LONDON — David Beckham has a new goal: to score in the burgeoning men’s grooming market with House 99, a brand he created with L’Oréal that’s due out starting in February.
It is the first time the British soccer star-turned-entrepreneur is launching his own beauty label and also marks the first time in years that L’Oréal has kicked off a freestanding brand from scratch. Generally when the company adds to its portfolio, a totally new brand is either created under license or acquired.
The sportsman brims with excitement about House 99, which he hopes will spawn a community of guys. He was hands-on for every stage of its development, finding the product-naming process “a real challenge.”
The number 99 nods to a watershed year for him — “as a person, as a sportsman and I just became more mature because I had to [with] the birth of my first son, Brooklyn. I got married and won the treble with Manchester United,” he told a clutch of journalists during a recent press conference here. “It was such a momentous year for me personally.”
“House” was picked since Beckham likes how it smacks of team spirit. “I’ve always been part of a team throughout my career, and even now, in my business world, I have a great team of people around me,” he continued.
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For L’Oréal, the reasons were twofold for linking up with the beauty and style icon on the 21-unit line, which includes items for beards, shaving, face, body, tattoos and hair.
“We had the unique opportunity to build a strong partnership with one of the most authoritative men on the planet in terms of style,” Cyril Chapuy, deputy general manager of L’Oréal Luxe, said in an exclusive interview, citing Beckham’s 41.7 million Instagram followers, which increase by a half million people monthly. “[It’s] the unique encounter of a market which is booming today and the possibility of collaborating very closely with one of the most iconic men on the planet.”
The numbers Beckham generates are, indeed, mind-boggling: One in four online searches of tutorials for men’s hairstyles refer to his look. Ditto for 60 percent of searches about Beckham.
Still, he seems extraordinarily modest and highly focused. “We’ve been working on this for a couple of years, so we are very proud to see it all come together,” said Beckham.
It was key to keep things simple for men, he explained, with a chuckle. “We went through very carefully and decided what I personally like and also what guys like,” said Beckham. “In my world, it’s very simple: Get up, shower, moisturize and then do the same before I go to bed. But obviously, we have added products that I feel are very personal to me.”
Best exemplifying this is Bold Statement, a tattoo body moisturizer with an SPF 30, created by — and for — Beckham, who has some 40 tattoos (and counting), to help preserve their original colors.
Like Beckham, House 99 is about experimenting with styles — especially when it comes to hair. You name it, he’s tried it, with looks ranging from spiky to shaven, bearded, goatee, quiffed and ponytailed.
“Over the last 20 years I’ve had a lot of different hairstyles — mostly good, some not so good,” he admitted.
Beckham’s most regrettable? Cornrows, without a doubt.
“I remember being in the South of France, and I think I might have had a glass of wine or two, and one of my friends was with me who was great at doing cornrows. I was like: ‘Yeah, do my hair, go on — it keeps getting in the way,’” he told WWD.
But that style wasn’t fit for the field. “I get back to work, go to training, and head the ball for the first time, and it’s like so much pain from the cornrows being so tight,” he bemoaned.
Beckham said he long cared about the coifs he sported. “Maybe that came from my mum…a hairdresser,” he said. “Even from a very young age, I always wanted my hair to look cool.”
Yet what seemed cool to him didn’t always pass muster with Mother Beckham.
“I remember back in the day I always wanted my hair to be spiked up, and then I saw this football player that I really liked at the time, and he had [what] was straight on top and then he had a tight curl-type perm on the back. I never had that because my mom wouldn’t let me,” Beckham said with a laugh.
To help replicate Beckham’s hairstyles, House 99 includes Smooth Back shaping pomade, Change It Up texturizing clay and Going Strong styling gel.
“All of our styling formulas have been tested to resist humidity and sweat,” said Priscilla Foucault, marketing director for the brand.
It was a steep learning curve for Beckham in creating the line. “My expertise in this is very limited,” he said.
Beckham met with L’Oréal’s team, which asked him about his tastes, and there was a visit to the company’s factory. “Texture-wise I am actually pretty good with most things,” he said. “I don’t like things that are too oily but I like textures, like a real creamy moisturizer. The toner, now it has to be something that feels fresh when you put it on, feels like it’s really doing something.
“Smell is important — nothing that’s overpowering, and then the question was: Do you want it masculine? Or do you want it slightly less masculine, which is what I went for,” Beckham continued. “You don’t want someone to be able to smell you before they see you.”
House 99’s streamlined packaging comes in black and white to be classic, said Beckham, adding the idea was for the range to remain fresh through time and have a strong look.
His wife, Victoria, helped yea or nay products. She, after all, had a hand in teaching him about the world of beauty since he’d pinch her products.
“Whatever she was using I knew it would be the best,” Beckham said, explaining sometimes he would purchase men’s items from brands his wife had. “But the majority of the products that I used literally came from Victoria’s side of the cabinet.”
However, only over the past five years has grooming become a more integral part of Beckham’s daily routine. “Up until then, I used to use moisturizer. I used to look after myself, but not [with] specific products for specific reasons,” he said.
Victoria Beckham may have planted a seed for the Softer Touch beard oil that’s part of the House 99’s lineup. That’s because when her husband began growing his beard four years ago, she told him “it needs to smell better. It needs to be softer,” he told the journalists. So David Beckham found an oil that he — and she — liked. The rest is history.
Also from House 99 are a beard and hair balm, and a purifying beard scrub, which Foucault said has a deep cleansing action due to its charcoal and volcanic stone ingredients. “It removes all the dirt and pollution,” she claimed.
The Seriously Groomed balm, meanwhile, is billed to discipline unruly beards as well as condition and control hair.
In the House 99 collection, too, is a shaving cream, foam and stick; shampoos and a conditioner; body care, and face care. Some product formulas in the latter category contain spirulina and quinoa extracts to help strengthen and moisturize skin.
What surprised Beckham in the creative process for House 99 was “how much I enjoyed it,” he told WWD.
The project includes a digital advertising campaign, shot by Nabil Elderkin, which features numerous men — including Beckham — morphing into each other with different looks in a barber’s chair.
“It’s a real community,” he said.
House 99 will launch first in the U.K. on Feb. 1 exclusively at Harvey Nichols before rolling out nationwide and then to retailers in 19 other countries starting March 1.
“We are going to be very selective in our strategy of physical stores,” said Chapuy, who explained that those chosen must have a strong image and give “exceptional experience, where we can provide services. The scale will be reached a lot by online.”
House 99 product prices range from 22 pounds for the 125-ml. bottle of Bold Statement to 18 pounds for the 150-ml. Get Groomed purifying beard scrub and 15 pounds for the 150-ml. Tight Grip fixing spray.
L’Oréal executives did not divulge sales estimates, but industry sources project that House 99 will generate retail sales of $50 million in its first year on counters worldwide.
House 99 introduces a wide-ranging prestige grooming line into L’Oréal’s luxury division, which otherwise has for guys’ skin care Biotherm Homme, which Beckham fronts and ranks first in the men’s facial category globally.
“The men’s grooming market is highly interesting for us because it’s growing and, second, it’s very much a market that attracts the young male target around the world,” said Chapuy.
The worldwide beauty market represents around 210 billion euros, of which the men’s grooming segment makes up about 10 percent and is developing some two- to three-times faster than the 4 percent to 5 percent annually in the overall business.
And the pace is ramping up for many reasons, including the mounting popularity of beards. Today in Europe, for instance, 54 percent of males are bearded, almost double the amount a decade ago, according to Chapuy.
“The number of barber shops in the U.S. is now 60,000 and in Europe it’s 16,000, and they are increasing like crazy,” the executive said.
The rise is due in part to young men’s boundless appetite for all things stylish. “Today four Millennial [males] out of 10 touch up their look during the day,” continued Chapuy, referring to the demographic worldwide. He also noted the explosion in the number of tattoos.
So it’s no surprise that grooming today makes up the lion’s share — or 70 percent — of online beauty-related searches carried out by men.
Chapuy said that while it is generally L’Oréal’s strategy to create new labels under its existing umbrella brands (think Colorista from L’Oréal Paris, for instance), House 99 lent itself well to a different model.
“[Grooming] is a market which is kind of new, so it deserves a new brand. Second, we have the unique opportunity to work with David and [that] deserves creating a brand,” said Chapuy, adding that Beckham himself wanted to develop his own label.
House 99 executives will keep dialoguing with and listening to consumers online to help decide what might be added to the brand.
It is expected to have a strong online presence. “The number-one digital weapon that we are going to use is of course David’s social platforms and his audience,” said Chapuy. “He is very interested in sharing with fans his [grooming] tips and the products he prefers in the range.”
Instagram and Snapchat will play roles, too, in creating buzz and the community of male grooming aficionados.
Beckham said he likes being hands-on with all of his businesses.
Beauty and grooming are essential planks of a strategy to build his own brand. He has, as well, an ongoing fragrance-related partnership with Coty Inc. that began in 2005 with the launch of his first scent, Instinct, and in 2015 Seven Global, a 50-50 joint venture between himself and partner Simon Fuller, was formed with Global Brands Group Holding Ltd. to grow a lifestyle brand.
“There has to be authenticity throughout what we do because it gets very old very quickly if there’s not,” said Beckham. “And people see through that. When you’ve got customers that are loyal to you, passionate about what you do and what you are bringing into the market, you have to respect that.”