Sephora has taken note of Bee Shapiro’s Ellis Brooklyn, the New York Times contributing columnist’s line of scented lotions, candles and as of next month, fragrance. The retailer is set to launch Ellis Brooklyn eau de parfum online on Sept. 6.
For Shapiro, who launched Ellis Brooklyn at Shen Beauty last summer and purposefully formulates her line in small batches for a luxurious, artisanal feel, choosing to launch her perfumes at Sephora means access to a much broader reach of customers — “I hate to say Millennials, but people who are interested in new brands and beauty trends,” said Shapiro, who writes about beauty and style. “Sephora has done niche really well, using their assets to connect with people on social media and online editorial. They’re able to tell a small company’s story.” As part of the launch plan, Ellis Brooklyn will be promoted on Sephora’s social media platforms and its blog, The Sephora Glossy. As of press time, Sephora had 8.5 million followers on Instagram.
Shapiro’s four scents were formulated by Jérôme Epinette of Robertet, who also developed the fragrance for the Ellis Brooklyn body milks and candles. The fragrances come in one size — 50-millileter — and are priced at $100 each. Shapiro plans to introduce a rollerball, along with two new scents, next year.
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Three of the scents have been used previously in the line as candles, body milks or both, and one — Myth — is entirely new. Shapiro described Myth as a “modern blend” of jasmine, tiger orchid and white cedarwood. Myth also contains ambrette seeds, which Shapiro noted are traditionally a medicinal ingredient.
Fable, which has a heart of petitgrain, violet and honeysuckle and is finished off with top notes of neroli and black currant was born out of Shapiro’s desire for a new take on neroli-based scent. “It’s a likable flower but it can come off very heavy,” said Shapiro. “We used a high-quality neroli and petitgrain but didn’t overdo it.”
Rrose is Shapiro’s take on a rose scent, and harnesses Centifolia rose petals that are harvested from rose fields in Bulgaria and Turkey through Robertet’s sustainable rose program. “Any [scent] that’s woods-oriented, we look for sustainability,” said Shapiro. The base of patchouli found in Raven was harvested via Robertet’s sustainable sandalwood and patchouli program in Indonesia.
Shapiro told WWD that she always planned to launch Ellis Brooklyn fragrance, but didn’t want to start off with it. “It’s hard to make an impact in fragrance right away, and the way I like to wear [scent] today is I like to layer, so I started with the body milk first.” Shapiro observed that the practice of dousing oneself in heavy perfume during the workday is a passé concept—the hip Williamsburg moms she knows prefer to layer. “If you want to go out late at night, you can do the body milk during the day for work and the fragrance after work for evening,” she told WWD.
Keeping the line natural was of utmost importance. “I wanted to create a healthier fragrance,” Shapiro said of her scents. Using high-quality ingredients was top of mind, as was eliminating the scent of grain alcohol, which is often detected in more natural-leaning perfumes. “Some synthetic [ingredients] leave that stale perfume [scent],” said Shapiro. “I did not want that.” For future formulas, Shapiro is experimenting with going alcohol-free. “Mustela and Bonpoint have [alcohol-free fragrance] — why can’t adults have that?” she mused.
Shapiro sees her line as more of a lifestyle play than a beauty brand. “I’m approaching this from an editor’s point-of-view,” said Shapiro. “I love the test of, ‘Would you shop there?’” said Shapiro. “Our candles are sold at Anthropologie, [and] I love Anthro.” She plans to expand the product assortment and distribution carefully, as her day-to-day business is a two-person-operation — her sister was recruited to handle operations and logistics — and she still maintains her day job at the Times. Ellis Brooklyn is also sold at Barney’s, Credo Beauty, Net-a-porter, on nordstrom.com and in various small boutiques, including Alder & Co. in Portland, Ore., and Kirna Zabete here in New York.