NEW YORK — Breaking into the mass-market color cosmetics business is not for the faint of heart. Even powerful players have tried to introduce new color brands and failed — Procter & Gamble Co.’s Olay brand, and Revlon’s Vital Radiance and Jane Cosmetics, which at one point was owned by the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.
Against the odds, the up-and-coming brand E.l.f. Cosmetics (Eyes. Lips. Face.) is gaining traction by taking the road less traveled. The brand launched online first and is building its retail business.
“We’re disruptive because we do things differently,” said E.l.f. founder and chief executive officer Joseph Shamah.
Industry sources estimate that E.l.f. is about a $50 million business, and roughly 70 percent of its sales are generated in stores. It counts Target and Walgreens among its retail partners. E.l.f. Studio, which is positioned as a professional makeup artist line, will be featured in an exclusive department at a Walgreens set to open in Hollywood.
Next year could prove to be the real test of Shamah’s disruptive course. The company plans to unleash its largest collection of new items to date: 144 stockkeeping units across a number of new categories. The brand also is looking to expand beyond Target and Walgreens to other discount and drugstore and even food chains. In some cases, the brand aims to gain a foothold with new retailers with seasonal programs. The company’s close ties to the apparel business through Shamah’s family also enabled E.l.f. to distribute its color products in stores such as Forever 21, Urban Outfitters and Ross.
The brand is moving full-throttle ahead, said retail executives, with an arsenal including more nail color — holiday gift sets with 15 colors for $15 — new eye shadow quads, “chubby” lip stains, an eye refresh item with a roller ball and potentially BB creams and other corrective skin care.
E.l.f. also remains committed to e-commerce. Its digital effort allows for deep product assortments that stores can’t accommodate, said Shawn Haynes, vice president of retail sales. The devoted E.l.f. consumers serve as a “test” market to identify the biggest hits, which can roll out to stores, he said. For instance, Studio Mascara & Shadow Shield — an item so hot that one can’t even be found in E.l.f.’s New York showroom — was a hit online first. The tool is held below the eye during makeup application to reduce smudges and shadow overflow. Other items aiding online sales included baked eye shadow palettes, High Definition Blush and Mineral Primers in the Studio line.
In the same vein, E.l.f.’s online business can sift out failures and eliminate them quickly instead of having a flop in stores.
While e-commerce provides a testing ground, Shamah doesn’t believe it detracts from demand in stores. “It is a different consumer online and for those who like the products in the store, they can go online to find more of our items. We have thousands of stockkeeping units online,” he said.
The majority of price points range from $1 to $3, but E.l.f. has been able to trade consumers up to its Studio line priced at $6.
However, Shamah said the moderate price points inspire more multiple sales. “If retailers ask, ‘Aren’t the lower prices driving dollars down,’ we can show that people buy more and build a bigger basket,” he said. Shamah said one retailer moves four times the pieces of E.l.f. than many other makeup brands producing inventory turns for the line that are at least twice the industry average.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast