the name of offering support, fueling morale, innovating in-house and pushing forward, they took swift action that proved impactful and offered several bright spots in these trying times.
Direct-to-consumer brands moved further into traditional-brand territory, streetwear and luxury became increasingly intertwined, and wellness’s impact on beauty became apparent industrywide. At the same time, widespread movements toward authenticity, transparency, sustainability and diversity took shape, forcing strategic updates across departments, at brands across the board.
Diversity & Inclusion
all rights reserved Glossy 2020
In the 4th Annual Glossy 50 list, we spotlight those industry leaders who rallied fellow executives, introduced fresh ideas and solutions, and remolded the fashion and beauty landscapes for the better. They forwarded diversity and inclusivity, enabled increased sustainability and established more thoughtful standards for processes from hiring to marketing.
Ahead, we honor their contributions to the standout year in fashion and beauty.
Explore changemakers in categories below:
Lawrence Lenihan’s big bet on fashion embracing on-demand production is paying off.
Lenihan is the co-founder and chairman of NYC-based Resonance, a 3-year-old investor and tech partner of fashion brands. Its processes are based on producing only what is sold, and it’s dedicated to using sustainable and organic materials.
With excess inventory among the big headaches of fashion brands, current demand for Resonance’s services exceeds its bandwidth. As a result, it’s in growth mode, looking to facilitate the normalization of made-to-order clothing and create U.S. jobs in the process.
This year, it will open its first U.S.-based manufacturing facility for sewing and distribution. That will be followed by a 1 million-square-foot textile plant next year, planned to be the first zero-carbon footprint, zero-water footprint clothing factory in the world. Resonance has a goal of creating 10,000 jobs in U.S. apparel manufacturing by 2024.
Resonance has a proven business model. Since it opened its doors, it’s launched 20 brands on its platform. That includes contemporary brand Tucker, which does $5 million in annual sales with just two full-time employees, and The Kit, which is a $3 million business with just one employee.
And it’s gaining traction: Rebecca Minkoff partnered with Resonance on her kids’ line, Little Minkoff, launched in February. In an interview in mid-September, she said she’ll be expanding the partnership to her women’s clothing via a sustainable “RM Greene” line.
In July alone, the company on-boarded 11 designers, through its first quarterly BeResonant accelerator program that was offered exclusively to Black talent -- 400 designers applied. In September, each of the selected designers rolled out their brand on the Resonance platform, fee free. A second BeResonant program is set to kick off in November, for designers of indigenous descent.
“This is not: OK, we just checked the box on goodwill,” said Lenihan. “This is: How do we become the platform for every Black creator? And any creator? We’re opening up opportunities for ourselves and everyone in the program.”
By: Jill Manoff
Though Ulta Beauty has had its eye on the clean and conscious consumer for some time, it took a global pandemic for it to accelerate its ambitions.
“Even though we’re in this crisis, a lot of changes have come. The personalized communication that we have with our consumers allowed us to drive our business in a way that makes even more sense for our guests,” said Dave Kimbell, president of Ulta Beauty.
The greatest manifestation of that for Ulta this year -- beyond its curbside pick-up program that launched after Covid-19 hit the U.S. -- was its Conscious Beauty merchandising assortment that came to life in October. Rather than emphasize only clean beauty products, like competitors including Target and Sephora, Ulta wanted to take a more holistic approach by incorporating products that are clean, cruelty-free, vegan, sustainable in their packaging and positive in their impact. Kimbell said Ulta customers are drawn to all five of these areas when making purchase decisions. Kimbell also partnered with existing leaders in these spaces, like Credo, which brought its clean initiatives to select shop-in-shops, and Loop for its sustainable packaging.
“We have been committed to clean, sustainability and wellness for a long time; it's been part of our values. But we saw the need over the last year or two to drive a more transparent solution. We recognized that, in the spirit of keeping our guests, we need to make all our guests the center of what we do,” he said.
That kind of customer centricity is natural for Kimbell, who spent much of his career at beloved consumer brands like Seventh Generation and PepsiCo’s Quaker franchise, before joining Ulta Beauty.
“The consumer journey is personal; it’s about emotion, connection and passion, and that’s especially true in beauty,” Kimbell said.
By: Priya Rao
In the midst of a global pandemic, you couldn’t fault some companies’ decision to waive their long-term vision in order to focus on day-to-day fundamentals. But that’s the opposite of what Sonika Malhotra, co-founder and global brand director of Love Beauty and Planet, did with the brand.
Over the course of the year, Malhotra pushed Unilever-owned Love Beauty and Planet forward on sustainable product innovation. It came out with a concentrated shampoo and conditioner that uses 30% less plastic -- the brand’s plan is to use 50% less plastic by 2021 -- and a dry shampoo that uses nitrogen, an eco-friendly, non-greenhouse gas propellant. Moreover, the brand launched its first grant-based initiative, The Love Beauty and Planet Project, which awards up to $100,000 to people and projects that are actively improving the wellbeing and health of the planet. This is in spite of Covid-19 not letting up anytime soon.
How were you able to push so many of Love Beauty and Planet’s initiatives forward in such a tumultuous year?
“We try to communicate to our customers that sustainability isn’t just a nice thing to have. For a fleeting second in March, when we were really just struggling to understand what was happening to the world, there was uncertainty. But the good news for us is that most of our key retailers and customers are quite evolved, in terms of intent -- so they didn’t need to be convinced about sustainability or our long-term vision. The customer was incredibly committed, and these are customers I’m talking to on a weekly or monthly basis.”
How important are Love Beauty and Planet’s good works, to customers?
“Our actions are divided into two buckets: The first bucket is all the things that the brand doesn't just say, but that it does. We take care of innovation, which is in developing products that are new, and we’re constantly upping the game when it comes to sustainability. And then we have a second bucket and that is the ability to talk to millions of consumers and make sure they are agents of change. Our customer deeply cares about the planet and how choices affect it. They don’t want us to let up on how we act, and they’re constantly challenging us to do more.”
Co-Founder& Global Brand Director, Love Beauty & Planet
Dan Widmaier is guiding fashion’s leading brands to more sustainable practices.
The CEO of Bolt Threads, Widmaier announced in October the biotechnology company’s plan for scaling Mylo, a material made from mushrooms that mimics the look and feel of leather. Mylo has legs out of the gate, thanks to the accelerated consumer demand for more sustainable fashion options and its influential launch partners of Kering, Adidas, Lululemon and Stella McCartney. The material will appear before the end of the year in styles within the brands’ collections.
Bolt Threads, which is now a company of around 100 people, was founded in 2009 to “make way better materials for a way better world,” said Widmaier, who has a PhD in chemistry and chemical biology. “Materials are one of the biggest problems in our world, in terms of sustainability. Biology solved the problem 4 billion years ago with a perfectly circular economy. We’ve just got to figure out how to use what nature has invented and bring it to customers.”
Mylo is a concept that was two-plus years in the making. Its production emits fewer greenhouse gases and uses less water than making leather from livestock. It’s also a more sustainable option than pleather.
“Fashion is an industry that needs this innovation, but it's not structured [for fashion brands] to build it themselves,” said Widmaier.
He added that, not only do fashion companies need outside partners, but they also need to work together to enact meaningful change. Bolt Threads is working to facilitate that with, for example, Mylo’s “consortium” of launch partners.
“If there was ever a time for a message that we're all in this together, it’s 2020,” he said.
In addition to the fashion industry, Bolt Threads is focusing on “giant markets that have a long way to improve,” including beauty and personal care, said Widmaier. Other materials the company has developed include Microsilk, inspired by silk proteins spun by spiders, and B-Silk, a form of silk protein used in its proprietary skin-care brand, Eighteen B.
While the beauty industry has made progress in improving product inclusivity for all skin tones, two categories that have lagged behind are clean beauty and sunscreen. In 2020, tennis superstar Venus Wiliams set out to change that with the launch of EleVen by Venus Williams, a sunscreen line.
“As a tennis player, I have spent a lot of time in the sun over the years,” said Williams. But she also struggled to find a sunscreen that did not leave white residue on the skin -- a common problem for people with darker skin tones due to formulations that aren’t inclusive.
With fewer products available to them, Black women have been shown in surveys to be less likely to use sunscreen. And data has also shown that their skin cancer survival rates are lower. “People often forget that skin is the body’s largest organ, and it needs to be taken care of just as much as any organ on the inside,” said Williams.
As a clean beauty enthusiast, finding a mineral sunscreen formulation had been difficult for Williams, too. “It was important for me to create an SPF that was highly effective, but also clean and worked for all skin types,” she said.
As part of Williams’ EleVen activewear brand, the new line also taps into the growing trend of “active beauty” products created with tough workouts in mind.
The sunscreen line, which contains 25% zinc oxide, launched in May in partnership with The Sunscreen Company and is sold at Credo Beauty and through EleVen’s online shop. In October, it expanded to an even wider customer base through Ulta Beauty as a part of the beauty retailer’s new partnership with Credo and brings an inclusive sunscreen option to Ulta Beauty’s newly launched Conscious Beauty program.
Patagonia, which has long been a sustainable fashion leader, ramped up its efforts this year with the help of Helena Barbour, the brand’s head of global sportswear.
This year, Barbour led Patagonia’s switch to all organic cotton and its initiative to collect plastic bottles and turn them into hat brims, among other sustainability efforts.
“We’re in business to save our home planet,” Barbour said. “This sounds idealistic, but the bottom line is that making clothes has so many negative impacts. [That includes] the extraction of fossil fuel, unsafe and unregulated chemicals and, in some cases, the exploitation of people in supply chains.”
Barbour said the most consequential change the brand has made this year is a switch in its supply chain to regenerative agriculture. The vast majority of clothing involves cotton in some way, and cotton farming can be very wasteful. Under its regenerative agriculture initiative, Patagonia has stopped using cotton farms that produce greenhouse gases and rely on harmful pesticides. It’s instead building new farms that use the minimum amount of waste and rely on natural materials, like beneficial insects rather than pesticides.
While the efforts to improve the manufacturing and supply chain processes are important, Barbour said the next big topic that fashion needs to tackle is consumption itself -- which Patagonia is already doing through its Wornwear secondhand program.
“We need to recognize that we can’t just solve negative impacts by doing things more sustainably,” she said. “The root of the problem is consumption, specifically buying stuff we don’t need. We have to move to a model where the definition of a product is not just something that is new. We can buy used products, as well as new, and can lean into rental models for things we use seasonally or for a short period of time. Ultimately, everything at the end of its life should be recycled.”
By: Danny Parisi
VP of Global Sportswear,
Founder & CEO,
EleVen by Venus Williams
By: Jill Manoff
By: Liz Flora
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Nate Checketts, CEO of DTC activewear brand Rhone, was the architect of the Brands x Better initiative, a coalition of more than 100 brands that pooled their resources to raise $4 million for Covid-19 relief. The inspiration for the project came from an unlikely source: Checketts’ son’s desire to learn to skateboard.
“I was looking to buy him a skateboard, and all my searches kept taking me to Amazon, Walmart -- all these places that were thriving and didn’t need any help,” Checketts said. “I was thinking, ‘What about all the smaller places that are struggling -- especially the ones that are donating whatever they can to help?’ I wanted to come up with a way to highlight those brands and give people an easy way to see the ones that had pledged to use the money they got from sales for a good cause.”
Checketts said he started by drawing up a list of 100 brands that he thought would be a good fit for the project, including 20 with leaders he knew personally, and then expanded from there. All who came aboard agreed to donate 10% of their sales in April and May to Covid-19 relief. Brands x Better grew to include 140 brands.
The program was extended into June and July, but is now dormant. Checketts said he is keeping the lines of communication with the brands open for potential future projects. And in the meantime, he wants to continue coming up with ways for smaller brands, local businesses and startups to thrive, without the big investor capital or corporate backing of Amazon and Walmart.
“It would be a real shame if we lost a lot of the exciting, young digital brands to Amazon,” Checketts said.
By: Danny Parisi
In the early days of the pandemic, Brian Berger, founder and CEO of men’s basics brand Mack Weldon, was overwhelmed with things to worry about, including transitioning to remote work, distributing PPE to first responders and managing inventory. Like many brands, he was facing problems he never could have expected or planned for.
As a solution, he started up a weekly Zoom call in April, inviting fellow founders and CEOs of digital DTC brands like Andie Swim and Rhone to discuss these challenges, share ideas for solutions, give advice and raise morale. Within a few weeks, the call grew to include more than 20 brand executives and an ongoing email thread. Melanie Travis, CEO of Andie Swim, told Glossy she found the call to be “invaluable.”
“I knew this was an unprecedented situation for all of us,” Berger said. “A lot of us are first-time CEOs. You’re used to learning on the job and dealing with crises, but none of us had ever dealt with something like this. To establish a community of like-minded leaders and get together as frequently as we could to talk about this stuff, that was really powerful -- and it helped a lot of us figure out what we were going to do. It started out as crisis management and then morphed into more strategic talks about the future.”
Berger said the calls themselves tapered off after a few months, but the email chain is still being used by the CEOs to chat and share advice. And, he said, he’ll be at the ready to start the calls up again when a new crisis hits.
“The big issue we’re all discussing now is about opening up offices again,” Berger said. “What is everyone’s approach there? It varies by team size and location, so everyone has a different perspective. So there’s still a lot to talk about and a lot of value in this group.”
When CEO Natasha Cornstein closed the seven Blushington locations on March 13 due to the pandemic, she thought it was a temporary move that would last, at most, two weeks.
“That Friday, I was researching medical-grade cleaning companies, ordering disposable brushes and figuring out how to retrofit our stores to deal with something that was really quite unknown at that point. All we knew was that it was dangerous, and we had to make some adjustments to protect our team and customers,” she said of the early days of Covid-19.
But then Cornstein woke up on a Sunday morning and read an email from organizational consultancy firm Korn Ferry that was centered on leadership and crisis, and she decided to lead. She assumed that other founders, CEOS and CMOs in beauty, wellness and retail were negotiating store closures and unsure of the future of their businesses, so she emailed 25 executives and started a private Slack chat. Word of mouth caught on, and the group has since grown to 100-plus people.
“I thought that if we joined together, we would be able to accomplish things faster and, together, have access to the top people in each discipline,” said Cornstein.
Initial topics discussed included lease negotiations for physical locations, employee options, crisis communication and government funding. Cornstein invited experts from law firms and labor unions to discuss these issues with the executives and provide sound advice. During the height of the pandemic, the group was meeting daily, and it eventually shifted to 1-2 times a week.
While the group has been on hiatus for the last few months, Cornstein said she plans to pick meetings back up once the next round of government funding gets passed.
“Don't get me wrong, I'm super competitive and want my business to be No. 1 in our space. But stepping back, my philosophy is a belief in the power of collaboration and developing relationships,” she said.
By: Emma Sandler
By: Priya Rao
At the early onset of Covid-19, an organized response was paramount to getting a grasp of what lay ahead. RéVive CEO Elana Drell-Szyfer was one of the first executives to respond, by reforecasting the luxury skin-care brand’s sales in February. That was after receiving insight from the company’s Chinese distribution partners in January that Covid-19 was a serious disruptor.
At the time, RéVive also cut expenses by pushing back all product launches, and it has continued to reforecast sales every month, she said. RéVive’s overall sales are expected to decline by only 5% year-over-year and to exceed the original Covid-19 profit target by 50%. And despite the pandemic, the brand has continued to expand since March: It launched on Skinstore.com in the U.S. and LookFantastic.com in the U.K., and debuted on Amazon Luxury Stores in October.
How did RéVive immediately adjust its business at the beginning of Covid-19?
“Instead of focusing on new products, we started putting a lot of energy into storytelling and digital assets. We quickly realized there was a need for pictures of every product texture on our website, as well as how-to videos so that people could see how to apply products.
In-store events were a huge revenue generator for us, so now we have an in-store beauty advisor booking virtual appointments with [RéVive founder] Dr. Brown; the client will have a one-on-one Zoom consultation with him and our lead esthetician. We try to replicate the in-person experience, so for Zoom events, we send people champagne, product samples, cookies and a handwritten note before they meet Dr. Brown.”
What shifts are you seeing in wholesale retail?
“There are a couple of fashion sites that are launching beauty because they realize the margins are good and the inventory doesn't have a season; we plan on launching with some soon. We're also seeing changes in store traffic patterns based on where people have quarantined. Our top stores in places like the Hamptons saw increased sales versus last year, while New York City stores are down.”
Clean beauty has long been associated with high price points and a limited range of products, but for clean beauty retailer Credo Beauty, 2020 has been all about expanding to a wider audience through a new partnership with Ulta and a growing roster of brands.
“There's been a friction with these [clean] brand founders being so small and having no real economy of scale, but also sourcing the highest quality ingredients out there,” said Credo COO Annie Jackson. “Price was always challenging, but we didn't always need to be a high-priced, prestige retail organization. We want to be for everyone and have it be accessible to everyone.”
Launching a new range of Gen Z-friendly brands including Kinship, WLDKAT, Bybi and Tower 28, the retailer is hoping to reach a younger audience by way of lower price points.
The retailer has also launched products to address the issue of skin-tone inclusivity in the clean beauty world, developing its own 43-shade foundation line, Exa, and launching Venus Williams’ new sunscreen line, EleVen by Venus Williams.
“Our Achilles heel in clean beauty is a real lack of diversity, in terms of shade ranges and complexion,” said Jackson. “To have a store that's in major cities and with a very diverse staff, and to not be able to serve every single client that walks in the door is unacceptable,” she said.
As the Black Lives Matter movement swept the U.S. the retailer also launched the Credo for Change Mentorship Program to support BIPOC clean beauty founders, and Jackson said it is being more proactive in seeking out BIPOC-owned brands to stock.
“Instead of just saying, ‘We're welcoming for all,’” Jackson said the team had a “shift in thinking, to being intentional about seeking out Black founders.” She said that the company has also moved away from a more “process-oriented” pitch system for potential new brands; she wants to “bring humanity back” to the pitch process and “learn who these founders are,” she said.
Co-Founder & COO, Credo Beauty
Stacey Bendet is best known as the CEO and creative director of fashion brand Alice + Olivia, but this year, she stepped into a new role as the founder of Creatively. The new recruitment app is focused on connecting creatives, including photographers, artists and models, with employers in the fashion and beauty industries.
Bendet said she had been tinkering with the idea for years, but got the push she needed at the beginning of the pandemic when she read that the class of 2020 would be entering the job market at one of the worst times in decades -- unemployment skyrocketed in the U.S. during the pandemic’s initial months. Bendet said platforms like LinkedIn don’t work well for creatives, who typically work temporary gigs on specific projects.
“It’s really hard to find creative people on LinkedIn,” Bendet said. “It has such a primitive interface. It’s OK if you’re just putting up a plain white paper resume and you’re looking for an office job, but if you’re a designer or a photographer, it’s all about the portfolio. That’s what Creatively was designed to showcase.”
In the two months after Creatively launched, Bendet said it accumulated more than 50,000 creatives and 60 companies using the platform. Creatively is currently free for anyone to use and is marketed through social media channels, including with frequent posts of new job listings on Instagram.
Of course, Alice + Olivia is among the companies using Creatively; the brand’s upcoming seasonal collection will be shot with photographers recruited through the platform.
By: Liz Flora
Known for her TikTok-famous, cult-favorite lip masks, KNC Beauty’s Kristen Noel Crawley launched School of Beauty in July to support Black female beauty entrepreneurs. Inspired by her own experience of building a beauty startup, the initiative has support from Revlon and The New Voices Foundation.
How did you come up with School of Beauty?
“The program was a direct response to the BLM movement. I was just saying how I wanted to do something for the women in my community. I talked on a lot of panels, like the Teen Vogue Summit and Girlboss, and I felt like we never really had the time to connect with the audience and to delve deep into the nuances of running a business -- especially running a business as a Black female entrepreneur.”
What are the biggest challenges that Black female entrepreneurs face?
“With certain retailers, I see a lot of favoritism with white-owned brands, and it's frustrating at times, but I have to just keep going. Now with the 15 Percent Pledge and all of these things, there's a lot of fake activism going around. Sometimes I'm like, ‘Am I being used as a pawn now?’”
Your brand has been popular with Gen Z -- what is the younger generation of beauty consumers looking for, in terms of inclusivity?
“It's a very interesting turn of events, because when I was growing up, the brands were dictating what the trends were and the standard of beauty. Now it's the customer. A lot of brands are having to adapt and change their whole ethos to fit into today's world.
I didn't grow up seeing a lot of Black women represented in the beauty space. So it was important for me to always try to be as inclusive as possible.
Thankfully, this younger generation is so in-tune with the world, and they know what they want, and they're not going to settle for anything but that. I'm really happy to be popular with Gen Z. I think the effectiveness of the products and the cute packaging make a difference.”
By: Liz Flora
In June, as the U.S. faced a public reckoning around police brutality and continued racism toward Black people, Sharon Chuter, Uoma Beauty founder and CEO, launched Pull Up For Change on Instagram. The purpose: to call on the beauty industry to abandon performative allyship in favor of direct action. Pull Up For Change asks brands and companies to share their internal diversity numbers, including their percentage of BIPOC executives.
Ultimately, Pull Up For Change pulled back the curtain on the beauty industry, revealing just how much brands need to improve their hiring processes to create a more equitable and just economic and corporate environment for Black people. Since Pull Up For Change began, it has outgrown its beauty industry focus and has expanded to the fashion, finance, telecommunications and tech industries.
“The beauty industry is never going to be the same. This really shook the conversation and took the focus away from performative statements and toward true actions within these companies,” said Chuter. “It has really had a halo effect across all of corporate America, and I'm happy that other industries are pulling up voluntarily without being called on to do so.”
Chuter said she doesn’t plan to evolve Pull Up For Change’s objective any time soon, though it is maturing as a grassroots movement; Chuter’s hired an executive director and in-house team. She said she is currently developing a more sustainable structure for the future of the volunteer-movement so that it remains free from corporate funding and influence.
“I want people to understand that this is really their movement, whether it is the consumer voting with their wallet or an employee calling for a company to pull up. The sustainability of what we do is really based on how much energy everybody else has for it.”
Founder, CEO & Creative Director, Uoma Beauty
Diversity & Inclusion
Kristen Noel Crawley
Founder & CEO,
Hannah Harris, creator of the Instagram account @browngirlhands, has brought renewed awareness to the lack of diversity within the beauty industry’s consumer-facing content.
As Black Lives Matter protests began in June, the beauty industry took a look inward at its own complicity and found itself falling dramatically short of promoting inclusivity and diversity. When it comes to social media, Harris tackled the lack of BIPOC representation after reading a story by journalist Jessica DeFino about the lack of brown hands in branded social media posts.
Harris, a student at Savannah College of Art and Design studying digital and product marketing for beauty and fragrance, photographs her own hands holding products from brands like Supergoop, Versed and Summer Fridays, against natural backdrops. Harris’ efforts to increase diversity within beauty also include working as a model and photographer for brands, and @browngirlhands has amassed nearly 4,000 followers.
What’s the purpose behind @browngirlhands?
“It's about working with brands to not reduce diversity and inclusion to a trend; it's about making diversity something you don't have to actively think about, because it's already built into your brand and ethos. In the beginning, it was just for fun and something I was really passionate about. But now, in a way, it’s almost a small business.”
How do you work with brands?
“I'm not the biggest fan of sponsored posts, so oftentimes when I work with brands, I [am hired] work as a product photographer and give the photos to the brand. So I might be on a brand's social or emails, but they own the rights to the photos, so I’m not tagged. I use my page to say whatever I want and do whatever I want, because there's nothing sponsored, which I like. I've found a really nice balance, in that regard.”
Has your perception of the beauty industry changed since starting @browngirlhands?
“It's a very hands-on education. I've been able to meet a lot of brands and work with a lot of people who I probably wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise. I love the beauty industry even more now, because I feel like I've gotten to see it firsthand and talk to brands that I've dreamt about.”
Creator, @Browngirlhands Instagram account
On May 29, as Americans were processing coverage of George Floyd’s killing and businesses were seeking ways to meaningfully respond, Brother Vellies creative director and founder Aurora James posted a written proposal to retailers on her personal Instagram account. “I am asking you to commit to buying 15% of your products from Black-owned businesses,” it read. Tagged were Target, Walmart, Saks and Sephora, among others.
Within the post, James called out that many of the listed businesses rely on Black spending power and set up stores in Black neighborhoods. She also spelled out the difference that such support from these retailers could make to the Black community. The call-to-action was paired with a hashtag that caught on like wildfire, and thus the 15 Percent Pledge was born.
Since, retailers including Sephora, West Elm and Rent the Runway have signed on. And James has been splitting her time between her footwear business and the new mission-driven company to maintain its momentum. Luckily, she said, she has the support of consumers, who are increasingly demanding “diverse options” and to know about the founders they’re investing in.
“What started as an idea quickly became a movement on social media, and that showed that this was something the people wanted,” said James. “It was apparent to these major retailers that this wasn’t a request from me; it was a request from their customers at large.”
An Instagram account created for the 15 Percent Pledge now has 65,000 followers and regularly features posts asking specific retailers to take the pledge. The response is a mixed bag, said James, noting, “We haven’t heard from Ulta Beauty.”
James is now working to hire a team that can focus 24/7on the company’s goal of “changing the economic landscape in the U.S.” Priorities include building out its database of Black-owned businesses and conducting check-ins with companies that have taken the pledge to ensure progress.
By providing meaningful support to companies that have taken the pledge, she said she hopes to create a pipeline of thriving Black-owned businesses that can grow to see “huge valuations.”
Founder, 15 Percent Pledge; Founder & Creative Director, Brother Vellies
By: Jill Manoff
The beauty industry tends to concern itself with younger customers, but State Of is focused on older women and aims to energize the oft forgotten category of menopause personal care.
State Of, launched in August from the Arfa brand incubator, serves perimenopausal and menopausal women by working directly with them to co-create the brand’s products. Helen Steed, Arfa vp and creative director, who led the development and launch of State Of, said that more than 100 women provided input during the brand’s development. Approximately 40 of them tested the entire product line. Those women have also acted as ambassadors and content creators for the brand, and Arfa provides these members of its incubator 5% of its profits for their contributions.
“This was not like launching just any new beauty brand; it was really launching a new conversation. It’s been exciting, but also challenging to get people to talk about something that they're not used to,” said Steed.
Given social distancing requirements, Steed coordinated the brand’s DTC launch by sending seven State Of ambassadors (who are Arfa members) Google Pixel phones. The purpose was for them to conduct remote photo and videoshoots of the products for Instagram and its e-commerce site, to offer a more personal feel to the brand.
Steed said the overall aim of State Of is to provide premenopausal and menopausal women with products that don’t make them feel they’re being treated for a medical condition. A 2019 AARP survey found that 70% of women age 40 and older want to see more perimenopausal and menopausal beauty and personal grooming products on the market. At launch, State Of offered 12 products across skin care and body care, as well as supplements. State Of will launch into new categories, including hair care, in early 2021, said Steed.
“Menopause has always been associated with being the end of something, and I think State Of is about [saying] that it's not an end stage, but [rather] just another stage or phase of your life,” said Steed. “It's not something to be ashamed of or something to not talk about, or something that you just have to hide.”
VP & Creative Director, Arfa
Brandice Daniel’s mission for 13-year-old Harlem’s Fashion Row -- to get brands by designers of color onto more racks of major retailers -- was “amplified” this year, she said.
In June, through their A Common Thread initiative, Vogue and the CFDA donated $1 million to Harlem’s Fashion Row’s Icon 360 fund, granting financial support to 27 BIPOC-owned fashion businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic. Four months later, in collaboration with Banana Republic, HFR announced a design competition for creatives of color, awarding one winner the opportunity to create a sustainable fashion collection for the retail chain; it will launch in 2021. And later in October, the company hosted its first Designer Tech Summit for BIPOC brand founders. It was sponsored by Gap and featured speakers including Tommy Hilfiger.
Now, Daniel is focused on sustaining the company’s momentum. That includes ensuring that retailers are aware of Black designers and that the designers have the infrastructure they need to take advantage of new opportunities.
What are the immediate challenges, as retailers seek out more Black-owned brands?
“You've got brands that are underfunded that are doing everything themselves, and they’re trying to go from zero to 100 in 14 days. That's difficult, and that's why retailers need to look at these new commitments as partnerships, from a long-term perspective. Otherwise, they could say, ‘Well, we tried, and it didn't work. Let's go back to the status quo.’ That’s something I'm really concerned about.”
What is behind fashion’s long-standing diversity problem?
“A lot of times in this industry, you're wanting to invite people to the table who can eventually help you in some way. And when you do that, whether it's intentionally or unintentionally, you're leaving out a big group of people. There’s been a lot of nepotism and ‘who knows who’ -- and there's systemic racism; Black people don’t run in the same circles. There has to be extra effort to make sure this group is not excluded. And people are so uncomfortable talking about race -- in fashion, it’s one of the most difficult conversations.”
Harlem's Fashion Row
In 2016, Antoine Gregory, a fashion stylist and FIT grad, started a Twitter thread highlighting Black designers, along with their brands and websites, for his nearly 14,000 followers. The thread grew popular, with posts retweeted thousands of times. But when Gregory went back to view the thread last year, he found that many of the brands had gone out of business.
So this year, he aimed to further support Black designers with the first Black Fashion Fair. Held in September, it featured collections from over 100 Black designers, including Heron Preston and Pyer Moss’ Kerby Jean-Raymond. And it combined elements of both a consumer-facing market and a buyer-facing trade show, That included products being sold exclusively on the Black Fashion Fair site, as well a catalog for every designer with image galleries and links to their stores. Originally, Gregory planned to host the Fair in person in New York City, but the pandemic forced him to make it a digital event.
Gregory said, though brands are putting out statements about their plans for more racial equality and retailers are planning to carry more Black-owned brands, the most effective way anyone can support a Black-owned business is to buy from them directly -- especially as Black designers often rely on DTC sales. He said the brands that sell through Black Fashion Fair are allowed to keep 90% of the profits, versus the 60% earned through a typical wholesale partnership.
“Historically, Black designers have not sold to wholesale,” Gregory said, noting that department store buyers have often ignored Black designers and Black-owned brands. “[Designers] have been forced to sell direct-to-consumer. And now the whole industry is moving toward direct-to-consumer, ao it’s kind of catching up to what Black designers have been doing all along.”
Black Fashion Fair
Growing up in Canada with Anishinaabe roots, Jenn Harper remembers never seeing anyone that looked like her in beauty advertisements. In response, she founded her own brand to change that for the younger Indigenous generation. Since launching Cheekbone Beauty in 2016 and pitching it on TV show “Dragons’ Den” (Canada’s version of Shark Tank), she has been growing her brand with a mission-driven focus, centered on the Indigenous community and sustainability.
Following Harper’s 2019 TV appearance -- in which she turned down an investment offer that would have required her to give up a 50% stake in her company -- she received an investment from Raven Indigenous Capital Partners that allowed her to maintain full ownership.
“This year, we've certainly seen a lot of traction,” said Harper. “Black Lives Matter really pushed BIPOC beauty brands to the forefront.”
The brand follows a socially conscious model, donating 10% of its profits to support educational opportunities for Indigenous youth. This includes support for Shannen’s Dream, an organization created to improve the quality and safety of schools in First Nations communities. She was inspired to support it because of her grandmother, a survivor of Canada’s residential school system.
“People are looking for brands that are doing something other than just making profits,” said Harper. “From the beginning, I was like, ‘Why can't you create a brand that's about giving from the beginning versus adding it into your plan later on?’”
Sustainability is also a significant part of the brand’s ethos. It launched lipstick with a biodegradable tube this year and pledges to be fully zero-waste in three years. It is developing more sustainable packaging innovations and plans to launch sustainable eye products in 2021. The brand also donates to sustainability organizations including One Tree Planted and DigDeep.
“What this year has certainly done is it has made everyone pay closer attention to the brands they support and the products they buy, where they're made and who's impacted, and whether they’re ethically sourced,” said Harper. “These are questions we didn't ask a long time ago, but people are asking now.”
Founder & CEO, Cheekbone Beauty
Reaching the 5-year mark, Function of Beauty expanded from custom hair care into both skin care and body care in 2020.
With a range of customized beauty DTC startups popping up in the world of beauty tech, the brand has made inroads with bringing custom beauty from novelty to mainstream.
“Back when we started with hair, there weren’t any real customized players doing any personal care,” said Function of Beauty co-founder and CEO Zahir Dossa. The brand’s quiz function has since been replicated not only by competing startups, but also by a wide range of established beauty brands as customized beauty has become a buzzword across the industry.
The brand was valued at over $110 million after raising $12 million via a Series A funding round in March 2017.
“Customized beauty is now becoming completely mainstream,” said Dossa. “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make sure that we are the pioneers and at the forefront of all of that.” With a range of competitors on the market, Dossa’s company is emphasizing the number of custom formulations it can offer. For the brand’s new skin-care line, he said the number is 3.1 billion.
In addition, Function of Beauty has been working to scale up its business. It bought a 130,000-square-foot facility in rural Pennsylvania last year and moved into it in October.
“We've always been capacity-constrained as a company; we can never get enough orders out the door,” said Dossa. “It will be nice to finally not have a bottleneck on sales.”
Prior to the pandemic, the company had been expanding internationally. That has been put on pause due to long shipping times, but Dossa said, “We've just been waiting for things to settle down a bit so that we can unlock some exciting new countries.”
As for a long-term goal, he said it’s “to become the biggest CPG company, and to do it on a platform of personalization and customization.”
This year, with retailers across the board forced to rely on their digital channels, more weight fell on the shoulders of Lululemon CTO Julie Averill, and she rose to the challenge. In September, when brand reports of 30-40% declines in quarterly revenue were standard, Lululemon reported a 2% year-over-year increase, with 60% coming from e-commerce. Its online sales increased 157%, and traffic and conversion increased 90% and 45%, respectively.
“We did a lot of performance testing, adding to our capacity and just making sure that, as traffic moved from the stores to online, we were prepared for it,” said Averill. “At the same time, we rolled out a new checkout experience and Afterpay, and we added new ways of shopping, including Facebook Shops.”
Averill oversees a global team of about 900, made up of employees and contractors, which she’s grown since March. Along with shifting focus to the website itself, they updated existing processes and services to provide online shoppers ample access to inventory. That included ensuring the safety of employees charged with shipping product from stores and launching buy-online, pick-up on-curb.
The team also ensured call center employees who transitioned to working from home maintained secure communications and enabled in-store associates to become “omni-educators” by setting them up to serve online shoppers via appointments.
When stores opened, technology employees launched a virtual line management system, permitting customers to dodge lines, plus a tool allowing associates to take returns outside the store.
“Agility and innovation are part of our DNA,” said Averill. “It's never a question of, ‘Can we do it?’ It's always, 'How do we do it?'”
Moving forward, she said, her team will be working on Lululemon’s in-progress size assortment expansion. And she’s looking forward to “learning a lot about guests” via their use of Mirror devices, following Lululemon’s June acquisition of the company.
“In 2019, we launched nine international websites, which helped us this year,” she said. “And what we've done in 2020 is going to be absolutely the right thing to carry us into 2021.”
Co-Founder & CEO, Function of Beauty
Among the highlights of American Eagle Outfitters, Inc.’s latest earnings call, in September, were the stats on Aerie’s growth in the second quarter: It reached a quarterly revenue record of $250 million, which was a year-over-year increase of 32%. And it was on pace to reach $1 billion in revenue in 2020. Earlier that morning, the company announced that Aerie evp and global brand president Jennifer Foyle had been promoted to AEO chief creative officer, allowing the company’s less-stable American Eagle brand to benefit from her proven prowess in leading product and marketing, and driving growth.
Since the start of the pandemic, Foyle has managed to kick off two Aerie spinoff brands: Offline -- focused on activewear, “a $16 billion market opportunity,” said Foyle -- and Unsubscribed, made with sustainability in mind. Four Offline stores will be open by the end of the year, and two more are set for February. “We move fast, and we are very decisive,” she said. “My philosophy is always: Go big, or go home.”
To what do you attribute Aerie’s growth this year?
“‘While a lot of retailers were holding back or cutting their assortments, we were saying, 'Hey, [consumers] are going to be home, and they're going to want to dress in casual clothes like the loungewear we offer, and we can accelerate this.’ We yinged when everyone yanged. We knew people would be shopping more online, so we focused there, and we delivered.”
What are your first orders of business in your new role?
“I've been excited about getting back to the roots of our brand. I'm seeing trends out there that point to authenticity and a genuine assortment, and we can really leverage [American Eagle’s] denim business. We’re shifting the marketing to really talk about our product, and all the work and love the team puts into it. And then we want to focus on the tops world. It's time to round out the customer’s basket and get them into our tops more, particularly women.”
Global Brand President, Aerie; Chief Creative Officer, American Eagle Outfitters, Inc.
In recent years, Levi’s has been heavily increasing its focus on online and direct-to-consumer sales, and that shift has been accelerated by the pandemic.
Marc Rosen, who was promoted to head of Levi’s North America in January, has been at the forefront of this transformation. He said shifting from wholesale to online and DTC sales was good preparation for the pandemic. When stores closed and the company came to rely on direct e-commerce sales, planned offerings like buy-online, pick-up in-store became crucial. Rosen made the call to accelerate the development of that feature and to get curbside pick-up set up by April.
“It taught us to be a lot faster and more agile about the way we roll things out,” Rosen said. “We got a ton more value out of it in April than we would have if we waited for it to be ‘perfect.’ A lot of those trends consumers were already heading toward -- buy-online, pick-up in-store; contactless payments; virtual queuing -- are coming way faster than they were before. So my focus has been on preparing us for that.”
Efforts like those led by Rosen have given Levi’s a big leg-up in DTC -- its online sales surged by 52% in the quarter ending in October.
Rosen said that now is the time for brands considering a shift to direct sales to make the change.
“Consumers right now appreciate that we are adapting and moving quickly to let them shop the way they want to shop,” Rosen said. “There’s a lot more patience for trying new things and willingness to adopt these new ideas.”
President, Levi Strauss Americas
After bursting onto the beauty scene just two years ago with a single product, Charles Rosier, co-founder and CEO of Augustinus Bader, has created an indie luxury brand that rivals heritage players such as La Mer, Biologique Recherche and La Prairie.
The fervor for Augustinus Bader’s hero facial moisturizers, The Cream and Rich Cream -- both of which use TFC8, the brand’s proprietary Trigger Factor Complex technology -- caught on quickly. In fact, in 26 months, the brand received 26 beauty awards from Allure and Vogue. Moreover, the unpaid celebrity word of mouth has been wide and varied; the brand counts Kim Kardashian West, Naomi Campbell and Melanie Griffith -- who Rosier dubbed the brand’s original influencer -- as clients. But in a year that has been filled with uncertainty, Rosier hasn’t rested on his laurels. In 2020, Augustinus Bader made its broadest product push yet with nine products in new categories like body, cleansing and lip. It’s expected to end 2020 with $70 million in gross sales.
What made you feel confident to push forward on so much innovation this year?
“Our new product introduction process is one which is driven partly by innovation, but also from the consumer demand that we complete their routines. We didn’t say, ‘We need to reach a critical mass of 10 products,’ and then go to work. It was more about what our consumers and community wanted, and how we could serve them. We would not let Covid fully interrupt that process.”
How important was a strong team in executing these launches?
“We were not able to afford having a very short-term vision. The biggest accomplishment for us was to keep full employment at the company and even recruit new people. We now work with 70 people, when we started with four. We increased the counts of people who would be working with our department store partners, without knowing what would happen. But it was important for us to keep focused on the long term, because eventually life as we know it will be back to normal.”
Co-Founder & CEO, Augustinus Bader
Seven years after Charlotte Tilbury founded her namesake beauty brand, it was acquired by Puig; in June of this year, the Spanish conglomerate took a majority stake in the company. Estimated to be valued at $1.5 billion, Charlotte Tilbury Beauty has seen a meteoric rise in the social media era.
“We’ve made the impossible, possible over the last seven years,” said Tilbury, emphasizing the role of digital in shaping the success of the brand.
“We have always been a digitally native brand,” she said. “We were digital-first at launch and this has continued as part of our DNA.” Tilbury also reflected on the fact that she was an early celebrity makeup artist on YouTube, launching her channel in October 2012 ahead of the beauty label launch in 2013.
The focus on digital has become even more crucial during the pandemic.
“Now more than ever, [digital] has become front and center,” said Tilbury. “We have had to be reactive to the current climate, to pivot and to bring 100% of our business online.”
Following the acquisition this summer, the brand launched a range of new digital initiatives, including “Charlotte Tilbury TV” livestream shopping, virtual video consultations and a new VR store experience. It also launched a “Beauty Happy Hour” on Instagram and masterclasses on Zoom, to engage with consumers near and far.
The brand now has its eye on Gen Z, opening a TikTok account this year and beginning to work with top TikTok influencers like Abby Roberts. Tilbury emphasized the importance of creating a brand that would appeal to multiple age demographics.
“One of the main factors that has contributed to our growth is that we are truly a generational brand -- we are everything, to everyone, at every age,” she said.
Brand Chairman & CCO, Charlotte Tilbury Beauty
Resale was already trending up before the pandemic, but in the months since March, resale platforms, from those specializing in high-end luxury to those centered on sneakers, have seen immense revenue growth as well as boatloads of cash from investors.
ThredUp is one of the big success stories from the resale wave, growing sales by 20% year-over-year between March and May. And at the end of October, the company filed to go public.
Erin Wallace, vp of integrated marketing, has contributed to that growth, spearheading a major rebrand for the company that launched in early October and was a year in the making. Wallace said it reflects the way that people are thinking about shopping resale now: Rather than a stigmatized activity only for bargain-hunters, resale is positioned as an active choice that’s rooted in a desire for sustainability and newness without waste.
Wallace said she’s confident the resale boom will hold, now that a huge number of new customers have become accustomed to it.
“We’ve found that once people try secondhand, they don’t go back to their old shopping habits,” she said. “The more people get hooked, the more people seek out conscious and more sustainable alternative forms of shopping. And the more young people adopt resale, the stronger the resale movement will be.”
Vice President of Integrated Marketing, ThredUp
Glossy all rights reserved 2020
When Covid-19 permanently altered life in the U.S., beginning in March, shopping in-store for beauty was just one experience that changed forever. Though store shutdowns were temporary, testers and sampling, key components of product discovery, were quickly scrapped in beauty retailers. Marcelo Camberos, co-founder and CEO, spotted that trend and saw opportunity for Ipsy. The company quickly onboarded new brands, like Kinship, onto its subscription platform and debuted new launches from brands like Thrive Causemetics. It has upped this practice throughout 2020, driven by increased demand from beauty brands.
But the innovation didn’t stop there: In August, Ipsy’s Madeby Collective announced the debut of Item Beauty in partnership with TikTok star Addison Rae. And in late October, Ipsy acquired fellow subscription box company BoxyCharm to form a new parent company, Beauty for All Industries, that is worth more than $1 billion in revenue. In November, it also launched Refreshments, a version of the subscription-based Ipsy Glam Bag that’s centered solely on personal care.
How were you able to keep raising the bar with new initiatives this year, amid so much uncertainty?
“The company worked so quickly to pivot. With the size of the company that we are at now, it's not that easy to do that, but we just felt it was necessary to progress. A lot of the things we did weren’t part of the original pilot at the start of the year, but I’m more than proud to have pushed.”
Why did collaborating with Addison Rae on Item Beauty make sense?
“At the end of the day, we're a big startup and we thrive on change. We started with cultivating relationships with influencers nine years ago, but where we are finding them has changed and so has their lifecycle. We had never launched a brand around a TikTok personality before, but we are about youth culture and fun and personality, which is what Addison is all about.”
By: Priya Rao
Just four months after Keenan Beasley’s beauty incubator, Supply Factory Brands, launched its first hair-care line, Sunday II Sunday, the brand secured a seven-figure seed funding round from Johnson & Johnson and Ignite Venture Studios.
The premium hair-care brand was unveiled in May to fill a gap in the market for hair-care products for active women with textured hair. Supply Factory is focused on launching brands that fill needs for underserved markets.
“A lot of brands have been playing defense; they're now being forced to address some of their negligence,” said Beasley, of the lack of product inclusivity in the beauty industry. “They're trying to do things to protect their [market] share position. They're looking into working with folks that are different, that are diverse, that are inclusive -- and they're having very open and transparent conversations.”
Beasley has been an advocate for closing the massive funding gap that exists for Black entrepreneurs, operating a nonprofit called Venture Noire that worked with over 1,000 businesses last year. Based in Arkansas, the initiative’s funding comes from sources including the Walton Family Foundation, Spotify and Sunday II Sunday.
“The general population has understood the influence of Black culture. That is not new,” he said. “What you're seeing now is the investment community starting to figure it out.”
Beasley is currently working on a Series A funding round for Sunday II Sunday and picking up the pace on brand launches for Supply Factory. The incubator is launching a supplement brand this month, and a male grooming line and a skin-care brand in the first and second quarters of 2021, respectively.
“We still need a lot of work in the product development sector,” he said. “I think we're getting better as an industry, especially in beauty. But we still can make huge strides that I'm excited to watch.”
Founder & CEO, Supply Factory Brands
Co-Founder & CEO,
Beauty For All Industries
At the start of the year, Luxury Brand Partners CEO Tevya Finger felt that his company was on the cusp of a new chapter, and with good reason: In late January, the beauty brand incubator behind Oribe, R+Co and IGK, among many more brands, received a $50 million minority investment from Bookend Capital Partners to spur its next phase. And despite the Covid-19 pandemic hitting the U.S. less than two months later and the everlasting nature of the crisis, Finger has kept LBP’s momentum going. LBP launched Patrick Starrr’s much-anticipated beauty brand One/Size in July and Camila Coelho’s debut Elaluz in August.
“It's been fortuitous, because we didn't realize how bad that the world was going to get from Covid, and so we were bold. We were luckily that these brands are the right brands for the time -- they have much more of a digital focus,” said Finger.
Though many of LBP’s brands like R+Co and IGK have relied on traditional brick-and-mortar or salon distribution, Finger said he saw the beauty landscape changing about two years ago. ”I thought to myself, ‘If you're not [working with] social media faces and incubating that talent, then you're not going to have a chance,’” he said. “I didn't realize how right that thinking was until Covid.”
The influx of indie brands launching DTC has made the beauty brand incubator model all the more attractive -- LBP’s competitors include Maesa and SOS Beauty, to name a few. But Luxury Brand Partners has had the most successful exits of the lot. It sold Becca to Estée Lauder Companies for an undisclosed sum in 2016, and sold Oribe to Kao for a reported $400 million to $430 million in 2017.
Some competitors are eager to be CPG companies in their own right, but Finger has different plans for LBP. “We think of ourselves as business surgeons on the back end. We take risks on the front end, and we have a targeted approach that makes a lot of sense for the customer. And we know that, because of that expertise, we’re not going to have [just] one buyer for Patrick Starrr’s O/S -- there are going to be five,” he said of future exits. “I’d rather make a lot of consistent home runs with LBP than a grand slam every once in a while.”
Founder & CEO,
Luxury Brand Partners
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest developments in the beauty industry this year was the rise of the skinfluencer. Leading that charge is Hyram Yarbro, the skin-care specialist behind Skincare by Hyram, a TikTok account with 6.5 million followers.
Yarbro attributes his rapid ascent on TikTok for adding to his YouTube follower account, which surpassed 1 million in March after launching in 2015. He said that this was his initial motivation for joining TikTok, but that he did not anticipate the growth he has experienced. His YouTube account now has nearly 4 million subscribers. Yarbro, who resides in Hawaii, said he is typically recognized a minimum of five times a day in public settings. But he still records his videos on his phone, alone in a room, just as when he first started his social media career.
How do you approach YouTube and TikTok differently?
“I love YouTube for its thoroughness, for deep-diving into information about ingredients and product reviews, for providing a well-rounded understanding and for sharing my opinions. TikTok is fun, because you're able to really challenge yourself by compartmentalizing information as much as possible into short 15- to 60-second segments.”
What is your relationship with beauty brands like now?
“I'm grateful that I was able to set up a foundation of good business practices before my rapid growth, which has helped build my future and allowed me to be pickier when it comes to brand sponsorships. I receive an overwhelming amount of business offers, but I take less than 1% of them. I have more say in how brand partnerships work, so that I can remain authentic and true to my opinions and beliefs.”
What are your thoughts about the rise of skin care versus the downfall of makeup?
“When I first started my channel, I was a makeup artist, and I had a passion for makeup. But there's a level of confidence and comfort with having really good skin, and skin care is far more accepted and accessible by both men and women. Makeup is much more about artistry, but nothing really compares to the education, the fascination and the endless amount of information that skin care provides.”
Creator, Skincare by Hyram YouTube & TikTok Channels
You don’t always need what you pay for. Jeremy Cai launched Italic in 2018, with a plan of bringing products to consumers that are made in the same factories as top luxury brands, but are void of the brand names that typically warrant a hefty investment to buy them. After expanding to categories beyond fashion, Italic updated its membership model in July, granting members wholesale pricing on everything from handbags to bedding, for a $100 annual fee. Cai’s plan moving forward is to continue to cater to the values of modern shoppers and to solidify the company’s future by entering more categories that play into greater areas of consumers’ lives.
Why does your business model work in the current retail environment?
“There's a void in the market between the super mass market online retailers that sell everything and anything, and the so-called direct-to-consumer brands -- they’ve morphed into just being brands and charge a premium for the products that they sell, and for good reason. Italic occupies the horizontal space between a lot of different categories, where smart shoppers want quality and they want design, but they don't necessarily always want to pay that premium price point.”
What's working to drive your growth?
“We view it as a flywheel: The more products we offer, the more members we can sign up, and then the more manufacturers we can convince to work with us and produce wholly new products and categories. Memberships aren't for everyone, but we believe anyone who has a Costco or an Amazon Prime membership should be able to eventually justify purchasing ours.”
What’s the future of “brand”?
“It used to be that brands were symbols of: If you buy from us, you should expect this level of quality, design, price point -- consistently, whatever you buy. Today, customers are less loyal to specific brands, but there are more brands than ever before. So they’re getting back to an authentic place of: What does the brand stand for actually, beyond what the marketing says? Customers are smart and informed; they can see through a lot of the facade.”
In an unprecedented year, many retailers with physical footprints felt exposed once the pandemic hit stateside. But Sephora was not one of them. Following a temporary closing of stores in March, Sephora’s svp and gm of e-commerce, Carolyn Bojanowski, zeroed in on ways the company could engage with customers anywhere, anytime. In May, Sephora inked a deal with Klarna to to offer shoppers payment flexibility on Sephora.com; in June, the beauty retailer launched on Instagram Checkout; and last month, it debuted on Instacart and revealed its take on buy-online, pick-up in-store with a service called “Reserve Online Pick Up In Store.” Since the start of the pandemic, Sephora.com has seen a 75% increase in e-commerce sales and a net total of more than 1 million new customers.
How were you able to balance change at Sephora while also working on new projects?
“On one side, it was keeping up with very large operational responsibilities, like making sure this very large website was running and being able to push out tremendous amounts of orders. But there were a bunch of sexy things we did at the right time. Some were an acceleration of things that were already coming, like Reserve Online Pick Up In Store, but Instacart was something that wasn’t even on the table before. It took about two months from initial meetings to launch. Across the board, everybody rose to the occasion, from people in the warehouse to our store employees to our new partners.”
How are some of these new initiatives working?
“We've seen there actually is incredible engagement with Instagram Checkout and [Instagram] product drops. When we launched Rare Beauty with Selena Gomez, we did a drop for one of her SKUs, and there was a frenzy. Every time we do these product drops, there is such excitement for the consumer, and we’re understanding what social commerce looks like.
And Klarna was a big question mark at first, because it's a younger customer, but we’ve been totally blown away by the metrics. We thought that we would be selling a lot of Dyson [hair tools], which we are, but the [Klarna] customer is shopping the site top-to-bottom. She loves Sephora Collection’s $10 lipsticks, Fenty Beauty and Dyson, so it’s become another great option for the Sephora shopper.”
SVP & GM of
Founder & CEO,
When Victoria Beckham Beauty entered China through TMall Global in July, the brand made an ambitious bet on livestreaming, thanks to Sarah Creal, Victoria Beckham Beauty CEO.
Working with Viya, one of China’s most-followed key opinion leaders, founder Victoria Beckham hosted a question-and-answer session that attracted more than 14.4 million viewers and drove more than $143,030 in product sales in five minutes.
Creal said there is no definitive cadence of livestreams, but the brand used livestreaming again for Singles Day on Nov. 11 and has plans to revisit the strategy for Queen’s Day (also known as International Women’s Day) on March 8, 2021. It is also gifting products to smaller Chinese key opinion leaders to gain brand awareness.
“You need a lot of smaller influencers to understand the product so that they can speak to it,” Creal said. “At the same time, in order to break through, you need these big livestreams; one of the reasons livestreams are so successful in China is the breadth of products.”
Creal would not say how much China comprised of the brand’s global sales, but noted that it is a small but strategic market. Overall, Victoria Beckham Beauty sales are growing by a double-digit percentage every month, and over 50% of sales are made on the brand’s e-commerce site, she said.
Additionally, Victoria Beckham Beauty expanded to Net-a-Porter and Cult Beauty this year. In 2021, the brand will introduce smaller sizes of its two current skin-care product collaborations with Augustinus Bader and roll out a significant launch of color cosmetics in China, including mascara. Currently the brand only sells skin care and select makeup products in China.
Other digital activations this year included working with the brand’s Instagram audience in February to co-develop a new shade of the brand’s best-selling Bitten Lip Tint. The result, called Chérie, launched in July. Creal said she is enthusiastic about additional crowdsourced opportunities, whether they’re around shade preferences or soliciting new product ideas.
“There are still people who have no idea that Victoria Beckham has a beauty line, so it's about putting one foot in front of the next,” said Creal.
CEO, Victoria Beckham Beauty
Before TikTok burst on the scene last year as a viable channel to engage Gen Z, creative agency Movers+Shakers had focused on an array of platforms, including Facebook, to bring its dance and music ethos to life.
Its focus changed when CEO Evan Horowitz ran into Gayitri Budhraja, the vice president of E.l.f. Cosmetics, at their 20-year high school reunion in 2019. Budhraja mentioned that E.l.f. was hoping to use music to express the brand on TikTok, and Horowitz came up with an idea dubbed the #eyeslipsface challenge. It was a take on E.l.f.’s branding motto of bringing the best of beauty to every eye, lip and face. Part of the campaign’s allure was that it included an original song by Grammy Award-winning producer iLL Wayno and artist Holla FyeSixWun, versus one already charting on Spotify or iTunes.
“It was kind of a crazy idea, and TikTok really said, ‘This isn’t how this is done; you should use an existing pop song,’’’ said Horowitz. But quickly, the launch received over 5 billion views, with 3 million TikTok videos made using the song and hashtag, including versions by Lizzo and Reese Witherspoon.
After creating magic for E.l.f., Movers+Shakers has gone on to recreate similar excitement for Revlon, NYX Cosmetics, CVS Beauty and Paul Mitchell, with each brand’s challenge seeing monumental views. The secret, Horowitz said, is that he and his 30-person team focus on being “inviting” to those beyond the brand’s core fans. Since the #eyeslipsface challenge debuted, Movers+Shakers’ collective campaigns have seen over 80 billion views.
“We invented the TikTok playbook, and it’s flattering watching others emulate it, but we have the ideas and the connections to keep being the right partner for brands, over and over again,” he said.
When the Covid-19 pandemic shifted beauty shopping online, the fragrance industry had a daunting challenge: conveying scent almost exclusively through digital channels.
Andra Mielnicki, who serves as the vp of global influencer marketing for a luxury portfolio of 20 brands at Coty, got to work reimagining what a fragrance launch would look like in an online era.
“Always at the core of fragrance has been storytelling and creating a memory or an emotion, and something you can connect to. In the absence of being able to smell, that's something we always tried to bring through,” she said.
That storytelling was on display for the all-virtual August launch of the new Marc Jacobs Fragrances scent, Perfect, which relied heavily on influencer marketing, social media and even Zoom, in lieu of in-person activations. During Coty’s first-ever Zoom launch party, the Perfect unveiling featured a series of simultaneous Zoom meetings. Users could watch a live performance by Kim Petras or participate in interactive activities, including having their portrait drawn or receiving an “appearance rating” from performance art group The Bumbys.
According to Mielnicki, the event was about “breaking that fourth wall and having discussions in real time, which helps make the event be truly interactive.”
The brand also turned to 42 influencers and celebrities to reach a Gen-Z audience and serve as the faces of the campaign. They included models Lila Moss, Alek Wek and Akon Changkou, nail artist Mei Kawajiri, and transgender twin models Margo and Madelyn Whitley. Additional influencers were hired from an open social media casting call.
Another important key to reaching Gen Z was promotions through TikTok influencers known for their individual style and able to convey the right cool factor for the brand. They included Avani Gregg and Emma Chamberlain. The sponsored TikTok hashtag for the campaign received over 3 billion views in August and is currently at 9.3 billion views.
“Authenticity is always at the core” of choosing influencers, said Mielnicki. “If you look at the campaign, they're all just so incredibly themselves.”
Vice President, Global Influencer Marketing, Luxury at Coty
As vp of product at Instagram, Vishal Shah’s vision is to make the platform the shopping mall of the digital era: “We want to make it easy for people to discover and shop from brands and creators at the moment of inspiration,” he said.
This year, he and his team made good progress. They kicked off Shops in May, to let businesses create storefronts across Instagram and Facebook. And in August, they launched Checkout for all businesses in the U.S., allowing people to make a purchase without leaving the app. They also introduced new ways for businesses to sell products across Live and IGTV, in October, and shopping tools for Reels are coming later this year.
“The pandemic has dramatically accelerated the shift to shopping online,” he said. “And over 90% of Instagram accounts follow a business. That presents an opportunity for businesses to connect with customers, share their brand story and sell products.”
What Instagram features are currently resonating with fashion and beauty fans?
"[Through] reminder stickers in brands’ Stories and feed posts, people are signing up to receive notifications the moment a product is available for purchase. MAC Cosmetics used this feature to launch a Selena La Reina Collector’s Vault on Instagram in April, which sold out in less than a minute. We’ve also seen businesses take advantage of shoppable video formats, like Dragun Beauty which used our new Live Shopping tool. Creator Nikita Dragun went Live to launch her new line and almost 43,000 viewers tuned in to learn how to use the products and shop her looks."
Are users also taking to Reels?
"Reels really came from what we were seeing in our community; leading up to the [August] launch, videos under 15 seconds made up 45% of all videos posted in the feed. We’re excited by the range of content our global community has shared on Reels, with [posts about] interests from beauty to dance. And we’re continuing to build and improve the experience with new product features and tools, based on community feedback. "
VP of Product at Instagram, Facebook
On-demand beauty delivery has quickly become a popular trend, and Coty Inc.’s consumer division was one of the first to double-down on the new retail channel.
In August, Kevin Shapiro, svp of marketing for the U.S. consumer beauty division at Coty, led the partnership between Covergirl, Rimmel and Sally Hansen, and on-demand delivery platform GoPuff. According to Shapiro, the goal was to provide shoppers instant gratification. Sally Hansen is now the top-selling beauty brand on GoPuff. And overall, as of the end of October, consumer beauty saw continued growth for more than 24 weeks, led by the nail category.
“We've brought three elements together: We want to be strategically experimental, we want to be a first mover, and we want to be in-tune with Gen-Z shoppers and the next generation,” said Shapiro.
Coty has focused on how consumer behavior is shifting, especially toward at-home treatments. In August, Sally Hansen debuted an AR try-on lens through Snapchat to show off six new nail shades and a topcoat. And Shapiro indicated that, for 2021, the focus will remain on attracting younger consumers to the heritage consumer brands. Promoting at-home and DIY treatments that can be done in small in-person groups or over Zoom will be key.
“There are more and more consumers who are going to be searching for beauty at home, as they have learned new habits,” said Shapiro. “Our GoPuff partnership offers an opportunity to indulge in an impulse when you have that [moment of] me-time.”
SVP of Marketing for U.S. Consumer Beauty, Coty Inc.
For tech platforms looking to court fashion and beauty brands, creating a special role for the category has been key. CeCe Vu filled that role at TikTok starting in October 2019, and has overseen an influx of content on the platform from brands including Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Prada.
How much has fashion and beauty content grown on TikTok in the past year?
“It’s a wild ride. Since last year when I first took on this position, brands -- especially fashion brands and also beauty brands -- were very hesitant to get on TikTok. It’s a little bit intimidating as a platform, to create and start uploading content. But with the help of our team on content partnerships, especially my role, I've seen brands move on from leaning [heavily on] creators, like many did at the beginning last year. Balmain, the first Parisian house to start on TikTok, started out with a TikTok creator takeover. And now, a year later, they are on TikTok organically, offering livestreaming experiences.”
What was the concept behind TikTok Fashion Month, and how did the participating brands benefit from it?
“With everything that has been happening this year, brands have truly had the chance to slow down and reflect on what needs to be changed within industry. [TikTok Fashion Month] allowed all of the audience to feel that they were in the front row.
We wrapped up Fashion Month with the TikTok Runway Odyssey, where we partnered with Puma and Alice & Olivia to co-design capsule collections with creators. The capsule collections were also shoppable during the livestream that brought in over 815,000 viewers.”
What's next for TikTok fashion?
“We're seeing bigger houses, such as Gucci, and also brands like J.W. Anderson really lean into the platform, as you've already seen with J.W. Anderson and the brand’s cardigan. That was a famous trend this year, where everyone recreated that crocheting style, and the designer embraced it and was reposting
Lead, Fashion & Beauty Partnerships, TikTok
When Selena Gomez set out to create a beauty brand, she was adamant about changing the conversation in beauty by challenging the industry’s traditional concepts. After more than two years in development, her Rare Beauty brand launched at the end of September exclusively through Sephora. About two months before its launch, the Rare Impact Fund kicked off, with a mission of raising $100 million over the next 10 years for mental health initiatives. The funding will come from 1% of all Rare Beauty sales, as well as outside partners. Rare Beauty is particularly interested in combating mental health problems related to isolation and loneliness.
Why did you want to put mental health at the forefront of the industry?
“I have been very open with my own personal mental health struggles and have felt less than. I try to use my platform to help reduce the stigma associated with talking about this and to encourage people to celebrate their uniqueness. Our vision is to create a safe, welcoming space in beauty and beyond.”
How else do you want the brand to impact the beauty industry?
“I think we can challenge the beauty norm by changing the conversation and celebrating what makes each of us unique. Who created these beauty standards? There is no definition of beauty – that’s why I’m so passionate about self-acceptance and self-love. Beauty is not about being someone else, but [about] being who you are. I think if we can stop comparing ourselves to each other and start embracing our own uniqueness, it will help prevent this false idea of perfection.”
What was like doing this during a pandemic?
“A little challenging, in the beginning! I’m such a people person; I love to connect and discuss ideas in person. Myself and the Rare Beauty team would meet and feel formulas, and swatch products together. So while [it was] difficult at first, we quickly found ways to connect virtually. I’ve even connected with the Sephora team and trainers in-store, and I shot our social media ads on my cell phone while it was duct taped to my mirror.”
With her venture Fashion Our Future 2020, launched in early September, Abrima Erwiah rallied the industry to get out the vote.
During the pandemic and after the killing of George Floyd, “I was feeling many things,” said Erwiah, who co-founded African artisan-produced fashion brand Studio 189 in 2012. “I knew that nothing we were going to do [as an industry] was going to make a difference if we weren’t addressing the situation society was going through. And at the same time, even as their stores were being looted, brand founders were wandering, ‘How can I help?’”
In a conversation with Studio 189 co-founder Rosario Dawson, she realized the need and opportunity to uplift the voices of disenfranchised communities. Dawson co-founded Voto Latino, which launched National Voter Registration Day in 2012. This year, it landed on September 22, aligning it with New York Fashion Week. And thus the idea for Fashion Our Future 2020 was born.
The company’s overall focus is empowering the fashion community with “the tools they need to be actionable” within their own communities. It built a website and social media channels with information on voting and the election, and linked with Action Button to enable brands to seamlessly integrate resources into their websites, social posts and text messages. It also teamed with Lyft to get people to the polls in swing states.
Pulling in support from partners including NYFW host IMG, The RealReal and Virgil Abloh, who stepped in as the company’s creative director, was easy, said Erwiah -- and crucial. “At the end of the day, if it's not on the fashion week calendar and if the powers that be don't say it’s important, people aren’t going to prioritize it.”
Though the election is over, Erwiah said Fashion Our Future’s work is just getting started. “We're in such a fascinating, pivotal moment in history, and fashion is part of that. It’s becoming more conscious. We’re going to look back and say, ‘That was the moment when everything changed.’”
Fashion Our Future
David Yi founded online beauty publication Very Good Light in 2016, to bring more diversity and inclusivity to beauty while redefining masculinity. This year, he launched the Biden Beauty merch brand, which first appeared on Instagram, with a blue makeup sponge, tote bags and sweatshirts. As one of the only openly partisan beauty brands out there and initially anonymous, the brand earned significant media attention and influencer buzz.
How did Biden Beauty come about?
“This is such an essential election; it is arguably the most important election of our entire lives. Very Good Light has always been about Gen Z. It has always been about redefining beauty. And so it was like, ‘What can I do with the limited powers that I have and the ability that I have to spark some conversation, to really create engagement and also get people excited to vote?’ So I went back to my team and I was like, ‘Hey, I think we can do a beauty sponge. And we need to make it an ode to Joe Biden and his natural beauty.’ And so we went with it. We all did this pro bono; 100% of the proceeds go to helping the DNC win.”
We've seen beauty brands speaking up about many social causes this year, but not as many in support of a specific candidate. How do you feel they should be getting involved?
“My personal opinion is that now's not the time to be silent. Silence is violence. When there are so many things that are on the line, when there are so many issues and so many lives at stake, brands have a true opportunity and almost a responsibility to speak up.
I understand under this capitalistic structure in America that brands need to make money and survive and stay afloat. I respect that. But at the same time, we can do better.”
Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Very Good Light
This year proved that health, beauty and wellness are intermingled, and can no longer be separated. This is especially true when it comes to mass retail.
Maly Bernstein, vp of beauty and personal care, leads CVS’ efforts within beauty, and her strategy has formalized this concept. In August, CVS completed its commitment to eliminate oxybenzone and octinoxate ingredients from nearly 60 private-label sunscreen products with SPF under 40, to safeguard marine ecosystems. In September, CVS also introduced labeling for sensitive skin-products, in-store and online. By the end of 2020, CVS will complete its transition to label all retouched and untouched imagery in-store, which first kicked off in 2018.
“Beauty has become more important to CVS. Our bold moves [in the industry] have largely been health-related, because ultimately we're a health care company that wants to reinforce the role that we play,” said Bernstein, adding that a tagline CVS uses is, "Healthy is beautiful."
By the end of the year, Bernstein will transition into a larger role at CVS as vp of digital and omnichannel, overseeing all of e-commerce. She declined to comment on exact figures, but said CVS has seen “explosive” digital growth and engagement during the pandemic. Additionally, in 2021, CVS’ BeautyIRL concept stores, which debuted in 2018, will merge with its expanded health clinic called HealthHUB. These revamped concepts will be added to hundreds of locations in new markets like New York City by the end of next year.
“Beauty is key to our holistic health strategy, but it’s also critical for us because it's how we attract younger millennial and Gen-Z consumers,” said Bernstein.
Considering its e-commerce focus, Clearbanc had prime positioning heading into 2020 -- and co-founder and president Michele Romanow took full advantage.
This year, she led the company to become “the biggest e-commerce investor in the world,” she said. It’s now invested in more than 3,300 companies including Public Goods and Untuckit. She also expanded its offerings for brands beyond providing capital for marketing and advertising, for a flat fee, to serving up valuations and buying inventory. And she grew Clearbanc’s Toronto-based team to more than 250 people -- new hires include CFO Curt Sigfstead, who formerly led technology investment banking at JPMorgan Chase.
As Romanow sees it, Clearbanc is a VC alternative that’s better suited to brands. “It’s a bad deal for founders to give up part of their company to buy ads and inventory,” she said. “If they want to do crazy amounts of research, that's a great use of equity capital. But for the things founders are using it for today, it’s not efficient.”
How did this year impact fashion?
“The economy has changed so much, which has given entrepreneurs the opportunity to reinvent themselves and that’s the silver lining. The luxury brands that are now huge sweatpants players saw the opportunity, versus the challenge.”
In what categories do you see opportunity now?
“Food is on fire. And consumers are getting very comfortable with buying large-ticket items online, placing $100,000 furniture orders. And finally, there is a lot going on around [virtual] try-on. It’s being used for color cosmetics, hair dyes, glasses -- the technology is actually getting good, and it’s exciting.”
What are your goals for 2021?
“This was a completely unprecedented year for e-commerce growth, and I think we'll see that again in 2021 because consumer habits are changing. So we’ll be focused on expanding. We announced our U.K. launch in October, and we're looking at a lot of new countries to enter globally. It's hard to get capital to grow your business in America, but it's even harder in every other country in the world.”
Co-Founder & President, Clearbanc
VP of Beauty & Personal Care, CVS
Two-year-old The Inkey List is on a mission to democratize the beauty industry, not only through price (all its products are under $15) but also through education.
According to Colette Laxton, The Inkey List co-founder and CEO, the U.K. brand shifted its focus from operations in 2019 to becoming more consumer-centric in 2020. This included the launch of a global e-commerce website in August and the Ask Inkey online concierge service in April. Additionally, the brand added hair care to its portfolio and expanded to Canada. Overall, the brand expects to double its sales this year, according to Mark Curry, The Inkey List co-founder and lead chemist.
How would you describe your brand’s response to this year’s challenges?
Curry: “We've had to be relentless about everything, literally leaving no stone unturned. We've been sweating every single bit of that consumer journey, in terms of traffic, conversion, price point and then [customer service]. There's no silver bullet, even with skin care. It’s about asking ourselves: How we can consistently be in the top-five brands, based on traffic, on Sephora.com? Or: How can we make sure product reviews are beyond where we should be, compared to even our costlier competitors?”
What are the plans to evolve the brand’s positioning in 2021?
Laxton: “Our mantra for next year is: Knowledge powers everything. How do we continue to drive knowledge and education in a world of skin care, and in a world of beauty, and in a world beyond that? We are accidental entrepreneurs ourselves, and we want to help support that spirit. We'll have partnerships to encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship and empower people to do their own thing. We're finally in a position where we can hopefully do some good in the world, as well, because why are we here otherwise?”
Mark Curry & Colette Laxton
The Inkey List
China was among the first major markets to emerge from the pandemic mostly back to normal, while much of the rest of the world remained in lockdown. The result was luxury brands around the world doubling down on efforts to sell in the region.
Christina Fontana, director of fashion and luxury in Europe for Alibaba’s Tmall, has been an instrumental figure in helping European brands establish themselves in the Chinese market. Based in Milan, Fontana said her team has vastly increased the amount of new brands it’s helped launch in China, from about two per month pre-pandemic to two per week. Tmall has added 50 new brands to the platform since March, including Salvatore Ferragamo and Cartier, bringing the total up to 200. Plus a big joint partnership with Farfetch was announced in November. Fontana said it’s been her job to make sure those launches go smoothly.
According to Fontana, bringing new brands into China isn’t just about setting them up with a store on the Tmall site, which is actually the simplest part of the process.
“The most important thing is preparing a brand’s marketing and communication for the Chinese audience,” she said. “What do you want to present about the brand? How do you want people to view it? If you want to sell peanut butter on Alibaba, we could get it on the site tomorrow. But it might take six months for a fashion brand to come into China, completely from scratch -- because of seasonality, marketing, brand presence. But it’s a really appealing market for a lot of brands right now, so we’re doing all we can to help people get set up quickly.”
Director of Fashion & Luxury for Europe at Alibaba
This year has often been described as a great challenge and a great opportunity. Few have reflected that statement quite like Authentic Brands Group.
As dozens of retailers and brands went out of business, ABG, led by CEO Jamie Salter, pounced. It acquired several big name retailers like Forever 21, Brooks Brothers, Barneys New York and Lucky Brand after the companies filed for bankruptcy, drastically increasing the size of ABG’s 50-brand portfolio. Salter did this with the help of investments from BlackRock, General Atlantic and Leonard Green & Partners, which surpassed $1 billion this year. For the time being, ABG and Salter -- along with Simon Property Group, which joined ABG in acquiring Brooks Brothers and Forever 21 -- have kept several legacy names in retail afloat, at a time when department stores and malls are suffering.
Salter characterized his strategy for acquiring brands, then operating them, as “aggressive, but responsible.” His first steps after each of ABG’s recent acquisitions was simple: Look at their fleet of stores, identify the ones that aren’t profitable, and close them. But according to Salter, brick-and-mortar and wholesale have a bright future.
“I’m feeling very good about brick-and-mortar, but only when you have the right amount of stores,” he said. “A lot of brick-and-mortar retailers got too wrapped up in growth and forgot about profit. That’s when you get on this treadmill, where you need to keep growing in order to stay ahead of your debts. And once you’re on the treadmill, it’s really hard to get off.”
CEO, Authentic Brands Group
By: Emma Sandler
In 2020, E.l.f. Beauty went through one the biggest transformations within the beauty industry. With marketing efforts led by Kory Marchisotto, E.l.f. Beauty CMO, the company continued to grow sales through its seventh consecutive quarter, while also transforming into a multi-brand portfolio business and navigating Covid-19 headwinds.
E.l.f. Beauty acquired W3ll People in February and announced the launch of Alicia Keys’ beauty brand Keys Soulcare in September. According to the annual Piper Sandler report on Gen-Z brand preferences, E.l.f. Cosmetics jumped to second place, behind Tarte Cosmetics, due in large part to its embrace of TikTok. E.l.f. Cosmetics first experimented with TikTok in 2019, before doubling down in 2020.
What has been your biggest challenge this year as a marketer?
“The No. 1 challenge has been translating the human experience and creating connection in a digital-only world. If you take Beautyscape, our annual tentpole event and makeup artist competition, we had to reimagine it as a holistic digital experience. We renamed it Beautyscape: The Remix, using the emotive power of beauty and music artistry to rise up emerging makeup talents. We also had to write, produce and execute our first Keys Soulcare [digital] lounge, thinking about how to have a soulful conversation in a digital space.”
How would you define the E.l.f. TikTok strategy?
“Our strategy is to create unique experiences for the creators on the platform that they want to see, participate in and share. I am a TikTok junkie, and I am completely enamored by the power of this platform and the algorithm’s ability to know me and serve me content that makes me laugh or smile. I refer to it as lightning in a bottle. E.l.f. as a cosmetics brand became a global music sensation when we did our Eyes Lips Face TikTok challenge; the extended version of the original music track topped music charts around the world. Since then, we debuted the first-ever TikTok reality show, ‘Eyes, Lips, Famous,’ which is built off the insight that the creators on the platform want to be TikTok-famous.”
Chief Marketing Officer, E.l.f. Beauty
When market appointments and trade shows were canceled, CEO Kristin Savilia stepped up the digital services of wholesale platform Joor to keep orders flowing between brands, retailers and end consumers.
Prior to the pandemic, Joor’s popular tool was its in-showroom iPad, used by retail buyers when selecting styles from brands’ latest collections. But when Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks were canceled in February 2020, demand for its virtual showroom spiked, and Joor ramped up its customer service to provide 24-7 training on the feature. The showroom already had 3-D imaging available, thanks to Joor’s well-timed partnership with Orb360, established in February. By May, videos of each style were also made available. In July, a tool called the Edit was added to facilitate the style curation and discussions that are typical of a showroom appointment.
The company introduced trade show platform Joor Passport in May, allowing buyers from around 134,000 retailers in 120 countries to shop 17 global trade shows in a four-month period. About 450,000 items were purchased. All 17 companies have renewed their Joor contracts for 2021, showing the long-term potential for trade shows’ digitization.
“I was impressed and proud of this industry because it did not lay down,” said Savilia. “The leaders said, ‘I'm gonna fight, and I know I need to be digital to do so.’ And they invested accordingly.”
In the “soft” March-May period, when department stores were busy canceling orders, Joor was used by brands including Tibi to reallocate products to e-commerce players that were buying.
From April to June, Joor’s demo requests from brands increased by 400%, and the company hired 25 people in 30 days to handle on-boarding of new clients.
According to Savilia, Joor has done $100 billion in gross merchandise volume to date. It serves 75% of the luxury industry, including 30 retailers; Neiman Marcus is its largest client.
Joor’s next step will be offering credit card transactions on the platform, to save brands from the “tedious invoicing,” said Savilia. It’s also in the process of linking with key marketplaces, “because marketplaces also buy wholesale.”
By: Jill Manoff