WWD Digital Daily
Lady Gaga’s Haus Labs Enters Phase Two
● Lady Gaga on the next chapter for Haus Labs, from new formulas and packaging to renewed purpose.s
Her Haus, her rules.
Lady Gaga is introducing an all-new Haus Labs (formerly known as Haus Laboratories), starting with the name. Roughly 100 stockkeeping units across eye, lip and cheek cosmetics will be launching exclusively with Sephora on June 9. It will start in 25 high-traffic Sephora doors, and will expand both categories and its store footprint to over 500 locations across the U.S. and Canada. Prices range from $22 to $38.
In addition to revamped distribution, every consumer touchpoint with Haus Labs has been rethought. Packaging, formulas, logos and advertisements have all been given an update. “Everything is new for consumers,” said Kelly Coller,
Haus Labs’ chief marketing officer. “We have three product pillars: they’re hightech, high-performance, high pigment and everything is life and lab tested.”
For Gaga, the creative force behind the brand as well as the winner of 13 Grammy awards, 18 MTV video music awards, two Golden Globe awards and an Oscar, rethinking the brand started by building a product-first value proposition.
“As far as I could see, as a diehard makeup lover, being clean in makeup meant sacrificing bold colors and longwear performance. I wanted to not only challenge that but push far beyond it,” she told WWD via email. “The more I learn, the more I can make things for the world that are not just about my own self-expression — I am working toward unlocking self-expression for everyone.
“The process has been a tremendous learning experience, I’ve had to become a student of the beauty industry beyond that of my own personal artistry. I’ve had to learn as much as I can, so I can offer people a brand and products that are truly of value. My process meant asking hard questions — not about what people will buy, but about what problems need solving,” she continued.
Haus Labs originally launched in 2018 as the first exclusive beauty brand to partner with Amazon — but the brand didn’t see the runaway success of predecessor Fenty, which partnered with Sephora globally for its launch.
The brand is winding down its sales on Amazon. The new Haus Labs products will not be sold on the e-tailer giant’s site. The strategic shift by Lady Gaga and Haus Labs represents another hiccup in Amazon’s ongoing attempts to grow scale in the beauty business. Haus Labs’ chief executive officer Ben Jones said the learnings from the Amazon-focused era were myriad. “It came with a lot of plusses, and we both learned a lot,” he said. “You have to learn that sometimes speed is not your friend. You really need certain amounts of time if you’re going to push boundaries… [in 2018], Gaga was really keen on the fact that on day one, we’d be live in 200 countries.”
Gaga’s reach as a public figure did wonders for brand awareness — she has more than 50 million followers on Instagram alone — but as Jones said,
“As a start-up, people make the mistake of thinking, ‘It’s Lady Gaga, we can do whatever we want.’ We’re a start-up, and we built this company from scratch.”
Steph Wissink, a Jeffries analyst, posited that market conditions have only moved in the brand’s favor since its 2018 launch. “Gaga’s persona has evolved during the time in which Haus Labs was originally launched, where her aesthetic as a celebrity was extremely avant-garde, and maybe in some respects, a little untouchable,” she said. “She’s made some really smart professional decisions to go from Gaga five years ago to Gaga, an icon today for the things the beauty industry is striving to be known for: inclusivity, acceptance, artistry, risk-taking. The market has evolved in her direction, and she has come towards the market. There is an elegant meeting in the middle.”
No executives interviewed commented on past sales or future expectations, although industry sources said Haus Labs’ first incarnation reached revenues of roughly
$30 million. The next chapter launching this month is expected to reach between $45 million and $50 million in retail sales.
Despite Gaga’s high level of involvement with the brand, Haus Labs was intended to stand alone separately from its famed founder based on its own ethos. “Our point of view is that she’s really the cherry on top, she’s our number-one influencer. But this isn’t an influencer brand. We’re leading with product first, and innovation first. That we’re bringing clean artistry innovation is a true white space opportunity that’s been validated multiple times, not just by consumer testing, but by Sephora,” Coller said.
Sephora has launched a plethora of beauty brands founded by celebrities in the past year, including Gwen Stefani’s Gxve Beauty, Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty, and Scarlett Johansson’s The Outset, which launched with the retailer last month. Artemis Patrick, Sephora’s executive vice president and global chief merchandising officer, said that while celebrity brands come with advantages, Sephora evaluates those opportunities on other criteria.
“Celebrities have a wide net and can reach out to a really large consumer base, but there are more celebrity brands out there that we respectfully decline than those we take on,” she said. “The reality is, a celebrity name alone does not a successful brand make. It’s one aspect in terms of share of voice, but to boil it down, there needs to be an engaged founder, innovative products and formulations that fill a consumer need and a great team.”
Patrick added that makeup across brand types is back on the rebound, as “masks are coming off, people are going out, and there’s a lot of pent-up demand.” For the first quarter of 2022, makeup grew 30 percent to $1.8 billion, holding its spot as prestige beauty’s largest category, according to U.S. data from The NPD Group.
“We’re very much rooted in differentiation and being the place where the consumer can find the latest, hottest trends and best products, so it’s our job to stay ahead of trends and always deliver an evolving assortment of products, categories and brands. This is why we always prioritize incubating and launch new and exclusive to Sephora brands,” Patrick said.
Lady Gaga’s Haus Labs in a window display at Sephora.
For Sephora, the strategic implications are beyond interest in makeup. In the past year, fan-favorite celebrity brand Fenty Beauty ended its Sephora exclusivity and partnered with Ulta Beauty, as did skin care favorite Drunk Elephant. “Fenty was Sephora’s headline celebrity brand, and this launch [of Gaga’s Haus Labs] provides some support for the celebrity strategy at Sephora as Fenty becomes more widely distributed,” Wissink said.
Haus also hits key touch points beyond celebrity backing. The products boast patented ingredients, including fermented arnica, and are certified Clean at Sephora. The brand has an ingredient no-list of roughly 2,600 ingredients, and $1 from every direct dot-com purchase goes to Gaga’s own Born This Way foundation, “which focuses on serving young communities to empower and promote kindness in the space of improving global mental health,” Gaga said.
Although the brand’s universality is a core piece of its DNA — ”Haus Labs is for you no matter who you are, no matter your gender, age, shape/size, skin tone, confidence or your knowledge of makeup,” Gaga said — its target audience also sets the brand apart from the pack.
“Almost 25 percent of our consumers are men who wear makeup, so we know that’s a pretty big point of differentiation,” Coller said. Although the products are “created for everyone at all levels, ages, shapes, sizes and genders,” per Coller, the demographic sweet spot is between ages 30 and 35, and the products were deliberately priced as an entry point to prestige beauty.
The founder’s own homemade remedies also inspired the ingredient lists. “Gaga uses arnica with ceremonial grade matcha to make a mask at home for her fibromyalgia, and she uses it with facial massage to help with inflammation,” said Gloria Ryu, Haus Labs’ senior vice president of product development. “From that, the idea of our fermented arnica was born. Our fermented arnica oil is 860 percent more potent than conventional arnica, it helps to reduce redness and irritation, which are the key markers of inflammation, and it protects the skin against environmental stress.”
Among Gaga’s favorite products are “the Haus Labs Power Sculpt Velvet Bronzer, our PHD Hybrid Lip Oil, and our Optic Intensity Eco Eyeliner,” she said. “Like all our products, they are Haus tech powered with skin-loving ingredients.” The bronzer will be available in 12 shades, while the lip oil adjusts color based on users’ own pH levels.
“My vision for Haus Labs centers around the future of clean makeup, supercharged products with innovative formulations and novel ingredients,” Gaga said. “At Haus Labs, we believe that artistry is for everyone, and that no one should have to damage their skin or sacrifice their principles and values to be self-expressive. We create makeup for everyone — you don’t have to be an artist to wear our products, but we’re here to help you reveal the inner you.”
While Haus’ relaunch is SKU heavy, even more products are on the horizon this year.
“We have 155 high-tech, high-pigment, high-performance SKU plans for 2022, and it’s across all categories,” Ryu said. “As one of only 20 or so clean color brands at Sephora, we have the potential to pioneer the supercharged clean artistry space and want to continuously raise the bar in terms of innovation.”