Glossier Founder Emily Weiss Is Creating a Beauty Empire

Emily Weiss—the force behind Glossier, one of the fastest-growing cult beauty brands— has a lot to celebrate this year. Earlier this summer, Glossier expanded its global footprint, announcing international shipping to Canada, along with the United Kingdom and France later in the year. Canadian customers were also treated to the first-ever Glossier pop-up
shop in September, which ran for one full week during the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.

For fans, this meant no more strategizing to score products like Boy Brow and Balm Dotcom, the cult favourite brow mascara and flavoured lip balm. On top of it all, the company launched its Body Hero Duo in September (part of Phase 3, which followed skincare and makeup), introducing a neroli and orange blossom-scented, seven-oil body wash and rich body cream into its carefully curated roster of products.

Glossier Body Hero Duo, $44.

True to its inclusive, your-skin-but-better beauty ethos, Glossier made quite the noise with its Body Hero ad campaign. Snapped by seasoned photographer Peggy Sirota (a go-to lens for ESPN The Magazine’s body-themed issues, which celebrate athletes’ hard-earned physiques), the body-positive campaign images feature five women of different races, sizes, and body types: NBA player Swin Cash, who was eight months pregnant at the time; influencer (and Weiss’s friend) Mekdes Mersha; Outdoor Voices apparel founder Tyler Haney; creative director Lara Pia Arrobio; and plus-size model Paloma Elsesser.

“We wanted to propose a very different way of being naked than the traditional ‘male gaze, sexual nudity’ thing that happens in pictures,” explains Weiss of the five women who posed nude with red censor bars emblazoned over them. “It kind of looks like they’re all doing yoga or stretching or doing sports, as opposed to staring dreamily into the camera and being coy. They’re living their lives and they just happen to be naked.”

Taking it one step further, each Body Hero purchase comes with an accompanying red censor mirror sticker, encouraging women to proudly take their own #bodyhero selfie at home. Weiss herself even joined in on the movement, posting a topless selfie to her Instagram account back in September. “We wanted to come up with an overarching theme that would really encourage body positivity and fun. We think every body is great, and that everyone can be their own hero,” she says. “There’s not one ideal type.”

In October, after much anticipation and social media teasing, the beauty brand that turned skincare on its head also released its debut fragrance, Glossier You. Sticking to the line’s minimalist millennial-pink aesthetic, the eau de parfum (which mixes carefully selected notes of iris, pink pepper, ambrette, ambrox, and musk) was crafted by master perfumers Frank Voelkl and Dora Baghriche, and is meant to emulate the smell of your own skin—but better.

Right now, Weiss is absorbing Glossier’s Canadian success, describing it as both great and overwhelming. “For me, the biggest takeaway is that Glossier is really a global brand. And I mean that not just logistically, but also the message and what we’re trying to do,” she says. “We take a very editorial approach to every single product that we develop—make fewer things rather than many things—because we want to be very thoughtful,” she continues. “We try to think of the hard-working products that are going to be the backbone of women’s routines—the stuff above the sink, not below the sink.”

Glossier was born from blog-turned-beauty-lifestyle-site Into The Gloss, which Weiss, now 32, started back in 2010 while working as an assistant at Vogue. She began interviewing women in their homes, and got them to open up about their beauty routines. In doing so, she initiated a conversation around beauty. “The number one thing Into The Gloss equipped me with is the desire to listen, and the ability to have genuine conversations with people that result in really incredible products and experiences,” says Weiss. The website—which today attracts over two million unique visitors each month—also created a community, which sowed the seeds for Glossier’s launch four years later.

Weiss joins the pantheon of girl bosses that have made it in the business on their own terms. For her, that’s meant an ongoing transparency around the creation of the products, along with the funding process. “Historically, money is something that women have been encouraged not to talk about, and people have even been encouraged not to talk about it in job interviews or with their friends. There’s a stigma around money. I believe that there should be far more female-owned-and-operated businesses, and in order for it to be so, you need to provide more information.”

Along with her desire for openness around the business, Weiss has built an empire using social media and crowdsourcing. She regularly listens to what hyper-engaged customers want, whether it’s in the creation of new products or offline experiences. “If you look at some of the common themes among our community and the women who appreciate the brand, it’s not just the Glossier product they love—it’s the Glossier outlook,” explains Weiss. “We read between the lines of [customer comments], and believe in women becoming their own experts and curating their own routine,” she adds. “Beauty should be fun and make you really happy, and I hope that we’re involving women much more than beauty brands have in the past.”

Setting up shop in Toronto has been just one of many examples of rapid expansion for Glossier. Back in New York, the company has outgrown its SoHo office. “We started out in the penthouse when we were just eight people pre-launch. Now the penthouse is our store and we are on the second and third floor of the building—that is our office,” shares Weiss. The employee count has also jumped from 50 at the beginning of the year to around 110 at last count. That has meant taking meetings in the beauty closet when needed. “It was one of many moments when we realized we needed more room. However, I will say that the energy and collaboration from being in tight quarters is actually kind of magical.” In January 2018, Glossier will relocate to a much bigger space. “It’ll be less of an office and more of a—well, let’s just say it’ll be a very unique type of office,” says Weiss.

Weiss’s admirable business savvy and passion for community clearly sum up how she’s helped Glossier carve out such a special place for itself, not just in the beauty landscape, but also in the lives of its customers. And through the “real life”-driven beauty line’s explosive success and cultural clout, Weiss isn’t afraid to hit pause. “We really think of ourselves as, and aspire to be, the first beauty and lifestyle brand,” she notes. “And as we evolve and grow, it’s very important for us to take stock of where we are: the failures, the wins—everything.”