NEW YORK — The vision of the late Madam C.J. Walker lives on and will be introduced to a new generation with the national launch of a new hair-care line at select Sephora doors and sephora.com on March 4.
Born in 1867, Walker is credited with being the first self-made woman millionaire in America, an honor she earned selling her homemade hair products directly to black women. Her Walker System met an untapped market in products created for Caucasian tresses and styles.
Now Sundial Brands, which purchased Walker’s company three years ago, hopes to do the same with the creation of Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture, a four-collection, 25 stockkeeping unit launch exclusive to select Sephora doors and sephora.com. The needs-specific formulas fit with Sephora’s goal to build out its prestige hair-care offer, especially ranges for women with textured hair. “Sephora wants to meet the needs of all consumers with the right offer,” explained Richelieu Dennis, founder and ceo of Sundial Brands. Sundial certainly understands what is now dubbed the New General Market having been the impetus for a total overhaul of merchandising in mass stores. This represents the company’s first foray into prestige.
Industry sources estimate the line will achieve sales of $8 million to $10 million in the first year.
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Linking Walker to other beauty pioneers such as Estée Lauder, Coco Chanel and Helena Rubinstein, Dennis said it is time to tell her story. “Madam C.J. Walker was the first person to devise and scale a business model that addressed hair care and beauty needs of women of color, while also challenging the myopic ideals of the beauty industry at that time,” he said. “We aim to give this brand back to the world in an elevated manner in an authentic brand with a real legacy.”
A’Lelia Bundles, the great-great granddaughter of Walker has worked diligently to tell her ancestor’s story netting a memorial stamp and Walker’s home the distinction of being a national historic landmark. “Now we have the opportunity to not just tell the story, but to also have products that represent the highest quality of our time, just as she did when she founded the company in 1906.”
The launch dovetails with Sephora’s efforts to address hair conditions. “Hair care continues to be a critical focus area for us and a key piece of our category strategy is ensuring we have the most innovative and unique brands to support our client’s hair concerns and needs,” said Priya Venkatesh, vice president of merchandising at Sephora.
The line consists of four collections that address the cleansing, treatment and styling needs of all hair textures. As a natural alternative to silicone, Sundial formulates one of the collections with Brassica Seed oil. Another innovation is dual encapsulation oil technology fusing two natural oils with targeted, time-released nutrients. Prices range from $24 to $32.
Staying true to its roots, Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture adheres to Sundial’s Community Commerce model. “That’s one of the things that attracted me to Sundial,” added Bundles, who feels the company’s culture meshes with her great-great grandmother’s vision.
While Sephora is the exclusive store, Dennis said the company will expand online through sephora.com and its own e-commerce with plans to include an integrated direct-to-consumer marketing opportunity.