Negin Mirsalehi

LONDON — Gisou, the honeybee-based hair-care brand founded by influencer Negin Mirsalehi, is fast making inroads in the U.S., already its largest market, due to a new distribution exclusive with Sephora.

The deal will see Gisou stocked online, and in more than 50 stores. The online launch is set for Aug. 18, with the physical rollout beginning Sept. 1. This is Gisou’s first major retail move since it secured a multimillion-dollar investment from Vaultier7 earlier this year.

An announcement is expected today.

The Netherlands-based Gisou is run by Mirsalehi, an Amsterdam native who hails from an Iranian beekeeping family, and her longtime partner Maurits Stibbe. Mirsalehi began her career as an online influencer and fashion ambassador before launching Gisou as a direct-to-consumer brand.

The brand, which specializes in honey and propolis-based products derived from Mirsalehi’s father’s hives, remains a direct-to-consumer proposition. Although it sells through some physical stores, and across more than 30 markets, the Sephora deal marks its first major retail partnership.

“This is very important, very exciting and a big step for us, especially because we didn’t really have a retail strategy. It was born out of good conversations with Sephora: They are very excited, they understood the brand, and they are very passionate about what we do,” said Mirsalehi, adding that she and Stibbe “spent 24/7 working on the Sephora project” during lockdown.

At the same time, they were also busy fulfilling online orders from customers living and working from home. Stibbe said sales doubled and, in some cases, tripled as consumers focused on at-home hair treatments.

Sephora, which has a two-year exclusive with Gisou, will carry the full range, including the shampoo, conditioner and the hero product: Gisou’s honey-infused hair oil. Gisou has added a set of minis to ensure the range is accessible, and easy for new customers to trial.

The Sephora rollout will start on the East and West Coasts, and move into Canada.

Influencer Negin Mirsalehi, founder of the hair-care brand Gisou.  Photo Courtesy of Gisou

Stibbe said it had been a priority for him and Mirsalehi to connect with customers directly and to build a strong community before thinking seriously about working with a wholesale partner. “And that’s what we’ve done for the past five years. A lot of brands start wholesale immediately, but we first wanted to build the audience, the brand, the products and know they’d be successful when we launched on a bigger scale.”

He said one of the big reasons they decided on Sephora “was that they showed us how they are able to deal with younger, more niche brands in the industry. This really convinced us they were the right party, and it means that our growth will be going so much faster.”

Stibbe added the Sephora deal was also about “raising the awareness in the U.S. market,” and said having access to the retail chain’s community of beauty insiders and buyers would be invaluable. “They can really get to know the brand and support us in different ways,” he said.

Jennifer Lucchese, vice president, merchandising, hair care at Sephora, said the company wanted to work with Gisou because of its “totally unique and authentic ingredient story, with a powerful founder behind it. With Negin Mirsalehi coming from a family of beekeepers, she is the perfect person to bring honey-based hair care to Sephora.”

Gisou products  Photo Courtesy of Gisou

Lucchese said Sephora’s clients “crave products that are innovative and fresh, but they also trust in brands that are grounded in a solid education of a given category or ingredient. Gisou is the perfect example of this.”

Over the past few years, she added, Sephora had seen an increase in the “care” element of hair care, with clients conscious of ingredients that promote hair health.

“It used to be all about the end result, but now clients are thinking critically about how to take care of their hair in the process. Gisou seamlessly fits into this shift with its core ingredients coming from natural sources and its goal to nourish, refresh, hydrate and protect hair. We can’t wait to see it thrive at Sephora.”

Mirsalehi’s formulations are inspired by her father and her mother alike.

Gisou’s honey-infused hair oil was originally developed by Mirsalehi’s mother, who made it at home and used it on all of the family’s hair.

“For Gisou, we had to produce a larger quantity and change a few ingredients, but the most important thing — the honey — is always there,” said Mirsalehi in an interview earlier this year. “For me, what’s important is that [the oil] is not heavy, and that it’s multipurpose. I use it when I come out of the shower and before I blow-dry. But I also use it as a finishing product, and mix it into my hair mask.”

Gisou products  Photo Courtesy of Gisou

Honey from Mirsalehi’s father’s hives in the Netherlands countryside will always sit at the heart of the products — and there is no danger that it will run out, she said.

“From a sustainability point of view, but also because of how strong honey is — you don’t need that much. Also, bees need to feed themselves with honey, so we only take the surplus from the hives. Because of all the antioxidants and vitamins, and because honey is a natural humectant, the oil is very good for the moisture levels in your hair.”

The aim, over the next two years, is to sell in all Sephora stores in the U.S.

As reported, the company’s aim is to generate more than $100 million in revenue over the next three years, boosted by the Vaultier7 investment. In addition to expanding in the U.S., the aim is to deepen the product offer, and forge tighter relationships with the brand’s online community.

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