Just 13 months old, Virtue Labs is expanding beyond its direct-to-consumer roots. Virtue, a hair-care line that targets and treats underlying damage to tresses, added HSN in December. Later this month, Virtue comes full circle with the launch of 30 Bluemercury physical doors.
DTC, explained Melisse Shaban, founder and chief executive officer of Virtue Labs, was the perfect launchpad because the platform afforded the chance to tell a relatively complicated story. Shaban, the former ceo of Strivectin Operating Company and Frédéric Fekkai, wasn’t planning on spearheading another beauty company when she came across work that was being done to harvest keratin from human hair.
Alpha keratin 60ku, a patented form of the human protein keratin that was developed in the study of regenerative medicine to help heal soldiers with catastrophic battlefield injuries. “Unlike other ‘keratins’ on the market, which are harshly processed animal by-product, Alpha Keratin 60ku is carefully extracted from human hair and kept whole and fully functional,” Shaban said. Research she shared shows it has a benefit for bone, tissue and nerve regeneration, and by chance, it was also determined to have enormous benefit for repairing damaged hair.
The storytelling helped kick off Virtue’s sales, she explained. “At Virtue, we believe we should invest in the consumer before we expect that she invests in us and we are experiencing extremely encouraging KPI’s [key performance indicators] as a result. It is early days, but our repeat purchase rate is more than 35 percent,” said Shaban. “We have a high cost of goods and a complicated story to tell.”
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In its first year in business, Virtue seeded the market through sampling for customer trial. “We gained some traction, and the brand started to resonate with more women purchasing and repurchasing. We debuted the brand on HSN in December with a sellout performance — it’s a great platform for storytelling and communicating our key point of difference.”
Following her belief that brands need to be sold where consumers want to find them, Shaban’s goal has been to incorporate owned e-commerce, TV shopping, the professional salon channel and physical stores.
“We’re in more than 100 salons today, and we expect to quadruple our presence in that channel,” she said, noting that the brand will continue to be on HSN and extends to broaden the scope of the Bluemercury distribution throughout the year. “But the bottom line is that we’re not in a rush to be everywhere by tomorrow. We want each channel to be healthy and balanced across the portfolio. And we believe very strongly in a commitment to the end user. Much of what she deals with can be emotional and erode confidence. This product can help people. We don’t take this lightly,” she explained.
Last month, Virtue launched its first new item in more than a year, a Restorative Treatment Mask. It features Alpha Keratin 60ku technology and skin-care-quality moisturizers to rehabilitate dull, damaged hair. “Perhaps the most amazing thing about it is that, unlike other masks, it is so fast-acting — only two minutes in the shower — and it absolutely will not weigh your hair down at all.” The mask retails for $28.
“Hair health is a major trend. Women are wearing hair longer and adopting an individual style that suits her personality and personalizes her look. At the same time, though, women are recognizing that healthy hair is the most beautiful hair, and that increasingly we are creating tremendous damage to get a particular look. Fortunately, we now have real technology to help,” Shaban said. She also pointed to growing interest in scalp health coupled with an “epidemic” of hair thinning and loss. “We’re looking at ways to harness our technology to provide some help on all those fronts,” she said.