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Even people who think they haven’t heard of Brit brand Soap and Glory have heard of Soap and Glory. The cult beauty brand, which focuses primarily on skin and body products, launched in the US at Sephora and managed to stand out from the pack with their cute-but-not-twee pink and white ‘50s-inspired packaging. But the brand’s success in the UK and beyond is anything but cutesy or coincidental.
Soap and Glory’s founder, Marcia Kilgore, first made a name for herself as a facialist to the stars. Oprah told her army of fans that Kilgore gave her the best facial she’d ever had. Kilgore’s spa, Bliss, became an international chain and a beauty industry sensation, spawning spinoffs and a product line. Although the company’s sale meant Kilgore could have quit working entirely and just gone and lived on an island somewhere, she instead moved her family to London and began work on what would become Soap and Glory. Their schtick is cheeky names and funky packaging: there’s a Fill Monty eye line filler, Pulp Friction body scrub, and Hand Food hand and body cream, for starters. The winning combo of humor and high-quality products made the line a big hit in Britain, but the brand hasn't necessarily had a smooth transition back to the other side of the ocean.
“We had to change the names of some of the products,” one S&G marketing employee admitted. They had to rename their Glow Job moisturizer after a US retailer–they won’t say which one, but odds are good that it’s Target, who used to carry the brand before S&G landed at Sephora–took issue and asked them to tone it down. (Sephora carries Glow Job as is.)
S&G launched cosmetics in Britain last year, and among the products available are a Sexy Mother Pucker lip plumper/gloss combo, a concealer kit, and a mascara. But other than Sexy Mother Pucker (which happens to be a bestseller and the impetus for a fuller cosmetic line), none of these products are available in the United States, but the brand is preparing for a full-on media blitz this fall. Though the date of the impending British invasion is still a closely-guarded secret, Soap & Glory is looking forward to the chance to try and take their brand from “oh, the one with that cute packaging!” to a bona fide cosmetic celebrity. In an already oversaturated beauty market, that could be a huge risk. But with a veteran like Kilgore behind the scenes, it’s safe to say that nothing S&G does is ever an accident.
The creative process began with Kilgore, who insists on being involved with every step of production. Her close-knit staff works out of an office in London’s leafy Kensington neighborhood, and the staff gets involved with everything from product testing to naming. Products are tested for months before hitting the shelves, and everything from office décor to marketing plans is examined and re-examined by Kilgore and her team. And although Kilgore is Canadian, the brand strives to be seen as thoroughly British – the product names make puns that are often funnier on the Eastern side of the Atlantic, and the brand’s Twitter account loves to shout out the office’s sole American employee as a sort of local curiosity.
One way that S&G is making a name for themselves is by poking fun at the very industry they are part of. They launched an initiative encouraging their customers to take shorter showers as a way to be green and protect the environment, which seems like an odd thing to do when you’re in the business of selling people bath and shower products. But S&G made the discordant message work, saying that their products were so great that a little bit was all you needed. Their motto“beauty absolutely matters, it doesn't matter absolutely”is all about emphasizing health and wellness rather than spackle and paint. As for whether body positivity can sell mascara and lip plumper, well, that’s what America will find out soon enough.
· All Beauty Week coverage [Racked]
· Soap and Glory [Official Site]