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Honest Beauty Debuts in Europe

Jessica Alba’s beauty line launches today in Italy through an exclusive agreement with the Douglas perfumery chain.

MILAN — With a charming smile and a love declaration to Italy, Jessica Alba on Thursday marked the debut of her beauty line into the European market.

Wrapped in a summery, beige and orange floral printed dress, the actress-cum-entrepreneur presented her Honest Beauty color cosmetics and skin-care range, which will be exclusively distributed in Europe by the German perfumery chain Douglas.

In particular, the label debuted today on the retailer’s Italian e-store and will hit its local brick-and-mortar units starting June 24.

“We’re launching this concept in Italy first as it’s at the forefront of the beauty industry, always thinking two or three steps ahead, and I think this is the perfect partnership to bring this clean beauty concept and brand to Europe,” Alba said.

“This is a double win for us,” echoed Douglas Italia chief executive officer Fabio Pampani. “Our exclusive agreement to distribute the brand in Europe dates back to last year, then eight months ago we had a meeting with Jessica and her team in Milan, we showed her how we manage the retail and work with our clients and we offered to be the first [subsidiary] to rollout her line,” he said, noting how “Italy is acknowledged in the world for its beauty, style and good taste.”

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The actress will be involved in three meet-and-greet events in Milan, Bologna and Rome during the weekend to introduce her line’s clean concept and products to Douglas’ clients. The label will be immediately available in 150 doors of the retail chain and hit the shelves of 450 Douglas units in Italy in the next few months.

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“This is our plus, having a widespread presence across the country,” noted Pampani. As reported, the group made a series of purchases in 2017, including the key acquisition of Leading Luxury Group, the parent company of Limoni and La Gardenia, Italy’s two biggest selective beauty chains in terms of door count with around 500 stores between them. Thanks to the deal, the German beauty retailer’s sale points in the market climbed from 100 doors to 600 units, employing 2,500 people overall. Incidentally, the same year Douglas acquired the Spanish perfumery chains Perfumerias If and Bodybell. Now the beauty giant has a selection of more than 35,000 products sold through 2,400 doors in 21 European countries.

After Italy, Honest Beauty will be available at the retailer’s units in Germany, Austria, Poland, France and the Netherlands.

“Having the number-one beauty retailer in Europe providing accessibility to our products throughout these markets is an outstanding opportunity,” reiterated Nick Vlahos, chief executive officer of the beauty label’s parent company Honest Co., which was cofounded by Alba in 2012 in an effort to create safe, effective and nontoxic personal-care products.

Vlahos underscored the importance of having the right partner to understand the local consumers’ needs and “have a great pulse of what’s going on in every market.” The agreement between the two companies is also key to raise Honest Beauty’s brand awareness in Europe, according to the ceo.

“We have been really strategic in working with Douglas to make sure that each country feels really empowered and gets to mold and shape the messaging and the go-to-market strategy that works for them,” Alba said. “It doesn’t need to be done in an American way. The reason why we are partnering with local folks is because they know their market, and we are not ignorant or arrogant enough to think that we know everything, and so we developed this strategy really working hand-in-hand with Douglas for each specific country.”

Accelerating distribution is part of Honest Company’s new era, launched last year when the firm inked a deal for a $200 million investment from L Catterton.

As reported, that minority investment gave the brand the capital to revamp the line with a streamlined assortment of products, lower prices and a new, modernized matte white packaging accented with pops of blush pink, in addition to supporting its global growth plans.

Honest Beauty.
Honest Beauty. Courtesy Photo

“We have so much incoming calls from Middle East and South America, but also from Asia and Africa, many different places in the world where people want a brand that stands for the values that the modern person has and for us it’s just about launching in a thoughtful way, learning about each marketplace and doing it carefully with respect,” Alba said about possible next expansion plans.

“We are going to be very methodical as we want to do it in the right way, we are not interested in just driving distribution for the sake of driving distribution but we want to bring the values around the brand’s product, performance and concept of safety,” echoed Vlahos.

Accelerating in innovation is primary, for the moment. Since Vlahos joined the company in 2017, Honest has added beauty-specific in-house labs in its Santa Monica headquarters, one dedicated to color cosmetics and one to skin care.

“What we create we actually do it in-house, so to be able to have your own labs inside of our offices, it really enables us to create formulas that have never been brought to market before,” said Alba, underscoring the importance of providing also a safe and welcoming environment for employees, including working parents and women, whose number grew to account more than 50 percent of the workforce. In particular, the beauty research and development department currently enrolls 22 people while overall the company counts around 200 employees.

“We have a cadence of innovation that we are going to introduce: Every three to six months there’s going to be new news both in the skin space as well as color, so we’ll have some consistent innovation to meet consumers’ needs,” Vlahos said.

The ceo also sees the opportunity for potential category expansion, as he considers Alba’s holistic approach one that can offer opportunities to develop “a lifestyle type brand that can have a bright future not just for seven years but for the next 20, 50, 100 years.”

Looking back to the past decade, Alba noticed that since the Honest Co. was established, consumers — especially Gen Z and young Millennials — evolved to “want more out of a company.” The entrepreneur identifies in her firm a range of assets new generations are demanding, as they “want quality ingredients, transparency, female founders, true equality inside the corporate environment and opportunity, and they believe that it should be integrity from the way that you operate the business all the way to the products that you are putting out in the marketplace.”

To better convey the messages behind Honest Beauty’s clean philosophy, Douglas Italia has launched training classes for its sales assistants prior the arrival of the label in the market. “It’s a product that needs to be explained, it has many assets that need to be understood and tried,” explained Pampani.

The launch of Honest Beauty is part of a wider strategy Douglas implemented to upper the ante in the Italian market offering niche brands and capsule collection in exclusive. Emerging labels recently added in Douglas’ assortment include Miranda Kerr’s Kora Organics; Starskin and Sys, among others. As reported, last month, Douglas also had the exclusive on Lancôme x Chiara Ferragni capsule’s distribution, and earlier this year, it launched a limited-edition line developed by top model Amber Valletta for its Douglas makeup brand.

“The scouting process is implemented with our German colleagues, we have specialists in tracking trends and for sure this natural and ethic beauty is one destined to stay,” said Pampani, adding that the retailer will continue to offer these exclusives that currently “account for 25 percent of our sales.” In the fiscal year ended in September 2018, Douglas Italia revenues reached 454 million euros.

“We will work to keep this percentage constant, as we also have established brands in our assortment. But I believe it’s also fair that these big names understand that there are emerging entrepreneurs offering products of great quality. These are phenomenon that will help established labels to improve and step up their game in terms of product and distribution,” he concluded.