Just shy of one year after its inception, Milk Makeup has its sights set on international expansion.
The makeup brand, founded by the creative agency and production company Milk Studios, debuted last February with a line of easy-to-use beauty products for the face, eyes and lips that’s now sold in Sephora, Urban Outfitters and Birchbox, and through Milk’s e-commerce site. On Monday, Milk Makeup announced its first round of investment, an undisclosed amount from Main Post Partners, which has previously invested in indie beauty brand Too Faced.
With the new capital, Milk co-founder and creative director Mazdack Rassi said the first priority will be to scale the brand’s retail footprint, beginning with a rollout of Sephoras in Canada in early 2017. The company also plans to quadruple the number of storefronts that carry the products this year.
“The partnership will give us resources to grow Milk Makeup into an international brand,” said Rassi. “Beauty is a tactile industry, where people need to walk in, and see it and feel it. Retail partners like Sephora, who can tell our story to a new market, will be very important as we expand.”
Milk is carving out a space in the minimalist makeup market by packaging its foundations, lipsticks and highlighters into on-the-go containers that minimize the fuss of applying them. The pigments and products are designed “not to cover up, but to let [the wearer] shine through,” according to Rassi. What’s more, the line fuses skincare and makeup into one dual category. Products like the Milk Makeup Cooling Stick are sold to refresh and hydrate skin throughout the day, and they’re sold alongside bronzers and blushes that are packaged in the same, swipeable stick form.
“The overarching message is the counterbalance,” said Jessica Navas, chief planning officer at Erwin Penland. “Between everything on social, you most often see heavy makeup looks. The notion of the minimal and more natural look is that it’s cleaner, it feels healthier, it’s more liberated.”
Rassi and the Milk Makeup team set out to target the beauty buyer who either doesn’t have time for, or isn’t interested in, a heavily made-up face that requires a set of skills and differently angled makeup brushes. For Milk and also contemporary startup brand Glossier, the hook is in how naturally effortless their makeup products are. The line is Milk’s first consumer goods brand — the company primarily works with other brands as a production studio and agency.
“This was the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” Rassi said. “Milk was a B2B business, and consumer goods is a completely different ball game. What we learned was that you don’t need to follow the rules. We wanted to do things our own way, which we’ve always done in the past.”
Along with the retail expansion, Milk Makeup will be expanding its product line to include more shades and building out franchises, like the Cooling Water collection of hydrating products and the Sunshine Oil line, which infuses items like foundation with a citrus-based oil.
Rassi added that part of the year’s priorities is to continue to educate consumers on exactly what Milk is offering.
“We created such a unique line, and we want to work extra hard to communicate that,” he said. “The consumer hadn’t been exposed to a brand like us. A year in, we find it a lot easier to be able to communicate, and we’ll continue that into 2017.”
According to Navas, the anti-makeup makeup message of Milk is bound to attract a subset of followers, even if it is more niche than mass beauty brands. Milk still has a cultish following, however. While it does not break out sales figures, the brand noted that five products — the Cooling Water stick, a lip cream, a mascara, a highlighter and a bronzer — sold out of inventory in the first two months.
“[Milk] is coming up against the industry norms of mass brands that say, ‘This is what makeup is and does,’” said Navas. “Their message feels fresh, in contrast.”
Primarily, Milk has turned to live video to demonstrate the use of its cosmetics as they debut. On Monday, the brand announced a new product, the Blur Stick, a primer meant to minimize pores and fine lines. To accompany its debut, Milk’s team hosted a live demo on Snapchat. Tomorrow, Rassi said, they’ll do the same on Instagram. In-house, Milk will host events in Los Angeles and New York to bring fans together in real life.
“It’s very easy for us to communicate on Instagram and Snapchat,” Rassi said. “We use a lot more live video, and we plan to do more as the year goes on. Along with Facebook, those are our go-to channels, and Milk Studios is our own unique channel.”