Procter & Gamble has entered the fast-growing prestige hair care market with an agreement to acquire Ouai, celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin’s hair care and lifestyle brand.
Atkin launched the hair care line in 2016 with a minimalist aesthetic and sophisticated scents. She gradually expanded it into body products, fragrances, candles, lifestyle products and merch.
Atkin, who counts the Kardashian-Jenners, Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber as clients, said the plan is for Ouai to continue to grow and expand under P&G ownership. The entire Ouai team is expected to stay on with the company — Atkin will remain as founder and chief creative officer, and Colin Walsh will stay on as chief executive officer.
“The past few weeks [I’ve] been going through my original notebooks, and things I wanted to do that wasn’t done,” Atkin said. “The first thing was community and a socially connected brand. That has been kind of our driver because we just had that intimate relationship with our consumer from Day One.”
Atkin has 4.2 million followers on Instagram and is known, via Ouai, for connecting with consumers to survey them about product thoughts and preferences.
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“We were never trying to emulate a model that already existed,” Atkin said. “You know, we’ve always kind of been in our own lane. We have gone against trends, things that you know, were very popular in hair care as far as design and ingredients. And I think just, the fact that we have always done our best to create alongside our consumer, I think that’s been really appreciated,” Atkin said. “And, we make good merch.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but industry sources said Ouai is projecting more than $50 million in net sales for 2021, and more than $80 million for 2022. The transaction has not closed, and will require regulatory approval.
As previously reported by WWD, Jefferies advised Ouai on the deal.
“We spent many, many, many hours and, you know, really thought about who was going to be the best partner for Ouai and you know, we’re a brand that is so committed to not only just making really high-quality products, but having a voice and doing good in the world,” Atkin said. “I was so shocked and really pleasantly surprised at all the work that P&G has been doing and their commitment to responsible beauty and sustainability and quality, inclusion, well-being.”
Walsh, a L’Oréal veteran who joined Ouai in 2018, said that Ouai and P&G align when it comes to innovation. “That passion for innovation P&G’s always been famous for is something that’s really something we’re passionate about and excited about,” Walsh said.
The team plans to continue launching new products and expand or deepen its presence in new geographies. “As we look to the future, certainly continuing to innovate in the categories we play in, expanding into markets, either where we’ve started or we’ve never been. So I think those two giant superpowers can be a great help to us as we progress,” Walsh said.
As far as new products and categories go, Atkin said, “the sky’s the limit.”
“Jen and Colin will be the people truly leading, defining the brand’s expansion and those type of things, but I do I do personally see, and I know that they do, a geographical expansion of that core brand and its core offering as a great opportunity,” said Alex Keith, CEO of P&G Beauty.
For P&G, Ouai represents a move ione of beauty’s fastest-growing categories in the U.S. for years. The NPD Group said prestige hair care grew 36 percent in the most recent quarter to nearly $620 million.
“We have been, you know, on an ongoing basis evaluating our portfolio and looking at brands that we think can help fill gaps in our portfolio and certainly the the prestige segment of beauty, skin care, hair care are big areas of growth. More and more consumers are really looking to brands in that space, and we had a gap in that portfolio particularly in hair care, we have fantastic brands, fantastic core brands, but they are not in the prestige hair space,” said Keith.
She called Ouai a “beautiful” brand, and said that what Atkin and Walsh have built is “unique” in the prestige hair space. The deal comes shortly after P&G agreed to acquire prestige skin care business Farmacy.
“It’s so authentic, it’s got such a transparent, authentic, beautiful tone of voice that comes from Jen, of course, and because of that, one of the most highly connected communities of people who are passionate about the brand out of many brands that I’ve seen. There’s many things to like about the brand,” Keith said.
Like all of P&G Beauty’s recent acquisitions, Ouai will continue operating separately, without being fully integrated into the P&G business. “We have been pretty happy with our recent acquisitions, whether it be First Aid Beauty or Native and Walker & Co., letting the founder and/or CEO really continue to run the business in the way that made it successful and attractive to us in the first place,” Keith said.
When Atkin and Walsh told the Ouai team the news on Thursday, Atkin said she referenced Virgil Abloh, who was her friend.
“I had to reference my good friend, Virgil Abloh, who we just lost,” Atkin said. “He did really big things, and I actually got to tell him about this … I idolized him, and I got to tell him thank you for the doors that he opened.”
For more from WWD.com, see:
Procter & Gamble Buys Farmacy Beauty
P&G Beauty’s Alex Keith Talks Grace Under Fire