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Beauty brand for the Instagram generation

"Women today have different needs than we have had in the past, but beauty companies haven't necessarily been the most reactive to that," says Emily Weiss who launched the skincare and cosmetics brand in 2014. "We wanted to create a very democratic movement, and the channels most fitting that goal were direct, digital ones."

There are beauty brands that consider social media when they develop marketing campaigns. And then there’s Glossier, the cult favorite skincare company that designs its products hoping – knowing, even – that young women will want to post their purchases on Instagram.

Take Glossier’s $22 face masks, the two-year-old brand’s highest-rated product in terms of customer reviews. Its pastel-hued jars were conceived with smartphone photography in mind.

“We spent an enormous amount of time with an illustrator designing a really ornate, colorful illustration and sticker for the top of the product,” said Emily Weiss, the company’s founder and CEO. “You’re so excited to see that and take it out and take a picture of it, like you would food — the perspective of holding your iPhone over a plate of food.”

Glossier’s tightly edited product line, all of which retails below $30, includes go-to items like a priming moisturizer, easy-to-apply skin tint and a cleanser that was formulated based on consumer feedback from Emily’s “Into the Gloss” blog. The brand’s chic pink-and-white packaging was designed with the visually obsessed Instagram set in mind and can be seen in many an influencer’s feed.

Have a look at the #Glossier hashtag on Instagram and it’s clear Weiss had the right idea. The brand’s millennial fan base is so devoted that its products regularly have waiting list in the tends of thousands. They buy $60 sweatshirts with the company’s name across the chest. Traditional luxury beauty brands can only dream of inspiring that sort of loyalty.

The Into The Gloss blog started as a side project in 2010 when Weiss was a fashion assistant at Vogue. She’d work on Into The Gloss between 4am and 7am every morning, doing photo shoots on weekends.

“There was a full year between the launch of Into The Gloss and when I quit my day job,” she said. “I think that’s important in an era when there are a lot of inspirational quotes on Instagram telling you to follow your dreams and seize the day.”

How it started

Weiss has spent the past four years snooping in the medicine cabinets and makeup cases of some of the world’s most successful and stylish women. The 29-year-old started her beauty website Into The Gloss in 2010, setting aside the hours of 4am through 8am to write up interviews for her side project then heading to her job at Vogue as a fashion assistant.

A few months in, it was clear Into The Gloss — profitable from day one thanks to advertising — had become Weiss’ full-time job. She left Condé Nast after seven years to run what has become a must-read for beauty buffs, with some 10 million page views a month and a loyal following (Weiss says 60% of Into The Gloss readers return “almost every day”).

It’s the site’s Top Shelf feature in particular that’s been responsible for both Into The Gloss’ success and, now, Weiss’ move from beauty editor to makeup entrepreneur.

She’s looked inside the bathrooms and vanity drawers of women like supermodel Amber Valletta, Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon and Jenna Lyons, J. Crew’s president and creative director and the style-crush of many a millennial. She reports back on their go-to moisturizers and lipstick shades as well as divulging their tips and tricks, from hiding dark eye circles to keeping skin hydrated on an airplane.

In her four years growing Into The Gloss, Weiss has learned not just what sorts of products these influencers swear by, but also what they’re missing — what they wish existed, and what gaps need filling in this quarter of a trillion dollar industry that is, after all, still led by staid French giant L’Oreal and its American counterpart EstĂ©e Lauder.

“It hasn’t changed in years,” said Weiss of the beauty sector. “Rather than cutting through the noise of all the brands out there, let’s create a brand that reflects what women want right now.”

After raising $2 million in venture capital funding 2013 to grow her team, Weiss set out to create a line of must-have beauty products, working closely with a California-based chemist.

In October, after months of quiet sourcing and testing, Weiss and her team launched Glossier, a beauty brand for the Instagram generation: chic without being complicated, and with an aspirational but cool social media presence.

For now, Glossier is sold exclusively on its own e-commerce platform, although Weiss set up a pop-up shop on New York’s hip Lafayette Street in Soho for the launch of the company’s first capsule collection, four skincare essentials sold as a set for a relatively inexpensive $80.

While the packaging is unadorned, each batch comes with a set of stickers, that look suspiciously like the Japanese emoji characters so beloved of the iPhone crowd. “We’re not creating a frivolous product,” she said. “You’ll use it every single day.”

“I’m thinking, what would I like as a 29-year-old, as a beauty consumer?” Weiss said. “I’m a woman. We have a lot of female employees. We really support women, and this is for girls. Glossier girls want to have fun, we want to work hard. We want to build useful things.”

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