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Amber Fillerup Clark's day at Sephora has arrived.
The influencer went to market in January with her second hair-care business, Dae. The company launched online with just three products: a shampoo, conditioner and deep conditioning treatment, all of which are vegan, cruelty-free and formulated without parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances and synthetic dyes.
Clark saved on marketing by asking her influencer friends to share news of the launch. She also mobilized her 1.4 million Instagram followers, converting 18 percent of them into Dae customers within the first month.
Now, Dae has inked its first retail partnership. On March 31, the brand will launch at Sephora online and in 150 doors, when the retailer reopens them, the date of which remains to be determined due to the coronavirus. Sephora's addition of Clark's Dae comes as the retailer is placing extra emphasis on growing hair care, one of its fastest-growing categories, said Jennifer Lucchese, Sephora's vice president of hair merchandising.
"Prestige hair is a fairly small business in the market, but it’s quickly growing with Sephora being a leader," said Lucchese. "We’ve been focused the past few years on building out the quality and the curation of our hair assortment — salon brands and new, niche brands. Now, we’re focused on engaging our client through education through different marketing campaigns. We’re teaching them about what products are best for their unique hair types, textures and concerns."
The evolving coronavirus has forced a number of beauty and wellness chains to temporarily close their businesses, causing some to delay launches and, in the worst cases, lay off their staff.
Thus far, Clark said neither her business nor her family has been adversely impacted by COVID-19.
Like other indie beauty brands trying to blunt the impact of COVID-19, Clark is turning to digital to engage with Dae customers who have been urged to practice social distancing. On March 29, Dae will unveil a video series called "Start Your Dae With," featuring friends, influencers and customers hand-selected by Clark.
Sephora, which closed its U.S. and Canada stores on March 17 due to COVID-19, has no plans to delay the launch of Dae online.
"We have such a strong e-commerce business for hair overall and we want to continue to excite our clients where we can, but everything changes day by day and we are evaluating," said Lucchese.
When the retailer reopens, its stores will debut The Next Big Thing wall for hair, featuring the newest brands and launches, including Dae in select locations. Sephora's stores already have this concept for makeup and skin care, and now the retailer is expanding it to include hair.
Dae will be part of Sephora's Clean at Sephora campaign. It joins the retailer's growing list of influencer-born brands, including Ouai by Jen Atkin, Summer Fridays, Huda Beauty and Christen Dominique's cosmetics line.
Creator brands are "an important piece of the beauty industry right now," said Lucchese. "We’re not interested in every influencer brand that’s out there on the market, but we are excited about brands that have amazing founders and amazing stories."
Clark had been working on Dae for a year and a half prior to its launch. The brand's name is an acronym for times of the day — dawn, afternoon, evening — and the product packaging is inspired by the Arizona desert, where Clark resides. Clark also developed a signature orange blossom scent, an essential oils blend that does not contain synthetic dyes or fragrances.
"Scent makes a big deal with products — that’s how I connect with them," she said.
A former hair stylist, Clark launched her blog, Barefoot Blonde, 10 years ago. Her posts on lifestyle, hair, fashion, beauty and travel often generate between 500,000 to 1 million page views per month. Despite placing less of an emphasis on her blog for the past year, her posts — 10 total in 2019 — garnered 200,000 page views per month last year. Her Instagram followers fall mostly within the 25-to-35 age bracket, though they range in age from 15 to 55. Most are based in New York and California.
Clark debuted a hair-extensions brand named after her blog in 2016. Barefoot Blonde Extensions was a lesson in entrepreneurship, one which Clark applied to the launch of Dae.
"I didn’t know what I was doing when we launched," she said of Barefoot Blonde Extensions. "I didn’t realize the importance of having a clear vision for the brand identity. As my style was changing, I would want to change the brand’s, but that’s not how it should work. We learned a lot about how important it is to build a community from Day One."
Dae's tight edit of three products, priced from $24 to $28, follows the same playbook influencers such as Marianna Hewitt and Lauren Gores first took with Summer Fridays, when they launched with a single product. Huda Kattan recently did the same with Wishful, her skin-care brand and third beauty company.
"We probably will never have a very extensive line," said Clark. "I want to be the core products that every girl needs. I always get confused when I go to a product page and there are eight different shampoos and 10 different conditioners. I don’t think it needs to be that complicated."
Dae's products are formulated in Utah and packaged in Arizona. Clark noted she is focused on raising awareness of the core products, though she's encouraged by her followers to eventually expand Dae beyond the hair category.
"There are lots of options for ," she said. "We’re not planning that part of the business yet, but we’ve already had a lot of customers interested in body lotions and body washes with that same scent, so we’ll see."
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