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Thirteen Lune’s Nyakio Grieco, Patrick Herning on Helping Brands Blossom

The concept store, which is rolling out in J.C. Penney doors next year, aims to offer growth opportunities for brands in its dynamic assortment.

Nyakio Grieco may have relied on her nearly two decades of experience as a brand founder when creating Thirteen Lune. But it was her childhood she thought of when, 90 days after launching, J.C. Penney Co. Inc. called to inquire about adding shops-in-shop to its stores nationwide.

“As a little girl, growing up in Oklahoma, it’s where we took our family portraits, and it’s the one place that my mom could get her makeup shade,” Grieco said.

So when Thirteen Lune, the retail concept, Grieco launched online in 2020 with business partner Patrick Herning, teamed up with the retailer, it was truly a full-circle moment. Thirteen Lune started with 13 brands and a commitment to fill out its assortment with 90 percent Black-founded ones. Today, it has more than 100 brands in its matrix, she told attendees during a fireside chat with Herning and WWD’s Allison Collins.

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“For us, it was such a powerful opportunity to really cement what it is we are here to do,” Grieco said. “Our model always involved the brick-and-mortar channel, but getting a call from J.C. Penney 90 days after we launched definitely accelerated our plans.”

Herning and Grieco’s mission statement was also ignited by the murder of George Floyd. The pair wanted to alleviate the inequities in the landscape for BIPOC founders, by creating a wide-reaching assortment that would appeal to a broad range of consumers.

“We bring both our 90 percent BIPOC brands, as well as our ally brands, and everybody is highlighted,” Grieco said of the shop-in-shop concept Thirteen Lune is introducing with J.C. Penney. “I had this big fear after the death of George Floyd that somehow we were going to recreate segregation in the beauty aisle space, and we were deeply committed to honoring our allies while highlighting our BIPOC founders.”

Herning said one key obstacle faced by Black-founded brands is the notion that their products only work on deeper or melanated skin tones. “There are platforms that highlight Black founders for Black and brown people, and the most important differentiating factor is we’re celebrating BIPOC-founded beauty brands whose products resonate and work with people of all colors,” he said.

Grieco herself founded her eponymous beauty line, Nyakio, in 2002, in homage to her Kenyan heritage. Although her business had its own peaks and valleys, she also wanted to leverage her experience to pave the way for other brand founders.

“You know, [the J.C. Penney partnership] was an opportunity to bring some of our brands to national retail for the first time ever. It took me a very, very long time to launch with a national retailer, and the goal for me personally was to help our partners get to success much quicker,” she said.

Creating a harmonious assortment did require a lot of intention, Herning said. “We’re always about curation, we’re always about the edit, we’re always about discovery and a lot of our brands are new, and that’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “This site really is meant to create growth opportunities for our brands. It’s never going to be a site with 500 brands, but it’s about ensuring that we’ve got an assortment, we’ve got discovery, we’ve got excitement, and it’s not cannibalizing itself.”

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