Odile Roujol

A pandemic may not be the ideal time to start a new venture fund for beauty and fashion start-ups, but Odile Roujol is going for it anyway.

The Frenchwoman, who moved to the U.S. four years ago and currently lives in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, decided about a year ago to launch her own fund, dubbed FAB Ventures, to focus on new direct-to-consumer brands in the fashion and beauty space.

She has decades of experience in both worlds, with early stints in branding at Chanel, marketing at Yves Saint Laurent and then L’Oréal, where she spent several years as chief executive officer of Lancôme. After that she moved on to work in telco in France before moving into digital advisory and angel investing, eventually deciding her own U.S. venture was the way to go. It’s grown out of her earlier formation of Fashion and BeautyTech Forum.

“It didn’t take that long to launch from when I decided, but especially with COVID-19, I’m excited all my investors kept on,” Roujol said. A spokeswoman for FAB would not name the current investors in the fund.

FAB Ventures just closed its first round for what will be a $10 million fund focused on clean beauty and wellness, sustainable luxury fashion and Femtech. The amount of the fund may not be especially eye-popping, but with the contracting pace of investment in a formerly white hot beauty market and the long-contracting level of investment in start-up fashion and retail, Roujol’s fund will be one of the only out there actively focused on new fashion and beauty companies.

“The new rules of the game are not to raise too much money and then slowly add sku’s — you need to have great products,” she said. “Honestly, I’m not trying to build unicorns. I’m trying to help founders be successful in seven to 10 years. Then the founder, the employees and the corporations that come in will all win.”

Roujoul admitted that part of her concept for FAB Ventures is running a “lean organization,” so one that doesn’t need hundreds of millions of dollars to invest heavily in this or that company.

Her first investments are Stix, a company focused on women’s health that currently provides pregnancy and ovulation tests; Bloomi, a multibrand marketplace for sexual wellness products; a clean beauty line from Dr. Elsa Jungman; KhairPep, a hair-care line; Very Good Light, a web site focused on beauty product reviews; FoxEye, an automated system for eyelash extensions, and Thousand Fell, a shoe brand manufactured through a closed loop system of recycled materials. Roujol expects to take on around 15 investments in all. 

Her investments so far have gotten checks of between $50,000 and $450,000, with the average being $250,000. Generally speaking, she sees the era of $1 billion valuations for beauty companies as over and wants brands that can operate successfully, working toward profitability within at least a few years. She sees the time of neverending outside investment as over, too.

“The people that struggle have been the companies that spend so much money in just a few years,” Roujol said. “The big corporations now, knowing them well, they are not ready to spend $1.2 billion, $1.5 billion on such a brand like Glossier.”

For her money, Roujol wants smaller brands that are avowedly direct-to-consumer and have as part of their operations community interaction and then related collecting and acting on owned consumer data. But she also wants beauty brands with a clean wellness angle and fashion brands with a sustainable focus, as well as brands that are founded by women and people of color.

As for why it’s been historically difficult for women and people of color to find success in the VC community and get traction with investors, “it’s very simple” to Roujol. “Most VC’s, they have a tech background and it’s not that they don’t like women, but they stay at their comfort level, and that’s people like them.” So, mainly white men with computer science degrees.

But even outside of her own fund, Roujol sees some progress within the VC community, mainly because of new quotas on diverse hires at the board and partner level that have been put in place at many companies.

“There is still a long way to go, of course,” Roujol said. “But I’m investing in a diverse profile of founders because that’s what drives innovation.”