Robin Burns-McNeill is shifting gears.
Having been an influential player in the beauty industry dating back to the 1983 launch of Calvin Klein’s Obsession, she and partner Sam Ghusson have formed Butterfly Beauty LLC, which will house a portfolio of designer brands, including Derek Lam, Derek Lam 10 Crosby, Elizabeth and James, and Robert Graham.
Burns-McNeill said she is focused on working in an entrepreneurial style to build businesses “outside the traditional box.”
“I love brands, but brands have to be aspirational and relevant and truly innovative,” she said.
That requires a fresh approach. When it comes to Millennials, for instance, Burns-McNeill said the communication has to be done “in an unusual way.”
Derek Lam agreed, adding [the arrangement with Butterfly will give the partners a freedom to create, and consider all of the possibilities. In keeping with the image of his brands, he indicated that he is free to consider all the possibilities — such as a wardrobe of fragrances or a signature scent — then present something new. He also suggested that products and categories could be matched in ways different from the past. Lam had dabbled in beauty in the past by creating one-shot fragrances for fashion shows and seasonal color stories for the Estée Lauder brand, but this is his first formal partnership in beauty.
Lam said he has been interested in beauty in the past, but lacked the right opportunity and partner. “I think we have those covered,” he said. “Now it’s about producing powerful products.”
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Butterfly comes on the heels of the formation of Christian Louboutin Beauté, a joint venture created in May 2012 between Burns-McNeill, Ghusson and Christian Louboutin SA. The new company, spearheaded by general manager Catherine Roggero, launched its first product, a luxury-priced nail polish, last July.
Butterfly has a broad canvas to work with and a mission to market and distribute fashion, luxury and lifestyle beauty brands globally, and work in the areas of prestige fragrance, color cosmetics, home fragrances, facial skin-care, body-care, hair-care and personal-care products.
The relationships with the designers take different forms. Butterfly has a joint venture with Derek Lam and licenses with Elizabeth and James, and Robert Graham.
Butterfly Beauty will be run by Ginny Wright, the general manager. She previously was with L’Oréal USA for more than six years, as leader of divisions and categories, a number of the European brands in the L’Oréal Luxe working with European brands like Viktor & Rolf and Diesel. She oversaw the growth of Lancôme at Sephora as vice president, national accounts. Before that, as vice president of global marketing and product development for Ralph Lauren Fragrances, Wright spearheaded the launch of Polo Red, the hottest launch of 2013.
An additional element in the structure is the relationship between the designer brands and Batallure Beauty LLC, the personal-care and development company that was founded by Burns-McNeill and Ghusson in 2006 as a creator of private label brands. Burns-McNeill pointed out that Butterfly will form the headquarters platform for sales and marketing of the designers brands, while Batallure serves as the development and production arm for the brands.
One of the first projects will be the Elizabeth and James master brand, Nirvana Black and White, which will be distributed globally in partnership with Kendo Brands, part of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which has a license to market the fragrances inside Sephora. Butterfly has the license to distribute and market Nirvana Black and White and other fragrances created by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen outside the perfumery chain on a global basis. Burns-McNeill said all the Elizabeth and James products will be produced in collaboration with Kendo.
Later this year and early in 2016, Butterfly plans to market the scents in high-end North American department stores. The fragrances also will be sold on Web sites and the retail rollout will continue in the U.K. and Europe in late 2016 and into 2017. Burns-McNeill described the relationship with Kendo and the agreement to distribute the design duo’s fragrances outside of Sephora as “not dilutive but incremental.”
Butterfly also plans to launch a men’s fragrance collection by men’s wear label Robert Graham and a women’s scent collection under the Derek Lam 10 Crosby brand, both in spring 2016.
Wright said the Lam collection will be aimed the 10 Crosby customer base — “affluent Millennials” aged 25 to 35.