Modern grooming brand Faculty has raised $3 million in seed funding led by The Esteé Lauder Cos.
The round included participation from RareBreed Ventures, Maple VC, Debut Capital, Creative Connectors, AUFI and 10K Ventures (an affiliate of 10K Projects), as well as entertainers Maisie Williams from HBO series “Game of Thrones” and multiplatinum recording artist Iann Dior (stylized as iann dior).
Founded in 2019 by Umar ElBably and Fenton Jagdeo, Faculty is a cosmetics brand that aims to challenge and redefine traditional masculinity norms and usher in what they define as “third-wave masculinity” — encouraging consumers to define masculinity themselves. The brand currently offers nail lacquer and nail stickers launched in 2020 that are sold out, and is working to expand their product offering with the new funding.
“The first step was to bring on the team,” ElBably said. He added that the funding will also go to marketing, inventory and research and development.
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Though many investors have taken part in the seed funding, the involvement from Lauder is notable considering the company, according to the duo, rarely invests in brands at this early stage.
“Esteé is a great partner,” Jagdeo said. “They allow us to move quickly if we decide to move quickly, and mentorship is crucial. Umar and I are young and we have a passion for building this. The mentorship is going to be incredible.”
ElBably said Faculty’s cache stems from “understanding trend.” And more men have taken to painting their nails as a form of expression, including entertainers Harry Styles, Bad Bunny and A$AP Rocky; actors and models Luka Sabbat and Evan Mock; comedian Pete Davidson, and even Virgil Abloh.
“So many people started to experiment throughout the pandemic,” ElBably said. “It’s turned into a daily routine.”
But it’s more than a trend for ElBably. The cofounder explained that he grew up in a predominantly female household and used to borrow his sisters’ makeup. He also dyed his hair blue at the young age of seven and straightened his hair to mimic Fall Out Boy band member Pete Wentz. His high school and college experiences pressured him suppress his expression, until later in life when he embraced it.
“It shouldn’t be a joke for guys to have a skin care routine,” ElBably said. “I wanted to tell a story with something that didn’t exist. Something that would put me back in those shoes in high school. The first thing I wanted to provide is a platform for men to express themselves. You should have the freedom to be you. We were just able to do it through a dopp kit of makeup products.”
He describes himself and Jagdeo as “outsiders” and “misfits” for not fitting the status quo. Jagdeo, who was a consultant at Deloitte for a period, would give pitches in Yeezy sneakers and snapback caps instead of the expected suit and tie.
“In our various experiences of being misfits, I think we both grew this passion for being an outsider and being an advocate of that,” ElBably said.
The duo joked about meeting for a job interview when Jagdeo interviewed ElBably for a work position, but Jagdeo encouraged ElBably to set out and start his own venture. They would reconnect in reversed roles when ElBably was starting the brand.
Jagdeo said about Faculty and the market, “Gen Z is taking over the world. With $140 billion in buying power, they’re not concerned with stereotypes. They care about self-expression and when you look at A$AP Rocky, Dennis Rodman and Harry Styles, they dabbled in nail polish as a form of expression. This is something the world is experiencing and Faculty is representative as the only brand championing that. We’re not here to be a hyper masculine brand. We need to be open to all forms of masculinity.”
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