One look at Pharrell Willams’ almost impossibly youthful 47-year-old face makes it clear why he is the ideal celebrity to launch a skin-care line. But the brand is also pursuing a novel membership-based online business.
First launched on November 25, Humanrace receives its latest restock on Wednesday, after multiple sell-outs of its three-product skin-care line. Building on Pharrell’s success in the sneaker space, the business combines streetwear-style drops and hype with the DTC e-commerce world’s increasingly popular subscription model.
“We come from sneaker culture,” said Rachel Muscat, president of Humanrace. Prior to working with Pharrell on the skin-care line, Muscat had worked on sneaker collaborations with him as the global director for collaborations at Adidas. “It sold out quicker than we expected,” said Muscat of the two-and-a-half hour sell-out of the products at launch.
This is par for for the course as beauty and streetwear become increasingly intertwined; collaborations over the past two years include Off-White X Amorepacific, Supreme X Pat McGrath, and Kith’s multiple beauty collabs.
Gender-neutral Humanrace gifted products to sneaker influencers at launch, helping to drive up demand among male streetwear consumers who are new to skin care. “It’s been great to see a lot of guys coming out [and] talking about never really having a routine” when it comes to their skin, said Muscat. She estimated that the customer base is split 50-50 between men and women.
In between restocks, the site publishes a holding page with email signup. Email subscribers receive access to pre-sales via a password to access the shop before the restock is made available to all visitors. This membership-based model helps generate customer loyalty, said Muscat. When the brand launched a restock in December, 50,000 early sign-ups received access to buy the products a day early, according to Bold Commerce, which set up the subscription e-commerce functions for Humanrace.
As the brand founder, Pharrell will also play a role in developing brand loyalty through exclusive events and content to members. “We definitely see some opportunities in the future with how we talk to some of our subscription community,” said Muscat. One-on-one Zooms with Pharrell or his dermatologist Dr. Elena Jones are being considered.
“The brands that are really figuring this out are doing well,” said Jay Myers, co-founder and vp of growth for Bold Commerce, of brands offering a membership beyond a product subscription alone. Myers recommended that, in addition to simply letting users subscribe to receive the products each month, “curation and access” should be part of a DTC subscription sales model.
“Subscriptions are a lot harder to sell than a one-time product, because it’s a bigger commitment,” he said. “What the smart brands are figuring out is how to [incorporate] much more than just replenishment.”
The brand also taps into its “Well Beings” community of celebrities such as Tyler, the Creator and Pharrell’s wife, model and designer Helen Lasichanh, to promote the brand. “The way we’re seeing them is friends of our community. Right now it’s not anything that’s paid,” said Muscat.
Humanrace is focusing on DTC for now, but is considering retail partnerships for the future. “We definitely have an ambition to go wholesale,” said Muscat.