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Clean Makeup Brand Ilia Raises Series B, Plots Further Growth

Ilia expects to spend $2 million on sampling this year.

Clean makeup brand Ilia has raised a Series B from Sandbridge Capital, a fund that also backs Thom Browne, Derek Lam and Youth to the People.

The round follows a Series A led by Silas Capital that the brand closed in late 2018. Silas also invested in the Series B. “Like other brands in this industry, I believe many of us are seeing accelerated growth, so when you raise capital you generally have an idea of how long it will take you,” said Ilia founder Sasha Plavsic. For Ilia, that Series A was meant to last about a year or 18 months — but Plavsic decided to raise a little sooner to “not be in a rush.”

Ilia has been experiencing a period of “extreme growth,” she said, due partially to the mainstreaming of clean beauty. “It’s like everything I felt 10 years ago, the consumer is feeling more on a mass level now,” Plavsic said.

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Industry sources noted that Ilia has been doubling year-over-year, and ended 2019 with about $22 million in retail sales. For 2020, retail sales are projected to approach $35 million, sources said.

The Sandbridge money is meant to help fund increasing marketing and sampling initiatives, as well as product technology and new hires, including a creative director.

As the company has grown, sampling has become increasingly important, said Lynda Berkowitz, Ilia’s chief executive officer.

“This year, we’ll spend more than $2 million on samples alone,” Berkowitz said. Those initiatives are conducted with Sephora, a major retail partner for Ilia, as well as online, where the brand operates its own sampling program.

In February, Ilia will also unveil a re-brand, which takes into account modernization and sustainability ideals. The brand is also starting to work with TerraCycle to recycle its packaging.

In terms of distribution, Ilia is planning to “keep it narrow and go deep,” said Berkowitz. That means a continued focus on North America sales, and gradually expansion with Sephora, where Ilia expects to double its shelf space and add between 100 and 125 more doors in 2020. The brand has about 20 stockkeeping units on Sephora’s clean end caps, which are in all stores.

In 2020, Ilia will have its full product lineup, including its True Skin Serum Foundation and best-selling Limitless Lash Mascara, in about 600 doors.

Later this year, Ilia is planning a major complexion launch, though Plavsic was mum on the details. There is “some new technology around it,” she said, and it will incorporate Ilia’s signature skin-care-makeup hybrid philosophies, she said.

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