Katherine Power Merit Beauty

Katherine Power is unveiling her “most personal project yet.”

The project, Merit Beauty, is a “clean” makeup brand positioned as minimalist luxury beauty. It is the second beauty company from Power, the cofounder and chief executive officer of Who What Wear who brought Versed, a vegan and “clean” skin-care brand sold in drugstores, to market last year.

Merit Beauty will debut in January via its own direct-to-consumer web site that will offer seven products Power considers essential for a five-minute makeup routine — a regimen of hers that she shared with her Instagram following in 2014. The idea for Merit came about when Power was pregnant with her first son.

“I went to use my normal lip products, and I became nauseous instantly,” Power told WWD in a recent Zoom call. After testing a “clean” lip product, she dove further into the category.

“There was a huge opportunity [for] minimalist beauty for women just like myself who are professional and driven and have not a lot of time and want to look like themselves — but better,” Power said. “As a consumer, I didn’t fit into the bronzed and contoured Kardashian, Instagram kind of look, and I was older and maybe a little more professional than a Glossier customer.”

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Merit Beauty, she said, is “the antidote to the 50-[pan] eye shadow [palette].” She defined minimalist beauty as “a holistic approach” that involves paring down both the ingredients list and product offerings. Merit’s products are priced at $38 or less.

Though Power declined to offer a first-year sales projection for Merit Beauty, skin-care brand Versed has experienced a monthly net sales growth of 210 percent from May to September of this year compared to last, according to the company. Versed’s products are sold throughout the U.S., U.K. and Canada.

Entering its 15th year, Who What Wear caters to an audience of 16 million by publishing more than 75 pieces of content a day. Power is the cofounder and ceo of Clique Brands, Who What Wear’s parent company. Earlier this year, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, she cofounded an organic wine brand, Avaline, with Cameron Diaz. Avaline has sold more than 120,000 bottles since its launch.

Power has raised more than $60 million in venture capital and strategic funding for her businesses via investors such as Greycroft, Sonoma Brands, Marcy Ventures, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Albertsons and Amazon.

Production for Merit wasn’t largely impacted by COVID-19, Power said, noting that while a couple of skus are formulated in South Korea, most of the products are made in the U.S.

She incubated the idea for Merit with Who What Wear’s community, finding that women “don’t want it to be super evident that they’re wearing makeup” and would rather be complimented on their skin.

“They want to feel comfortable in daylight or in a conference room lighting and not have iridescence on their cheek,” Power said. “It’s perfect for today, as we’re in a recession. It’s really this idea of less is more, and curating the quality items that have earned a place on your vanity.”

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