When Dr. Yannis Alexandrides first formulated a healing serum for patients of his London-based plastic surgery clinic, he had no intention of turning it into one of the beauty industry’s most sought-after luxury brands.
The brand came about after Dr. Alexandrides, a still-practicing plastic surgeon, sought a post-operative treatment that patients could use to heal any residual wounds and marks. But when one of his patients mentioned her affinity for the serum to a Harrod’s personal shopper, the famous luxury department store sought to stock the brand, and things took off from there. The location of Dr. Alexandrides’ practice, at 111 Harley Street in London, inspired the brand name.
Since starting with a single shelf in Harrods in 2012, the brand has slowly and quietly grown a global distribution network that includes Bergdorf Goodman, Net-a-Porter, Neiman Marcus, Harvey Nichols and Mecca. When the business was formed, 111Skin brought on board Eva Alexandridis, Dr. Yannis Alexandrides’ wife, as a co-founder to help with retail expansion. She now also oversees the brand’s creative direction and new product development.
“We never made decisions based on a board meeting or according to trends,” Dr. Alexandrides told host Priya Rao on the latest episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast. “We make product decisions based on patients that I see in the clinic — on real skin problems and on real skin solutions with great results. That’s what sets us apart — being a highly scientific brand that doesn’t chase the trends.”
This strategy has paid for the brand, which earned $20 million in wholesale sales in 2020 and approximately $50 million in total retail sales. Its products sell for $15-$995. In Feb. 2020, 111Skin raised an undisclosed amount in outside funding from Vaultier7, which previously invested in hair-care brand Gisou and fashion resale platform Vestiaire Collective.
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Finding the right retail partner
Dr. Alexandrides: “[Going into Harrod’s] was an eye-opening experience. Coming from a doctor’s office, I have no idea how to launch a commercial product. However, the experience of [working with] the team of Harrods is unparalleled. When we met for the first time in 2011, they were receiving around 50 requests a month [from brands] to launch in the beauty department. And they were choosing only two a year to launch. They gave us insight from the other side, [like] how consumers perceive a product and what they’re looking for, in order to understand [a brand’s] message. As a doctor, I needed this assistance to formulate the right packaging, the right color and also the connection with a consumer.”
Switching to online sales in 2020
Eva Alexandrides: “We started in retail and — even now, post-Covid — we support retail. But luckily for us, we were able to transition a lot of our salespeople into online consultants. And because they’re heavily trained and they love the brand, it was a very kind of ritualistic experience. They would work closely with every client, applying products together and [setting a skin-care] schedule. All the products that we’ve created align with the home ritual trend. We are not just a skin-care brand; we are an experiential brand, and you find us in more than 50 global five-star spas. It was easy for us to transition our clients into experiencing beauty at home but in a very joyful way… But we have seen a very strong return back to retail. We’re seeing pre-Covid [sales] numbers at the moment.”
On accepting outside investors
Dr. Alexandrides: “It wasn’t an easy decision. Almost on a weekly basis, we were getting emails and calls from companies that were interested in us. They had seen us either in department stores or heard our story. And they discovered that we had so many inbound calls for investment. For a long time, we thought that the organic growth that we had seen for the first nine years of the company was what we cherished and what helped us build the basis of this scientific brand in the way we like it. However, as we grew both as a team and a company that has a lot of [customers], the challenges have changed, and the scales have changed. The right investor can be a good ally to the brand. We were fortunate to be able to choose from a lot of suitors [to find one] that was appropriate, both as a strategic investor and on a one-to-one basis. [Vaultier7] understands the brand, respects the values of the brand and lets us continue on this journey without interfering with what we believe is the right thing to do.”