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Virtue’s Melisse Shaban Talks Explosive Growth of Her Brand

Celebrity colorist Nicola Clarke has been named an ambassador for Virtue.

Virtue Labs is on a torrid growth path, taking its hair-care line that targets and treats underlying damage to hair, well beyond its direct-to-consumer roots. Additionally, the brand just named celebrity colorist Nicola Clarke as a brand ambassador.

Industry sources estimate the brand is on track to deliver $20 million in revenue in 2019.

“Growth is strong for us now because the products are really resonating with the women and the stylists who use them,” said company founder and chief executive officer Melisse Shaban. “The technology in these products is transformational — when you use Virtue you really see and feel a difference in your hair. And the more damaged your hair is to begin with, the better your results will be,” she added.

Here, Shaban discusses the newest developments in the less than two-year-old brand.

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WWD: Can you discuss your new distribution?

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Melisse Shaban: We’re on a real growth curve with distribution right now. We entered 30 Bluemercury stores this past summer, and that number has now grown to 70 stores, with more to come next year.  We will also be entering Neiman Marcus online and in 10 of their Trending Beauty stores in January. In addition, we’re now in 250 salons, and that number keeps growing each and every month.

Internationally, we opened Canada with The Shopping Channel and LAC+CO Salon in Toronto earlier this year. We recently entered the U.K. market in September with CultBeauty online and also in Nicola Clarke’s salon in London. Business has been phenomenal — there was pent-up demand from the attention we’ve received in the States, and customers were ready for it. We’ll be rolling into all 64 Space NK U.K. doors in January with a curated assortment of products, and with the full lineup going into 25 of those doors. Additionally, we’ve had multiple inquiries coming in from Europe, Australia and the Far East. Our challenge is to choose carefully and plan for smart growth and not get too far ahead of ourselves too soon.

Virtue's Melisse Shaban Talks Growth
Nicola Clarke

WWD: You just signed Nicola Clarke as a brand ambassador. Can you expand how she’ll be used?

M.S.: Our brand ambassadors help us in a number of ways. We’ve been very lucky — all of these relationships have emerged organically with talented, well-known stylists and colorists who genuinely love our products and came to us with a desire to be more involved. Nicola Clarke, who is one of the top celebrity colorists in the world right now, is the latest to come on board. She joins our all-star team of creative director Adir Abergel, color director Sharon Dorram, and Buddy Porter, among others.  For a small indie brand, they’re very helpful with training and education to both customers and our growing salon community, and since these are not people that attach their names to brands easily, their audiences know there’s authenticity there.

WWD: What are the biggest challenges in the category right now?

M.S.: As such a young brand, our biggest challenge is awareness. As much as we’ve grown, and as much attention as we’ve received, there are so many potential customers who still have never heard of us. So, continuing to get the word out and getting the products into people’s hands and onto their heads is top of my list.

As for products, we have a very strong innovation program in the works. We’ll be building out our Create styling products with more texture enhancers in the new year and an amazing new Healing Oil coming in spring. There aren’t a million sku’s in the line, and all the products perform. We plan to keep the line relatively tight. We won’t be chasing every trend out there but will always keep our focus on the technology behind the brand and where that technology will make a difference.