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Emily Weiss Explains Why People Are Freaking Out About Glossier

On the brand's new cleanser, devoted and engaged fans, and why not everything needs to be organic.

Only Emily Weiss could post a bunch of pink-hued images to Instagram and make such a splash. That’s how Weiss teased the launch of Glossier in 2014, a new kind of beauty brand developed with help from her fervent following.


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The hype around Glossier makes sense. We’ve come to expect great things from Weiss, a former stylist assistant at Vogue for Elissa Santisi, who woke up weekday mornings at 5am to work on Into The Gloss, interviewing her heroes about their beauty routines. Into The Gloss went from side-project to full-time gig for Weiss, from blog to beauty line, and today Glossier Inc. boasts 35 full-time staffers and has raised over $10 million in investments.

Image: Glossier

Last week, Weiss stood in the penthouse/event space at Glossier’s NYC HQ in a room that looked like the brand's social feeds come to life, with dramatic moodboards, plastic sheeting on the walls, and display cases for Glossier’s newest product, the years-in-the-making Milky Jelly Cleanser that’s launching today.

"I went to art school and we always like to think if Glossier is a girl, it’s almost like 'this is her brain.' 'This is her brain on Glossier'," Weiss told Racked. Read on to hear about the new cleanser that’s now part of the Glossier’s Phase 1 set, as well as Weiss’s explanation on how she created the world of Glossier and what’s next for Glossier this year (new products!).

What’s different about your new cleanser, Milky Jelly?

We actually asked our community and got hundreds and hundreds of comments of what their dream cleanser would be. We compiled all the feedback into a brief for our chemist. Some of the overarching themes that people were really missing in a cleanser was something that was very gentle and non-stripping, free of any irritants, free of any nasties, but that really worked and got the job done.

People were being let down by some of the gentle cleansers on the market. Our cleanser removes makeup, it removes [non-waterproof] mascara. The cool thing is that the solvent that we ended up discovering is the same one that’s used in contact solutions. When you clean your contacts, it’s the same stuff.

Does any other face wash use this?

I don’t know. We figured that was a pretty good way to make sure it would not be irritating for your eyes.

And what’s the part that took two years?

So many things! We’re perfectionists. We don’t believe in putting out products into the market just because. There are plenty of great face washes, right? But how can we make one that is truly, we think, better and satisfies women more. We finally nailed it.

Image: Glossier

It took a long time because you start with concepts. We always have a wishlist of ingredients, or dream textures we want, and scent and ingredients, and sometimes you just can’t get it. It’s science so sometimes you go down a route of research that leads you to a dead end.

Is that fun for you?

Yeah, super fun! It’s always a huge challenge for us because we’re beauty editors at the end of the day. We love beauty products and we love testing them. Being able to create your own is the dream.

How do you create this immersive world of Glossier?

We have a great creative team. We have an amazing creative director who used to be the head of Bumble & Bumble for forever, for a long time. We have an amazing in-house architect/designer who has concepted all of our offline experiences so far.

What about the lighters, and the stickers, and the packaging?

We love swag. Unfortunately because a lot of beauty products are wholesaled, at department stores or at drugstores, the brand story can often get lost.

"We love beauty products and we love testing them. Being able to create your own is the dream."

But we love that we have this super direct connection with our customers. We consider every touchpoint and opportunity to create something magical. For us, we have girls who tell us that they keep their shipper boxes, the brown paper box, because the inside of it is this beautiful glazed pink with this special message on it, so girls keep that and put all their makeup in it.

And we love that, because we spend a ton of time thinking about every single piece of collateral, whether it’s a sticker sheet, or a limited edition button, a special bumper sticker that’s seasonal.

It’s just this world that people want to be part of.

I hope so. That’s kind of the point. As I said, this cleanser actually ended up becoming successful once we asked people what they wanted. We were internally trying to make this cleanser for a year, and we were super frustrated. Then we asked and we got over 700 responses across all our different channels of what people wanted in their dream face wash. I realize we should’ve asked that from day 1. It was such smart feedback.

Because you’re listening, do you think people feel like they have a stake in Glossier?

They don’t feel like they have a stake in it, they do have a stake in it. And that’s the difference between a marketing tactic and actually having your customer engaged in your process and your brand. It’s not something we did just to make them feel good. We did it because we actually wanted their help.

You tried so many products and read about so many products, did you see something missing in beauty?

You mean in the beauty landscape? It’s not necessarily that I thought there was something missing, it’s that I wanted something specific. I wanted something that felt like if there had never been a beauty brand ever before, what would a beauty brand be right now? In 2015, in 2016?

"They don’t feel like they have a stake in [Glossier], they do have a stake in it."

How would she want to shop for beauty? Where would she want to shop for beauty? Where would she want to shop for beauty? What would she want to buy? How much would she want to pay for it? How should it fit into her travel schedule? How should it fit into her daily routine? What ingredients are relevant? What ingredients are irrelevant?

That’s sort of how we think about things, as always a fresh start. We want to be able to make girls really happy and excited about beauty. I think that beauty is something that can be very overwhelming and very alienating and there’s certainly no shortage of beauty products that exist. We wanted to give a clear vision for something that can make you really happy, or really bring joy to your morning or your evening or your day.

Organic and natural beauty is such a movement now. Did you think about that when you started?

I did, and I think that, for me, texture is very important and efficacy is very important. And I don’t necessary think 100% organic is better for everyone. For us, we handpick all of the ingredients in all of our products. They’re not all natural. There’s a lot of natural ingredients in them. But natural is a hugely subjective term and a lot of beauty companies have taken advantage of that term, "natural," because there’s no rules for what’s natural and what’s not.

We like to be as simple as possible in terms of our ingredients. A lot of our most popular ingredients and the ones people have responded to are the ones you can find in your kitchen, like honey or leafy greens that are in our masks. [Milky Jelly] has some really great natural moisturizers. But there are some chemicals that are good. Artificial doesn’t always equal bad.

Image: Glossier

But we lean as much as possible into simplicity, I would say. Effective, simple, good for you, safe. I think it would be too restrictive for us to achieve our mission in terms of creating the kinds of products we want to make. It would be too restrictive to limit ourselves to 100% organic.

Your customers, are they asking for that?

No.

A lot of people say millennials want natural products.

So here’s the thing: think about how you eat. My day is, I might have a green juice for breakfast and for lunch I might have a cheeseburger. It’s all about balance.

And how do you split your time between Glossier and Into the Gloss?

So we’re Glossier Inc. now and this is our editorial platform. We have a great small team of people who edit and shoot for and run Into the Gloss. They pretty much run it. I contribute to creative ideas, or people who I think we should shoot, or products we should review. Our editorial is fluidly integrated with the whole company.

I read that you don’t have ads on Into The Gloss. What is the strategy behind that?

"There are some chemicals that are good. Artificial doesn’t always equal bad."

So we are selling product, that’s our business model. We have our line, Glossier, and we’ve transitioned from being a traditional media company, a digital media company, to being a digitally native beauty products company.

So Glossier funds Into the Gloss?

I don’t know if it funds it, it’s all part of the same company.

What is the strategy with Into The Gloss and how do you see the editorial side’s future?

Into the Gloss is Glossier's editorial platform. Content is at the heart of everything we do at Glossier, and ITG will continue to be a space where readers can come not only to learn about routines of inspiring people and discover the world of Glossier, but to celebrate their own approach to beauty and the products they love most.

What is the most fun part of your day?

I get really inspired by people. Even when I launched Into The Gloss in 2010, it was because I wanted to meet and talk to some of my heroes, right? The women who I really admired, I wanted to learn about them and take their pictures.

"It’s really important to me to listen to ideas that everyone has."

So the most exciting part of my day is anytime when I’m interacting with others, like meetings with other entrepreneurs or other business people, or just spending time with members of our company. Now that we’re 35 people, it’s really important to me. This week I had lunch every day with a different person. It’s hard, you see people as a group, but it’s really important to me to listen to ideas that everyone has.

A lot of girls look up to you for what you’ve achieved, do you have any advice for them?

I think trusting your intuition is important. Over and over again, that’s proved itself to me, that you always sort of know the right answer.

It’s like when you’re in a bad relationship and you’re asking every friend, "What should I do? What should I do?" And your friend in the back of their head is like, "You know what you should do, why are you bringing this up to me for like the 300th time?" I think we all have that gut intuition, and I think that whatever you have to do to sort of ground yourself to listen to it is very important.

What’s next for Glossier?

Image: Glossier

We have several product launches this year. You’re going to start to see the results of a lot of the work that we’ve been doing behind the scenes for the last year. We’re a really new company, we launched with this one set of products and last year we buckled down to think about and start to work on all these things that are now materializing.

This year is going to be a really exciting one for Glossier fans because we just have so much coming out, like interesting content, so many really cool and interesting products, and so many ways to engage with us beyond just our traditional channels like social and Into The Gloss.

Like offline?

Yeah! All places. Because really we’re always trying to figure out what’s the simplest way for us to engage. What are the quickest ways for us to have these conversations? We’re building a lot of really interesting digital product to be able to facilitate that. We’ve also noticed a lot of the Glossier community really loves to meet each other. We’ve done several events up here with small groups and they all end up exchanging numbers. We want to be able to facilitate that.

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