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Abiby Debuts Own Beauty Brand Syster

The Italian beauty box start-up is launching a skin care and hair care line developed with a little help from its community.

MILAN — Mario Parteli couldn’t believe he was holding the products of his company’s first brand when he sat down with WWD at central Milan’s WeWork space to give a preview of the project.

Since the beginning of 2018, when he established the Italian start-up Abiby offering beauty box subscriptions and e-commerce with his business partner Luca Della Croce, the young entrepreneur had set his eyes on this goal, but knew that a gradual approach was the best way to achieve it.

The cofounders focused on building a strong community around Abiby and consolidating its role as scouter of new beauty brands to offer to the Italian market, and since last year, to the Spanish one, too. The same community of 60,000 beauty lovers is behind the brand launching today, which has been evocatively named Syster.

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“The whole concept has been developed listening to the community and understanding what these consumers needed and which kind of benefits they were looking after,” said Parteli.

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In addition to the feedback gathered over the past four years — which was both qualitative via comments collected after every beauty box release, and quantitative via analysis of the traction each product generated on e-commerce — the company launched a survey, asking its consumers to answer roughly 65 questions. It then interviewed smaller circles of users to further explore the trends surfaced and involved the more active ones, which form the “Abiby Beauty Lab,” during Syster’s creative process to get constant feedbacks on formulations, textures and perfume.

This inclusive journey resulted in a brand of vegan and cruelty-free skin care and hair care products that target different lifestyles rather than specific conditions.

“These two categories have been appreciated by our consumers since the very beginning and represented the core of our beauty boxes’ offering,” noted Parteli. “Plus, both have wide margins of growth in the market, so we saw a huge opportunity to grasp,” added the executive, who also credited the work of Valentina Abramo, now managing director of the brand and who has been part of the team since the company’s inception.

Dubbed “Smart,” Syster’s inaugural range includes five multifunctional, AHA fruit acid-based products for women who are “always on-the-go,” said Parteli.

Coming in violet packaging and bearing ironic names, the line includes a toner, a hydrating biphasic makeup remover and a face cream and serum as well as a 10-in-1 serum for hair and a cleansing and conditioning duo for hair.

The "Good As New" makeup remover by Syster.
The “Good as New” makeup remover by Syster. Courtesy of Syster

Starting from 2022, two other lines will be launched, each offering three skin care basics and two hair care essentials. The “Green” range will have a heightened focus on sustainability, since each formulation will have more than 97 percent natural ingredients, while the “Fast” one will have a slightly higher positioning due to more significant percentages of ingredients such as hyaluronic acid. Overall, Syster prices range from 15 euros to 45 euros.

“The idea is to create lines that target a certain beauty routine but customers can easily mix products across lines to have their own, customized version,” said Parteli. “And we don’t exclude the possibility to add more ‘personalities’ in the future. This is a brand built through the interaction with the consumers, and now it will be even easier to interact directly with them.”

Parteli additionally underscored that even if it was created to celebrate the sisterhood within Abiby’s mainly female community, the brand can also resonate with male consumers. “We worked a lot on the sense of smell, for one, and products’ fragrances are not invasive nor strictly feminine. I don’t think a man will feel excluded or discouraged to use this brand just because of the name. But who knows, maybe we will launch a Brother label in the future, too,” said Parteli with a smile.

The "Made My Day" cream is the hero product of Syster's Smart line.
The “Made My Day” cream is the hero product of Syster’s Smart line. Courtesy of Syster

Syster will debut as part of this month’s Abiby beauty box, which will include the “Made My Day” cream, the hero product of the Smart line. As with every other brand showcased in the company’s boxes, the item will be then available on the Abiby e-commerce to encourage repurchases.

The systerbeauty.com dedicated online store has also been launched to make the brand gradually available in other countries, in addition to Italy and Spain.

“We are treating this as any other label we work with, one that has its own, separate identity,” said Parteli, who didn’t excluded that Syster could enter in the wholesale channel, too.

In the meantime, the brand will have strong competition on the Abiby platform, which has exponentially expanded its portfolio to offer over 200 international brands, including Björk & Berries, Clinique, Comfort Zone, Davines, Dermalogica, EcookingPatchology, Lovbod, Nuori, Olaplex, Shiseido and Zago Milano, to name a few. Labels recently added in the network include Penelope Skin, Opera Honey, Carol Hair and Heedra, among others.

In 2020, Abiby generated around 2 million euros in sales, up 170 percent compared to 2019. Despite the growth and launch in the Spanish market, last year the company was forced to postpone a significant round of investment, which the founders are now focused on pursuing to further scale the size of the business in the next few years by entering in key markets such as France and Germany.

Still, earlier this year the company attracted key investors that not only raised 1.5 million euros but, most importantly, brought into the company their professional expertise.

Investors included Seven Investments, founded by Angelomario Moratti; the Nava Press packaging and printing solution provider; Stefano Zanzi, chief executive officer of the H.S.A. Cosmetics cosmetics manufacturer; Roberto Serafini, a former, longtime L’Oréal executive, and Riccardo Pozzoli, the entrepreneur who helped build and develop Chiara Ferragni‘s The Blonde Salad blog and is now involved in a range of start-ups, such as Foorban, La Semaine Paris and Treedom.

This operation followed the first round of investment of 1.5 million euros in spring 2019 by a pool of entrepreneurs with a background in digital ventures, as well as international private equity funds and players operating in the fashion and beauty industry.

The "Toned Up" toner, part of Syster's Smart line.
The “Toned Up” toner, part of Syster’s Smart line. Courtesy of Syster

Until the next round, the company will work on optimizing its processes and efficiency as well as expanding its team, now counting 25 people covering all functions in-house.

Partnerships also play a key role, with Parteli committed to favor collaborations with companies from other industries that can resonate with the interests of Abiby’s core target, aged 25 to 45. For instance, in the past Abiby developed initiatives with the likes of Nike, Levi’s, Max Mara Group’s Pennyblack, Colmar and Vestiaire Collective. The company has also an ongoing tie-up with Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna.

Each Abiby box comes with a price tag of 29.90 euros monthly for a three-month subscription, or 24.90 euros for a six-month subscription, and contains three to five products from three brands, for a total value of more than 90 euros.