The Glossier founder & CEO is on a mission to democratize beauty.
- Makeup By
- TAMAH KRINSKY
- Photography By
- NAJ JAMAÏ
- Styled By
- JAMIE MIZRAHI
- Hair By
- JUSTINE MARJAN
- Written By
- JACK SUNNUCKS
In this series, VIOLET GREY profiles female beauty entrepreneurs who are considered industry game changers for their individual approach to business. Each one entered the conversation in her own manner and maintained a steady, if not unparalleled, trajectory with her indomitable spirit. Here, we talk to the brilliant founder of Glossier and Into The Gloss, who so successfully harnessed young women’s desire for a new type of beauty.
“It was all designed to democratize beauty,” explains Emily Weiss, founder and CEO of Glossier, while discussing her grand mission to deliver beauty to young women. For the legions of women who can’t (or don’t want to) spend $100 on skin cream or who aren’t impressed by mass offerings or who feel that the beauty industry doesn’t speak to them, Glossier, the affordable skincare and makeup brand—that’s actually, you know, cool—has rocked their world. The (coveted) line, with its simple but chic logo—an ornate black G set against a pale pink backdrop—is not only emerging as a millennial favorite, but also impacting the industry’s landscape.
Glossier is the child of Into The Gloss, the website Weiss started in 2010 to chronicle what women had in their beauty cabinets. It may sound simple, but there was a time when nobody curated their collections. For most, a bunch of (mostly expired) products took up all the shelf space. But Weiss changed all this, inviting the world into women’s bathrooms to have a look around. As an intern at Teen Vogue, she was obsessed with all types of women and girls, not just the ones who use $80 cream. Into The Gloss was the natural evolution of this, with French beauty enthusiasts given the same treatment as Grace Coddington; Danish hairstylists alongside Downtown It girls. Essentially, it was heaven.
The obvious next step was to launch a quasi-unobtainable cream with a vaguely French-sounding name. “People said, ‘If you started Into The Gloss, why wouldn’t you want to create a true luxury brand?’” But even though most of the products touted on Into The Gloss are super high-end, Weiss wasn’t interested in that part of the market. She had something else in mind.
“Here I was, learning about beauty, and observing the way women were shopping for it,” she says of the formative years of running the website. “What brands meet their needs, what products meet their needs.” What made Into The Gloss remarkable, and still does, is its community: the thousands of women and girls who took the time to comment, compare products, and share tips with each other. “Basically, years of market research,” as Weiss now sees it. “And I ended up seeing this huge opportunity, like why hasn’t there been a more modern brand? Period. Why don’t we just start from scratch? If there hadn’t ever been a beauty brand, and you were just starting one in 2017, what would it look like?”
What it looks like today is 424,000 Instagram followers, an $18 milky jelly cleanser, and 17 different products. Oh, and a legion of young women (and some men) who want the Glossier lifestyle. “Everyone can be their own expert, their own curator,” says Weiss. “Through Glossier, we’re encouraging everyone to build their own top shelf, making active a whole range of women who were otherwise passive beauty consumers.” This is what gets in the way of young women engaging with beauty brands—skewed perceptions that everyone needs a full coverage foundation. That you need a signature fragrance. That you shouldn’t wear an eye and a lip. The Glossier lifestyle is for the women who, according to Weiss, “Grew up hearing that they needed to go to a counter and have a stranger tell them about their own face. That’s no longer the case for anyone. Not just Glossier customers, but anyone. If you want to learn how to do a cat eye, you’re going to go on YouTube and find 50,000 tutorials.”
In addition to Weiss, the Glossier staff of 70 run the organization, which is headquartered on Lafayette and Canal Streets in New York City. As their customers have grown, so has Weiss’ reach. She’s gone from running a small website to launching a brand and defining a new genre. “I think one of the things that has constantly amazed me as I’ve gone through life, and I build this business, is just how human everything ultimately is,” she remarks on the process of building a team. “I think probably the greatest joy that I’ve had from the past couple of years at Glossier has been relinquishing control and really becoming a team player. I thought I would hate it, but nothing makes me happier.”
As one might imagine, her staff leans toward the millennial age bracket, and Weiss nurtures a company culture where employees are encouraged to punch above their weight. “At Glossier, we’ve created a culture I’m really proud of. We take really big bets on people who haven’t yet proven that they can do certain things, and we say, ‘You can do it.’” A prime example is Weiss’ former assistant, who introduced herself on the subway as a fan of the brand. Weiss promptly hired her, and after a year-and-a-half, “We put her in product development, and she ended up developing three or four of our top-selling products. Some people would say you should have someone with fifteen years of lab experience in that position; we say, I’m sure you can figure it out.”
Through Glossier we’re encouraging everyone to build their own TOP SHELF, making active a whole range of women who otherwise were passive beauty consumers.
It sounds like Weiss has Glossier pretty figured out, both in terms of upcoming product and what her company could eventually be. “Coming up, we have a full deck of products expanding into two new categories. I really see Glossier as the first beauty lifestyle brand.” What a beauty lifestyle brand actually is, she doesn’t say, but it does mean a new product every two to three months. “We’re also building a ton of digital tools to facilitate friend-to-friend recommendations. Essentially, ways to reward our customers for, you know, evangelizing our brand.” Not that they need much help—the majority of Glossier’s growth last year came from peer-to-peer recommendation. Glossier has also opened its first showroom, atop the lower Manhattan offices, which has the same fervor as a sample sale once might have sparked. “It’s a community—a gathering space to touch and feel brands. We’re all so used to staring at our phones all day, and it’s so nice to go into a multisensory environment and see things like a really large photograph,” she says, laughing. “When I go to art shows and I see a four-foot-by-six-foot piece hanging on the wall, I’m like omg I can’t believe these things still get made. We’re so used to seeing little square pictures on our phones.”
Thus speaks the woman who birthed millennial makeup. Weiss won’t be satisfied until she dominates both the physical and the digital realms. Wherever she goes, her legion of Glossier devotees are sure to go with her. “To me, it’s fluid, we’re adaptive. We launched on Instagram before the brand even went up—that was part of the strategy. We just debuted everything on Instagram, built everything in real time, and then by the time we launched we had about 15,000 followers. And they were excited to purchase.” She makes it all seem so easy, and more than that, honest—the most important thing now for consumers of all ages. “The need for brands as bearers of truth, as arbiters of taste, is kind of a thing of the past,” she says. “I think beauty has become liberated, democratized, and Glossier is just a brand built on those principles.” A beauty manifesto we can all get behind.
EMILY BEFORE 10AM
VIOLET GREY: What is the atmosphere of your bedroom?
EMILY WEISS: It's very light and airy with a great view looking downtown. My walls and bedding are white, and there’s usually a pile of 10-15 books beside by bed, ranging from business biographies to meditation. I like to keep the curtains open – natural light is super important to me.
VG: Please describe your bed and your favorite thing about it.
EW: The sheets are from Matteo in Los Angeles. They make the most incredible sheets. I buy a new set every year or so and am pretty obsessive about washing them. There is a nothing better than crawling into bed with clean sheets. Have been dying to try their Belgian linen version...
VG: What time do you wake-up?
EW: It depends on what time I have to be the office in the morning, really, but I like to take my time getting ready. I meditate a bit before I really start my day. Maybe I’ll put on our Moisturizing Moon Mask and read or play with my cat, Chloe, for a bit – she requires a lot of attention. I swear she’s more high maintenance than me! The dream is to eat toast and take three baths a day like Tom Ford though.
VG: Do you set an alarm?
EW: Yes, on my phone. It’s my least favorite sound in the world, which makes it effective because I immediately jump up to turn it off.
VG: How many hours of sleep do you require?
EW: As much as possible! But not always possible.
VG: Do you drink coffee/tea/ eat breakfast – if so what?
EW: I like green tea, or an Americano if I need a little extra energy. When I get into the office, my assistant, Morgan, usually makes me a jar of water with lemon squeezed into it and grabs a chocolate croissant from one of the coffee shops in the area.
VG: Do you work out in the a.m.?
EW: I used to meet with this fantastic trainer, Key Son, in the morning at the gym in my building, but realized that working out after work helps me de-stress before I go home for the day. I’m a huge fan of Physique 57 & Sky Ting yoga.
VG: What is your morning skincare regimen?
EW: I’ll wash with Milky Jelly Cleanser, apply a bit of our Priming Moisturizer (rich during the winter, original during the summer), and Balm Dot Com. Most of the time though, I’m trying out submissions for products we’re working on for our product development team.
VG: What make-up/products do you use on a daily basis?
EW: I always wear our Perfecting Skin Tint in Medium instead of a foundation because it’s super light, followed by a bit of loose powder by the Korean skincare brand, Moonshot, Benefit Hoola Bronzer, Glossier Boy Brow in Brown, and then I dab a bit of NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Het Loo on as an eyeshadow.
VG: What’s your hair situation in the a.m.?
EW: I start by adding Thickening Tonic by Aveda after I shower and then blow dry with the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer. If I’m being ambitious, I try to make waves in my hair using a flatiron. Justine Marjan, who is one of my favorite hairstylists in Los Angeles, taught me to do it, and I’m constantly trying to replicate her technique.
VG: What’s the first thing you read each morning?
EW: I would love to say the paper or a book, but it’s my email. Once that is handled, I’ll usually move onto the book that our business book club at work is reading. Currently it’s “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” by Carol Dweck.
VG: What business do you conduct before 10:00 a.m.?
EW: I’ll respond to the most pressing emails before I even get dressed and then, on my way to work, I usually catch up on any texts/Slack messages/emails/Instagram DMs I received the day before. It’s important to me that I check out any photos that our customers have tagged Glossier in. I try to “like” every single one.
VG: Do you have any meetings or calls?
EW: I love having breakfast meetings at Sant Ambroeus, in Soho, before I head into the office. On occasion, I will schedule calls in the morning to take from home.
VG: What time do you head to your office?
EW: Usually I call a Juno around 9:00 a.m. and get into the office around 9:30 a.m., though every day is different.