It’s been a transformative year for the fashion and beauty industries: 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.
In our second annual Glossy 50 list, rolling out all week, we’re honoring the industry insiders responsible for driving these important shifts. Below are the honorees representing Beauty’s New Guard.
Beauty creator and influencer Alissa Ashley has put inclusivity and diversity at the forefront of her story since launching her YouTube channel in 2014 — she currently has over 1.6 million followers and has garnered 50 million views on the platform — and this summer, she got to double down on that message.
In August, she collaborated on the development of a new 45-shade foundation line with L’Oréal-owned beauty brand NYX Cosmetics called Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, that upped the ante on Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty 40-shade Pro Filt’r foundations. “We set a new standard,” she said. “All anyone could talk about after Fenty was that 40 was the magic number.”
And Ashley said her push for inclusivity in beauty and fashion isn’t over: “All people need to feel included, and if I can be a small part of that, that is meaningful not just to me, but to everyone I reach.” — Priya Rao
When industry veterans Pamela Baxter and Cathy O’Brien founded Bona Fide Beauty Lab, a beauty-focused growth accelerator, in 2017, working with female founders was top of mind for the duo. “We have been in the beauty business for a long time, but we have always loved and gravitated toward smaller businesses that need building,” said O’Brien, who previously worked at Estée Lauder.
Their portfolio manages beauty brands that do around $20 million in sales, and include fragrance innovation company Scent Invent Technologies and natural brand Sapelo Skin Care. The year’s big win for Baxter and O’Brien was their beauty licensing agreement with online media brand PopSugar. The line, dubbed Beauty by PopSugar, is expected to do more than $20 million in sales in its first year.
How do you identify the brands that are right for Bona Fide Beauty Lab?
O’Brien: We’re attracted to a kind of integrity: how a founder conducts themselves as a person, but also how they run their businesses, from their manufacturers and suppliers to what the intention is with their product.
What do you think is the most important trend happening in beauty right now?
Baxter: It’s clean beauty and the movement toward more natural products. We find that this younger generation is well aware of ingredients that are good for you and ingredients that are not.
How did PopSugar’s audience of 100 million readers give you proof of concept with the assortment?
Baxter: We sent out 2,000 surveys to the PopSugar community before launching to really understand what the readership was wanting from beauty products. Beauty was also in the top-two-read verticals on PopSugar — health and wellness was up there, too. That community continues to drive our innovation and launches for 2019. The reader knows what she wants and is very interested in skin care, fragrance, hair care. We are using the information she is giving us and using it to make better beauty suited just for her.
You launched Beauty by PopSugar on its own brand site, but also with Ulta as the exclusive wholesale partner for two years. Why do you think physical retail continues to be important in the beauty space?
Baxter: In those same surveys, we learned readers wanted the opportunity to touch and feel and play with their products — you can’t tell what the texture or color or payoff is online. Those women continue to find shopping for beauty in stores fun. It’s where the discovery process is for her and continues to be. — Priya Rao
Jecca founder Jessica Blacker said the idea for her transgender beauty line came to her while working as a makeup artist for film and television, where she began receiving requests to do makeup lessons for the LGBT community. “I was inspired by my trans clients to create a brand that overlooks gender and concentrates on individuality, and to continue to support the LGBT community,” Blacker said. For now, Jecca only sells one product: a concealer palette that can cover beard shadows, but the brand has already attracted praise from high-profile customers like transgender model and makeup artist Joseph Harwood, and was recently accepted into L’Oréal’s accelerator program, Open Innovation. — Emma Sandler
When clean cosmetics company Beautycounter launched in 2013, its mission was bold and transparent: Get safer beauty and personal care products into the hands of the masses. To get there, founder and CEO Gregg Renfrew enlisted Lindsay Dahl, the former deputy director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families as Beautycounter vice president of social and environmental responsibility in 2014.
Dahl was well acquainted with the fact that the U.S. has not passed a federal law to regulate personal care product ingredients since 1938, and she has since been ardent about getting legislature on Beautycounter’s side.
This year has been especially productive for Dahl and Beautycounter. When the company turned 5 years old this past March, Dahl spearhead the company’s month-long efforts around its advocacy work by training 100 of the brand’s independent consultants from all 50 states to lobby at Capitol Hill. “Within one day, we had 110 meetings that ranged from the Senate to the House of Representatives to key staff,” she said. Simultaneously, Dahl further engaged the Beautycounter community in its ongoing text messaging initiative to urge Congress to pass more health protective laws: When the brand introduced its Red Color Intense Lipstick to celebrate the anniversary, Dahl ensured the text initiative was included on the packaging.
On the legislative side, Dahl prompted Beautycounter’s support for Hawaii’s Sunscreen Bill and California’s Safer Salon Bill. Beautycounter was one of two companies to activate around the legislation for the Hawaii Bill, and for the Safer Salon Bill, it was the leading company to show support. “We continue to be the myth busters in the room, proving that better beauty doesn’t hurt the overall industry,” said Dahl. — Priya Rao
In Glossier’s early days, there were only a few key people that surrounded founder and CEO Emily Weiss. One of them was Henry Davis, a former venture capital investor who is now the company’s president and COO.
Since launching four years ago, Davis has helped grow and scale Glossier’s marketing, finance, technology, product operations and logistics teams to over 150 employees. In the last year, he’s helped Glossier go global by leading its international expansions to Canada and the United Kingdom. Davis also helped close a $52 million series C round of funding for the company, bringing Glossier’s total investment raise to over $86 million.
Glossier has a built a fan base with over 1.4 million followers on Instagram. How do you continue to maintain and grow that community?
We proved that the old-school CPG model of creating a bunch of products and then trying to sell them no longer worked. We wanted to know: Who are [our customers], and what do they want? We included them in every solution, and they became stakeholders in those solutions. Our fundamental belief was you can’t involve your customer if you don’t own the relationship with that customer. When you deal with a retailer, you’ve giving that relationship away.
So Glossier is steering clear from wholesale?
[E-commerce] continues to be the biggest differentiator of our business. We used it to disrupt the supply side and change the customer experience. We made the channel the value proposition.
How do you identify what products to launch next?
We like to identify the areas where people are underserved and then find why they are undeserved. We don’t have a speed-to-market mindset, we have a purpose-to-market mindset. We aren’t responding to trends.
How will your recent influx of capital grow the business?
We want to continue to create a community using technology. We want to build tools that allow us a more personalized relationship with the customer and that are designed for the conversation we want to have with them. — Priya Rao
Taste Beauty shows no signs of slowing down. Founded two years ago, the pop culture–based beauty brand is already distributed in over 50,000 retail doors and could achieve annual sales of $50 million within three years, according to industry predictions. CEO Alex Fogelson has been the driving force behind the product innovation, brand collaborations and partnerships with companies like Disney, Pepsi and Nickelodeon that have landed in the beauty industry with a bang. Last holiday season, Taste Beauty managed to seize on the pop culture toy sensation L.O.L. Surprise by creating its own version in less than a month through the use of a 3D-printed mold. “Going into next year, we are going to be doubling down on our innovation and 3D-printed packaging, and increasing our brand partnerships and the scale of collaborations,” Fogelson said. — Emma Sandler
When industry veteran Jill Granoff was tapped to be the CEO of Eurazeo Brands — an $800 million investment division of Eurazeo S.E., a European private equity firm with $17 billion in assets in May 2017 — many in the fashion and beauty worlds were eager to see what she would do first. As a former CEO of Vince, Kellwood and Kenneth Cole Productions with 17 years and 10 years of experience in beauty and fashion, respectively, Granoff has had a long career building brands from the ground up.
“I really want to leverage the experiences I have had, but now I am interested in partnering with great, newer companies to help them grow their businesses,” said Granoff. “What attracts me to brands is that they are aspirational, but also that there’s an emotional connection with the customer.”
Her first investment was a $70 million deal for a majority stake in Nest Fragrances in November 2017, and this past summer, Eurazeo Brands made a $60 million minority investment in Pat McGrath Labs. Both of these brands have incorporated digital savviness into their DNAs — McGrath, for instance, has perfected the social media drop model with all of her cosmetic products. “With the retail and consumer sectors undergoing significant change with technology and consumer demand, it’s providing an entryway for groundbreaking new business models,” said Granoff.
That both brands are also still led by their respective founders, Laura Slatkin and makeup artist Pat McGrath, was an additional selling point for Eurazeo. “They are leaders in their sector and have been incredibly innovative,” Granoff said.
Nest, which touches both home and fine fragrance, has mass reach: The brand resonates with millennials and baby boomers, and both men and women. “It had strong sales growth over the last six years, but, more importantly, Nest is poised for expansion,” said Granoff, who plans to help the brand with both product expansion and channel expansion, across wholesale, retail and digital. From a pure business standpoint, the fragrance and scent category has significant margins.
The plan forward for Pat McGrath Labs and Eurazeo Brands is slightly different. McGrath already has a huge social following and has some international presence because of her London, Milan and Paris runway work, and Granoff thinks Labs is ripe for global expansion. “[McGrath’s] 30-year track record has made her the most coveted makeup artist in the world,” Granoff said. That Eurazeo Brands has such broad reach through Eurazeo S.E. — with offices in Paris, Luxembourg, New York, Shanghai and Sao Paulo — allows Granoff to offer brands, like Pat McGrath Labs, a wide-reaching point of view.
Within Eurazeo Brands, Granoff isn’t interested in beauty or fashion alone; she has her eye on areas as diverse as home, wellness, leisure and food. “What’s exciting and has changed in these spaces is that these brands are now consumer-driven, whereas in the past, they’ve been retailer-driven,” she said. “The consumer is much more in control, so it’s very easy to see followers, engagement and interest — and it’s not just in the U.S., but all over the world.” — Priya Rao
Newby Hands knows a thing or two about beauty. As the beauty director at luxury e-commerce retailer Net-a-Porter, she’s helped curate the direction of the vertical, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. In those five years, the beauty department has jumped from carrying 11 brands to 220, with sales growing in the triple digits year-over-year. Hands’ new responsibilities this year have included on-the-ground reporting from places like Singapore to hear from women about what they’re buying in beauty. “Having conversations with women around the world is something really special,” she said. Moving forward into 2019, Hands said providing women curated offerings from clean beauty brands and doctor-backed brands, tied with daily website beauty content, are her priorities. — Emma Sandler
Drunk Elephant has become one of the fastest growing skin-care lines in Sephora’s U.S. history thanks to a differentiated product lineup that’s void of the “suspicious six” ingredients — including essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones and chemical screens — in its core offering.
Drunk Elephant is on track to do more than $100 million in net sales this year (quadruple its 2016 reported revenue of $25 million) through Sephora as well as its e-commerce site. Now, it’s set on international growth: In October, it expanded to the U.K. through partnerships with Space NK stores and CultBeauty.com. In addition, Drunk Elephant, which is sold exclusively in Sephora in the U.S. and Canada, will debut in Singapore through the retailer in November.
What prompted you to start Drunk Elephant?
Curiosity. I started looking at all the ingredients that were in every single beauty product and wondered what was going on, what their roles were and if they were really there for the health of the skin. I was thinking about Drunk Elephant like you would a diet: If you are eating broccoli, carrots, lean chicken — those all have a direct correlation to your skin and body. I asked if ingredients were good enough to put in your smoothie. Why is red dye or perfume in a beauty product?
Why were the natural beauty products available not enough?
To me, natural was only halfway there. It may not have been bad for you, but all people want is for skin care to work, and what was on the market wasn’t working. People were going into Sephora and buying 10 different products from 10 different lines and were frustrated.
How do you stay focused, when beauty is so noisy right now?
I don’t look around; I don’t look at other brands. I don’t know what other brands are doing, and I don’t care. I’m very, very focused on one thing only, and it’s my consumer. They are driving what’s next.
How has your retail strategy informed your plan for international expansion?
We have a very special relationship with our retailers. With Sephora, I know they can get the most out of me, and I can get the most out of them. The most important thing for a brand is to not lose its identity, and so I’ve wanted to pick brand partners that share my values, where I felt like product would sell the best and where I shopped. With the U.K., it took two years to get this right. We always do things slowly and carefully. — Priya Roa
Brother-sister duo John and Laura Nelson are the business and creative minds behind the company Seed Beauty, which burst onto the beauty scene in 2014 with ColourPop. The initial brand showed a new way to conduct business, with its influencer-heavy, marketing-light approach that took products from concept to launch in just three months. Since, Seed Beauty has managed to create household-name cosmetic brands like ColourPop, Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty, and recently ventured into skin care with the launch of Fourth Ray in August.
Seed Beauty has come to represent the industry of fast beauty. John, who is CEO, and Laura, who is president, inherited the family business from their father, including Spatz Laboratories in Oxnard, California which has been vertically integrated since the 1950s. Seed Beauty now boasts it can bring products to market in as little as five days — it owes the speed to overseeing its own manufacturing, product development lab, brand incubation, marketing and even venture capital firm. But the Nelson siblings are firm in their belief that this is not the only thing that makes Seed Beauty unique — instead, it contributes to their greater purpose of redefining the concept of luxury beauty.
“What we are trying to do is not have the traditional top-down beauty,” John said. “Instead, we look at the democratization of beauty. Being able to have discussions with the end customer and then [use] that feedback through our vertical integration — that’s what we feel makes Seed Beauty unique.”
With a 200,000-square-foot campus and thousands of employees, John and Laura have spent the past year optimizing the processes of the business. This has included developing makeup formulations for a wider assortment of skin tones and making adjustments to powdered product processing, packaging and more. The company’s venture into skin care with Fourth Ray Beauty was also of notable significance, allowing the company to further delve into this category with future brand incubation.
“An important part of the democratization [goal] is to make strong products that are going to be acceptable to as many people as possible and reach them in ways that can really help make a difference in their lives,” Laura said. “Going really fast in the wrong direction isn’t going to help anybody.” — Emma Sandler
Yana Sheptovetskaya has garnered a lot of attention (and heat) for her Instagram account, @Gelcream. Since its launch in 2016, the account has been dedicated to bias-free beauty product reviews and a no-sponsored-posts policy, and Sheptovetskaya is unabashed in offering her honest opinions — often to the ire of brands. But it has resonated with followers, and Gelcream has since amassed almost 100,000 to date. This has spurred expansion: In the past year, Gelcream has launched new features, including crowdsourced lists.
What are the biggest developments you’ve experienced with Gelcream in the past 12 months?
I think of Gelcream as a magazine with my posts being my features and [Instagram] Stories being front of book. I introduced a lot of new features in Stories, like Gelcream Research, which is sourced lists of the best items by topic, and Gelcream History, which is informative articles about brands, products and anything else beauty-related.
Why does Gelcream not accept sponsored posts?
I worked for magazines as a fashion editor, and it really bothered me when everything we did was dictated by our sponsors. Nowadays, Instagram has turned into a feed of ads, and it’s really hard to see what people actually wear and use. So for me, it was important to keep independence, freedom of speech and unbiased opinion.
I try to review not just the product, but also the brand [and] its mission, to see a bigger picture. I feel it’s hard to navigate between so many new beauty companies and founders without knowing what they stand for. I have a very strong community, and we try to find out the answers together. My goal here is to give consumers honest opinion and brands a chance to improve if something is wrong.
What impact do you think Gelcream is having on the conversation around beauty products on social media?
I hope Gelcream reminds people that not everything should be monetized. I must note that I am not against ads in general; I love advertising campaigns that are a piece of art, where you look at the photo or video and feel connected with the brand. Now, that’s so rare.
It’s really hard to stay in this [position], as a lot of brands get mad at me for saying what I think. A lot of accounts have blocked me — RMS Beauty and Ouai are among them — and, to be honest, I think this reaction says a lot about brands. If you can’t comprehend and respond politely to criticism, you should not be doing business. — Emma Sandler
When Morphe founders and siblings Linda and Chris Tawil launched their beauty brand in 2008, the duo came to the industry as outsiders: Linda was working in education, while Chris was in the auto industry. In the last year, Morphe, which is known for its highly pigmented color cosmetics available at low prices, has adopted a new “clicks to bricks” strategy, moving largely from selling on its own e-commerce site and its partnership with Ulta Beauty to opening brick-and-mortar stores. After opening two in 2017, the brand is hitting the gas: Eighteen more stores will be open by the end of this year, including one in the U.K., which debuted in June.
Set the scene for the beauty industry when you launched 10 years ago. How did you find a niche?
Chris: The beauty industry was so expensive, even on the trade show side. We saw an angle: We wanted to give people the best quality at low prices, and it set us apart.
Linda: As a young girl with not a lot of money, I could never afford to get really good makeup. I could only get one color at MAC, or I would go to Target and buy the mass stuff and it wasn’t good. Being able to make really good quality, $20 makeup hit home.
You were early influencer collaborators in the industry. What did you see that others didn’t?
Linda: The beauty of our business back in 2008 was that we were a trade show business — at one point, we were doing 27 trade shows a year. Chris and I would pack up, set up shop and sell, so we saw firsthand what thousands of girls were excited about. The influencer piece came up organically. In 2013, we had around 2,000 followers on Instagram, and at the trade shows, we met influencers, like Angel Merino and LipstickNick, who had 1,000 or 5,000 followers at the time, so we just worked together: We gave them makeup, and they created cool content. We had an Instagram page we wanted to flood with beautiful images, but we didn’t have the people to do it in-house. We had no idea it would blow up.
Why do you think that approach is still working for you today, as more beauty brands work with influencers?
Linda: We are big on relationships. We will never hire someone, pay them to do a sponsorship and then move on with life.
What prompted your recent retail expansion and the international move into the U.K.?
Linda: People want the brand. In our Burbank shop, which was our only store, there was a line outside the door every single Saturday and Sunday, and you had to wait anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to shop. More stores had to be a part of our future. And when I used to answer all the social media comments and the phones for Morphe, international markets were literally the No. 1 request. We started in the U.K., but more international markets are coming; we want to be everywhere. — Priya Rao
In March 2017, The Honest Company hit the reset button with the appointment of Nick Vlahos as CEO. Joining from The Clorox Company, where he served as evp and COO, Vlahos was tasked with revamping a company that had faced multiple lawsuits, issued voluntary recalls of products like baby wipes and baby powder, and lost its lauded “Unicorn” status, given to private companies valued at $1 billion or more.
Vlahos had his work cut out for him, and things are turning around for the brand. Vlahos has doubled The Honest Company’s distribution network to over 25,000 retail outlets, including Costco and Whole Foods, in addition to a formal presence on Amazon and its existing direct-to-consumer business. The clean-beauty retailer also launched a beauty-specific in-house lab in March, and overhauled the 3-year-old Honest Beauty category with a relaunch in July featuring fewer items overall but new products, new formulations and new packaging. Simplified product names and lower price points cemented the beauty brand in the mass-tige category, accessible to more people.
“We spent a lot of time, from a strategic perspective, [looking at] where we are going to compete within the marketplace and where we are going to put our emphasis from a category perspective,” Vlahos said.
In 2017, the company grew its retail business by 34 percent, Vlahos said, adding that beauty and baby care led the categories. Overall, the company will debut 80 new or improved products in those categories, including new beauty products, before the end of 2018.
“What that tells us is that consumers are more cognizant of what they are putting on their skin,” he said. “Consumers want to be part of a mission from day one. So the narrative for us is very clear where we can compete within the beauty and baby space.”
To help drive the narrative and current momentum, the company will be relying on its in-house lab. The lab features clinical scientists, cosmetic chemists, and toxicologists to develop and test formulations and products. This will allow it to create small-batch testing of many different formulations and products, in order to ensure that they are both safe and effective, Vlahos said.
“[Customers] want clean beauty, but also want it to work,” he said. “The in-house lab gives us that capability within those disciplines to create some breakthrough innovations.”
In June, the company also announced a $200 million strategic minority investment from private equity group L Catterton to help fuel the clean-beauty brand’s expansion into Europe through a partnership with German retailer Douglas, where it will be in 2,500 stores across seven countries by spring 2019. — Emma Sandler
Shane Wolf doesn’t just want to promote clean beauty products, he wants to drive a conversation around them. As L’Oréal’s global general manager for Redken, Pureology and Mizani in the professional hair division, Wolf incubated Seed Phytonutrients within the company and launched it on Earth Day this past April.
The brand focuses its content strategy on the fact that it sources all its ingredients from local farms in Pennsylvania, promotes seed diversity by using heirloom seeds, and uses shower-friendly paper packaging that is both recyclable and compostable. To date, it’s amplified the discussion around sustainable farming practices and ocean pollution.
What was the incubation experience like?
The whole process of incubation was, and continues to be, one of the most diverse business challenges I’ve ever tackled. In particular, I found how important it is to have stakeholders see your vision. As a founder, you have this grand vision of what you want to achieve, and you have to get [stakeholders] on board. Simply getting people to understand your vision and share the same values and purpose for the vision you have has, for me, been all at once the most complicated and most rewarding experience.
What role do you see incubated brands playing within the beauty space?
The incubation we see happening in large companies today is slightly unique from one to the next. In the case of Seed Phytonutrients, I had [thought] for many years that I would go off and create a brand on my own. That was my original intention. But at a certain point, when I shared my vision with the [L’Oréal] Group, they were so excited about the possibility of being a part of that. In our case, the value this has brought is demonstrating to internal populations at large companies just how entrepreneurialism can exist within a large company.
Where does your brand, and vision, go from here?
The objective of Seed Phytonutrients, first and foremost, is to build on the very mission of helping preserve seed diversity, supporting independent and organic farmers, raising the bar on natural formulations and bringing a new level of sustainability to the beauty industry that no one has believed we could achieve. And that job will never be done. I’m really pleased with the fact that we have created a paper bottle that reduces plastic usage by 60 percent, but I am not even a little bit satisfied by that. I tell my team that I want 70 percent by the end of this year and 80 percent by the end of next year. — Emma Sandler
In the four years that Instagram product manager Ashley Yuki has been with the social media platform, she has been heavily involved with several of the company’s key initiatives, the results of which have been hits among beauty creators. They include launching the Instagram Stories ads business, as well as the in-feed post-save feature. Her most ambitious project to date, though, is the debut of IGTV, the company’s longer-form streaming channel in late June 2018.
Yuki worked directly with co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger to envision the mobile-first functionality of the video platform. “We spent a lot of time listening to feedback from our community, and IGTV was inspired by our creators and fans telling us the one-minute video limit we had for feed videos was restricting,” she said.
Though it is still early days for IGTV, Yuki is excited about the unexpected ways users are using the mobile-optimized, vertical-angled channel — a significant departure from YouTube’s horizontal orientation, which is better suited for a desktop. — Priya Rao