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Laura Geller Turns 20, Revamps Business

The brand is set to expand its product assortment and up its distribution.

NEW YORK — Laura Geller founded her namesake brand based on contouring and strobing — two makeup trends that, thanks to social media, have become among the most sought after beauty techniques to master.

“The whole premise of any artist is working with light and dark. It’s how I started my career, and when I was educated, it was all about light and dark. I always say I was in front of the curve, but finally women realize they can embrace it and understand it and it’s part of doing your makeup [now],” Geller said during an interview earlier this month at her headquarters in Midtown Manhattan here.

The very first product Geller created was a highlight and contour palette that she launched on QVC in 1997, still the brand’s biggest retail partner.

Geller noted that once contouring became ubiquitous on social media and a bona-fide trend, women got intimidated and what emerged was highlighting, a combination of the two — what she also referred to as the most significant innovation in the industry since starting her company.

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But what Geller has best become known for over the past two decades is the process of “baking” used to produce many of the products in the range. She didn’t invent the method, which involves the baking of pigments into powders to elicit the most saturated of pigments, but she has innovated in the space.

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“Our point of differentiation was on baked [products] but the world today has evolved past powder, so [our challenge was] how do you take brand that has a point of differentiation in baking and bring it into a wholesale environment with relevant forms?” said Elana Drell-Szyfer, chief executive officer of Laura Geller, noting that the brand has extended baking into lipsticks, concealers and even a wet-to-dry foundation.

Drell-Szyfer, who joined the company in 2014, spearheaded a brand refresh inclusive of new branding, packaging and a logo that’s gradually rolled out across retail. The brand also added “New York” to its name, and goes by Laura Geller New York now. All of this, coupled with the brand’s acquisition by former Revlon ceo Alan Ennis’ strategic start-up, Glansaol, has set the company up to enter into its next phase, she explained. Going forward, Drell-Szyfer said anything baked — as well as Spackle Under Makeup Primer and a range of highlighters including the best-selling Baked Gelato Swirl Illuminator — will be the heroes from a product standpoint.

“The playbook was evolving the brand positioning and making the brand relevant to a wider audience,” Drell-Szyfer continued, adding that the first thing she did as ceo was turn her focus to overhauling the brand’s distribution strategy.

Last year, sales from QVC drove about 75 percent of the business, but this year the shopping network is on track to comprise 45 percent of the brand’s sales because of new wholesale and e-commerce points of sale, including global expansion in the U.K. Points of sale have gone from about 800 doors in 2014 to the current 1,200 doors, including Belk and now two gondolas — up from one — in every Ulta.

The business is projected to grow 25 percent this year, estimated to do close to $90 million in retail sales this year, according to an industry source.

“That doesn’t mean that the QVC business has contracted, [it means] wholesale has expanded more quickly,” Drell-Szyfer clarified, adding that because of a larger presence at retail, it became a priority to update all packaging. “When you are a brand that sells wholesale and online you need a look, logo, merchandising, assets and models. We didn’t have any of that….When you go on QVC and most of your business is there, all you need is a face and the product.”

For the brand, the kick-off for the 20th starts this month with a range of exclusive products launching first on and hitting QVC and retail doors in June. Among them: Baked Gelato Swirl Illuminator and Easy Illuminating Stick in a new shade Diamond Dust; Color Luster Lipgloss in City Lights and a bronzer and foundation duo amongst others. A series of exclusive to QVC sets will also go on sale in June and includes a set of six lipsticks, a 20-shade eyeshadow palette and a nine product collection housed in a pink glitter Train Case.