LONDON — BlueGem Capital Partners, owner of Liberty London, is leaping into the beauty M&A arena with the acquisition of a majority stake in the indie makeup brand Iconic London, known for its illuminators, contouring and highlighting products and Instagram-friendly formulations.
BlueGem did not disclose the terms of the deal, but said that Jade Elliott, a former makeup artist who founded the company three-and-a-half years ago from her home in Essex, England, will stay on full-time to build the brand.
The plan is to quadruple sales, which are understood to be under 10 million pounds, and begin distributing in the U.S., which is already Iconic’s second-largest market. The new investment will also see the launch of new product, and further geographical expansion.
Elliott said she started Iconic to fill a gap in the market for a “fun and rebellious” — and affordable — makeup range. She started the brand alone, from her bedroom. “I quit my job, sold my car and used that money to buy a small batch of contour palettes, and Iconic was born. I had such a strong vision, it didn’t seem like I was really taking a risk. I could see that there weren’t any brands that really spoke to me, or to my friends. There wasn’t anything that was young and cool, but still glamorous,” she said in an interview.
She added that her vision was to create a brand that was like Chanel’s younger sister, “classic, high quality, chic and sexy but trend-led, cool and a bit rebellious. I also knew that social media was making it possible for start-ups like me to take on big brands. I could see that Instagram was going to be huge, and big companies couldn’t react quickly enough. It felt like the world’s biggest department store had opened and no one had really cottoned on yet. I wanted to see Iconic used by top makeup artists and loved by millions and I have loved seeing that vision come into reality.”
The Iconic deal is the second that BlueGem has done in the past nine months, having in October acquired QMS Medicosmetics, a German skin-care and spa brand founded by Dr. Erich Schulte in 1986. Beauty business expert Selma Terzic, whose resume includes MAC Cosmetics, St. Tropez and Sanctuary brands, serves as chief executive officer of both companies, and is vetting future beauty acquisitions for BlueGem, whose larger portfolio includes Jack Wills and The Private Clinic of Harley Street, which offers cosmetic and aesthetic treatments and surgery.
In an interview, Terzic said BlueGem is looking for premium brands in the beauty space, and the aim is to take them global before selling them in a three- to five-year timeframe.
QMS Medicosmetics retails at stores including Liberty and at KaDeWe in Berlin, and is used by high-end spas worldwide, while Iconic London is stocked at Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser, Fortnum & Mason and Cult Beauty, and its own web site. Customers include Kim Kardashian, Chrissy Teigen, Jennifer Lopez and the Duchess of Sussex.
Iconic’s Elliott has built her trend-led brand around her audience, who are mostly in their mid-20s. She reformulates product based on consumer feedback, and pitches the merchandise as premium, but accessible. The hero product, the Illuminator, costs 30 pounds while the Prep-set-glow spray starts at 16 pounds. Iconic also says its makeup is cruelty-free, while the brushes and the illuminator are vegan.
The brand’s 20 to 30 stockkeeping units are meant to work on all skin tones. According to the brand, the Prep-set-glow spray sold out within six hours of launch last April, and has since sold consistently every 60 seconds worldwide. The U.K. is Iconic’s biggest market, generating 60 percent of sales, followed by the U.S. with 30 percent. The Middle East is also a growing market for the brand.
Elliott said the investment means that growth will be accelerated from a retail, product, sourcing and staffing point of view.
“BlueGem will be bringing a lot of experience and support to this area of the business and lots of amazing things are already in the pipeline,” Elliott said. “I have always been obsessed with sourcing the best quality products, and having this investment will mean we can launch more products and sku’s, and offer our customers more choice and innovation.”
She said there are also plans to increase the staff and stay “at the forefront of social media.”