A 10,000-person waitlist to cop a logo sweatshirt that then sells out within hours is no longer just a streetwear phenomenon.
In a bid to build a sense of community with their customers and followers, beauty brands are launching a wide range of merch items including hoodies, hats, pins, socks and even scrunchies. While a certain makeup or skin-care item being worn on the face is often unrecognizable, logo-clad outfits shared via selfies help generate awareness for brands dependent on social media clout among millennials and Gen Z.
One of the most successful merch lines has been that of Glossier. On May 20, Glossier re-released its signature pink hoodie, which had previously sold out when it was launched in October 2019 as a part of the brand’s new GlossiWEAR collection drop. During both the October drop and the current sale, the streetwear-level hype around the hoodie drove a pre-sale waitlist of around 10,000 people, according to the company.
The brand generated hype for the hoodie with the help of celebrities, posting an image of fashion icon Iris Apfel wearing it to announce the restock. Celebrities including Timothée Chalamet and Amy Schumer have also been seen out and about with the sweatshirt, and many Chalamet fangirls have left comments on the product’s review section saying they bought it in honor of him. Glossier also recently teamed up with Animal Crossing fashion generator Nook Street Market to feature the hoodie in the popular game.
“Before Glossier even existed, Emily had the vision of creating a beauty company whose sweatshirt you wanted to wear,” said Glossier vp creative director Marie Suter via email. “Thinking about it now, it was actually a pretty radical concept.”
The brand first got into the world of merch in 2017 with the launch of its Glossier sweatshirt, inspired by social media fans clamoring for it after seeing it on photos of employees shared on Instagram. Employee-only items remain coveted and can be found for sale on popular streetwear resale platform Grailed. It launched its GlossiWEAR in July 2019 using a streetwear-style “drop,” and currently also sells a baseball cap and sandals. In the past, other drops have included hair accessories and duffel bags.
Not the main focus of sale for beauty brands, merch tends to be more about generating cachet and buzz. Other brands embracing merch include Milk Makeup, which sells a series of jacket pins, Kylie Skin, which is currently giving away free socks designed by Arthur George, and Benefit Cosmetics, which launched “Benebabe” merch including a sweatshirt and jacket pins. In the era of Covid-19, face masks have also made an appearance as beauty merch — Doe Lashes sells a limited-edition blue mask along with stickers.
Another brand that has embraced the merch trend is colorful skin-care brand Glow Recipe, which dropped a scrunchie set in May and also sells sweatshirts, a bandana, a hat, a zip pouch and a skin-care diary. Like Glossier, the brand also launched its hoodie in Animal Crossing.
Glow Recipe’s customers like to buy merch out of a “sense of community” with the brand, said Glow Recipe co-founder and co-CEO Christine Chang. “It definitely helps build loyalty to see other members of the ‘Glow Gang’ community wearing these sweatshirts and hats.” The brand’s “skin-care diary” was launched during the quarantine period, and it recently held a Sephora-online masterclass with the founders in which fans sent selfies wearing the brand’s pink logo hoodie while watching.
Merch can also come in the form of collaborations with non-beauty brands offering a similar brand identity. Body positivity beauty brand Megababe, for example, launched a collaboration this year with Candice Huffine’s inclusive activewear brand Day/Won.
“Both of our brands are dedicated to comfort and inclusivity, so this was a natural fit,” said Katie Sturino, Megababe’s co-founder and CEO.
The cult of personality surrounding influencers makes merch particularly popular among influencer-led brands, with devoted fans buying their drops to show off, much like they would with their favorite band or musician. James Charles quickly sold out of his whole collection of Sisters Apparel tie-dye face masks, T-shirts and sweatshirts that he dropped online during quarantine. The items are available for pre-order of a restock and have gained hype not only from Charles, but also from appearing on mega-influencers like TikTok star Charli D’Amelio.
The personal affinity and loyalty to influencers is something that brands hope to replicate with their merch drops.
“It was easy to find someone who loved a certain mascara, but did they truly connect with the company that made it? Did they identify with the brand’s values as much as they did with their products?” said Suter. “We always come back to that original idea, which has come to serve as a manifesto of sorts, and consistently hear from our community that they’re eager to incorporate Glossier into all aspects of their lives, beyond beauty.”