The Glossy Beauty Podcast is the newest podcast from Glossy. Each 30-minute episode features candid conversations about how today’s trends, such as CBD and self-care, are shaping the future of the beauty and wellness industries. With a unique assortment of guests, The Glossy Beauty Podcast provides its listeners with a variety of insights and approaches to these categories, which are experiencing explosive growth. From new retail strategies on beauty floors to the importance of filtering skincare products through crystals, this show sets out to help listeners understand everything that is going on today, and prepare for what will show up in their feeds tomorrow.
Tower 28 founder Amy Liu on the rush to clean makeup
Amy Liu, founder and CEO of Tower 28, had dreams of being a beauty founder, in large part because she watched her father live out his own entrepreneurial dreams. But instead, she chose to work for some of the biggest founder-led brands before starting her own clean makeup company in 2019.
"I sought out founder-based brands here in Los Angeles, and prestige ones, color, skin care. I worked at Kate Somerville, Smashbox Cosmetics, Josie Maran. And really, with all the companies -- I went to went from bigger company to smaller company -- my role kept getting bigger. The hope there was that I just wanted to see what it was like to have a seat at the table," she said on the most recent episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast.
Because of Liu's own chronic eczema, Tower 28 was created to go beyond the proposition of clean. "I tried to make the switch to clean beauty, but a lot of clean beauty felt like it was actually pretty hard on my sensitive skin because there are essential oils and plant botanicals in it." Moreover, there were few clean color cosmetics options when Liu was conceiving of her brand.
Layering a youthful and accessible positioning has been a boon for the new brand --- products are all under $28. It's ranked No. 7 at Sephora, and it's penetrating 1% of Sephora sales worldwide. "One percent of all Sephora customers are buying Tower 28, which is actually a feat that a lot of big brands never get to; that is partly because of the fact that our price point is low, so then a lot of people can have the ability to try our products."
Waldencast's Michel Brousset: Beauty brand building is about "managing this level of complexity"
After 20 years in big beauty, with stints at L'Oréal and Procter & Gamble, Waldencast founder and CEO Michel Brousset set out to start over, with an eye on the future.
"We started with a dream, which was to create this big global company, but you [have to] start as an entrepreneur. I'm an entrepreneur, just like founders are," said Brousset on the most recent episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast.
Brousset was most recently group president of L’Oréal's consumer products division in North America. In 2019, he started Waldencast by investing in and providing operational support for emerging brands. Early investments included refillable cosmetics line Kjaer Weis and Francisco Costa's beauty debut Costa Brazil, which was recently sold to Amyris. And while that is still one arm of the business, brand incubation is also a focus. It debuted its first foray last week, a travel-inspired line dubbed Whind, and it has three other brands in the works.
With multiple goals and scale as its focus, Waldencast recently announced its special purpose acquisition company (or SPAC), Waldencast Acquisition Corp, with $633 million to invest.
"As we were developing these two areas of how to create this new, next-generation company -- in a way, we're creating it from a blank sheet of paper, the way we want to create it and with the values that we want to create -- we started thinking relatively early that we wanted to do larger acquisitions," he said. "When we started developing and firming up how to do that is where we landed with a SPAC, as an efficient way of building that capability."
Still, Brousset said the focus for Waldencast is to bet on brands with a similar ethos. "If you look at all the brands in our portfolio, they have certain threads or flows between them, some commonality between them. They are brands that have in their DNA, not just a perspective on beauty, but also a perspective relative to important social values like sustainability, inclusivity, responsibility and conscious entrepreneurship, which happen to be our values," said Brousset.
Robin Tsai of VMG Partners: "We're delving into categories that are still a little amorphous"
Private equity firm VMG Partners has invested in some of beauty's biggest disrupters: Drunk Elephant, Briogeo and Perfect Diary. But the 16-year-old firm didn't have a firm playbook when it first started out, said Robin Tsai, a general partner at VMG who leads the company's beauty and wellness practice.
"As a first-time fund, you're really more defined by what works and what doesn't," he said on this week's episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast. "You can have all these great theses at that point in time, but it's a lot easier to connect the dots when you're actually looking backward than when you're looking forward. What I would say that we're good at is working with founders. It's just something that was part of our DNA. It probably also came from the fact that we were a startup, as well, so we could really empathize with what people were going through. We found that we were very good with brands and had a certain gut in terms of what consumers really cared about and where they were headed."
To date, VMG has realized many of its beauty and wellness investments, including Drunk Elephant, which sold to Shiseido for $845 million in 2019, which is something that Tsai said founders recognize. "We have sold the most businesses of any consumer fund to strategics over the last 15 years. That track record is an important one, and it's something that founders truly care about," he said.
And while the investing landscape is changing rapidly, with firms investing earlier and SPACs becoming part of the equation, Tsai said VMG's focus is on "elevating" the businesses it invests in. "Our M.O. is really more about investing deeply within the ecosystem of the categories that we're investing in, so that's food and beverage, beauty and personal care, the wellness space, alcohol and spirits, the pet space. It really is having a super, super deep knowledge of who the stakeholders are, what makes them tick," he said
Jane Hertzmark Hudis of Estée Lauder Companies: "We are really brand builders over time"
During a full year of uncertainty and change, companies found few things they could bet on. But for Estée Lauder Companies, its hero product strategy provided to be fundamental. In its latest quarterly earnings, 10 of ELC’s brands saw growth. La Mer and its namesake brand Estée Lauder saw double-digit sales growth, thanks to iconic franchises.
"[The strategy is] really to focus on our hero products. Because first and foremost, these products are absolutely loved," said Jane Hertzmark Hudis, executive group president of the Estée Lauder Companies, on the most recent episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast. "They will drive the greatest amount of recruitment, which is new consumers to our brand, and repeat business, which is the loyalty to the products. Advanced Night Repair and Crème de la Mer are great examples. However, we do innovate in what we call those franchises."
A long-term ELC veteran, Hertzmark Hudis started at Prescriptives within the company before taking leadership roles at Origins and Estée Lauder. She is often pointed to as the driver of the organization's skin-care wins. In July, she became the first woman promoted to executive group president at the conglomerate.
Though the concept of prestige beauty is evolving, Hertzmark Hudis affirmed that Estée Lauder Companies will "be pure-play, focused on prestige and luxury."
"The luxury business is booming, and people want more and more luxury, and more and more luxury experiences. So luxury is, quite frankly, here to stay," she said
"I fell in love with what it promised": Casey Georgeson of Saint Jane on the power of luxury CBD
Casey Georgeson, founder and CEO of Saint Jane Beauty, was building brands for others, like LVMH's Kendo and Cupcake Vineyards, before she saw herself as a "founder."
"I've always been that behind the scenes," she said on the most recent episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast. Oftentimes people would ask me, 'When are you going to start your own brand?' 'When are you going to be a founder?' I never felt like I had the big idea to do that, to make the leap. I knew what went into it, and I knew how extraordinarily difficult it would be."
That changed, however, when Georgeson was introduced to CBD while working in the wine industry. Though many people had negative opinions of CBD because of its connection to marijuana, Georgeson believed it had greater appeal. "I fell in love with what it promised," she said.
And despite the stoner presentation in dispensaries, she also believed that CBD had the power to be a luxury skin-care and wellness ingredient. Today, Saint Jane is sold at Sephora and Credo, and on its own DTC site. The company's sales grew 300% in 2020.
L'Oréal technology incubator's Guive Balooch on marrying beauty and tech
Though a 15-year-veteran in beauty, Guive Balooch, head of L'Oréal's technology incubator, considers his outsider-turned-insider perspective a skill. Balooch started his professional career as an instructor at the University of California, Berkeley before working in pharmaceuticals.
"I spent almost half of my life really focused on academia and science," he said on the most recent episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast. "I fell upon this job in L'Oréal, because I was moving to Chicago for family reasons .. I didn't know anything about the company. I will say that I did like fashion and beauty, in general, even before joining L'Oreal, but I didn't really know much. I discovered this incredible industry ... I feel like if I didn't grow up in an academic family that I probably would have ended up being a marketer, because I really like business and product and consumers. At the same time, I feel a bit lucky because I have this fundamental science background, and I used my experience of being at L'Oréal almost 15 years to learn the marketing and the consumer part."
In the early to mid 2000's L'Oréal's technology and digital ambitions were just getting started. Balooch found his footing in the now timely skin and hair sectors, but he knew technology had the power to transform the beauty industry, even back then. "The idea that we've have had from day one on my team has been: How can we really elevate the beauty experience for people around the world by using tech?"