Shelby Wild, founder of prestige hair-care brand Playa, is back with a new brand. This time, she’s shifting gears to focus on the mass category.
Called California Naturals, the brand launched direct-to-consumer on Friday, with exclusive distribution at Target set to start on July 9. The initial product collection includes a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, a daily shampoo and conditioner set, a leave-in conditioner, a hair masque, a body wash, and a moisturizer. All products are priced under $10. It’s a departure for Wild, whose hair-care brand Playa sold shampoo and conditioner for $30 each. Founded in 2017, Playa was sold through Sephora and was also based around the California lifestyle, albeit a sun-kissed version. Wild left the brand in 2021 after it was acquired by Forma Brands in 2020. Forma later filed for bankruptcy, and Forma Brands did not immediately respond with a comment on the brand’s status. Playa has not posted on social media since 2022 and its products are listed as sold out on its DTC site.
“Technology has advanced in such a way where we’re able to formulate [with better ingredients] for mass market and not lose on product quality,” said Wild. “And given the [wider] margins in the prestige category, I knew there was a lot of maneuverability to create something equally high quality for a significantly lower price.”
While at Playa, Wild said there was something “that didn’t feel right” about a brand that charged $60 for a shampoo and conditioner set. Additionally, consumers often commented that replenishing a $60 set of products wasn’t financially sustainable despite enjoying the brand’s branding, ingredients and scents. In addition, Wild had a daughter since Playa’s launch and began thinking more about the financial burden of purchasing products for a family, as opposed to an individual’s own beauty habits. That calls to mind the age-old online joke of men using their female partner’s beauty products without knowing or appreciating the cost of such items. In 2021, Clarins surveyed 1,000 U.K. men who admitted to “stealing” their partner’s skin-care products without their partner knowing. To that end, California Naturals targets families and beauty enthusiasts who look to Target for brand discovery.
Coming to California Naturals with a decade of hair-care brand experience, Wild has raised $4 million from consumer investors L Catterton, Sandbridge, Midnight Venture Partners and Elizabeth Street Ventures, as well as notable investors including Eric Ryan and Roth Martin. California Naturals has five full-time employees, all on a vp level. They manage all things digital, as well as product development, operations and wholesale retail. Tony Hawk serves as chief culture officer, responsible for creating content and helping to engage the skate culture and community.
“Shelby has an incredibly keen understanding of today’s shopper, and it’s clear she’s identified a glaring white space in the mass market category,” said Ryan, a serial entrepreneur behind brands like Olly vitamins. “She has a unique perspective as a consumer and a proven track record as an entrepreneur. … I think shoppers will really identify with California Naturals’ strong brand voice and sense of community and, of course, its exceptional products at a price point that can’t be beaten.”
Billed by Wild as “Stüssy meets Dr. Bronner’s,” California Naturals’ branding features a laid-back design evocative of bohemian culture in enclaves like Topanga Canyon. As part of its launch campaign, California Naturals is hosting an online lottery to win a California road trip, including a Ford Bronco. The brand also tapped 1,000 micro-influencers for product gifting. California Naturals will direct people to a content portion of its e-commerce site featuring stories on how to get outside and live healthier lives. To make the content a draw, the brand filmed yoga sessions, meditation sessions, and surf and skateboarding tutorials that will live on its site and be accessible for free. And applying an Outdoor Voices-meets-Alo Yoga approach to community building, California Naturals will host surf classes and monthly yoga sessions, plus group hikes and a running club in the California area.
“I’m proud of what we created at Playa and feel that that business made an impact in Sephora and clean hair care,” said Wild. “[But] I view California Naturals as the maturation of Playa. The formulas, packaging and fragrance are better. It’s cleaner and more universal.”