Emily Weiss on beauty, babes, & balm dotcom.

Emily Weiss launched Into the Gloss out of her apartment armed with just a camera and an idea, and has since turned the site into the most recognized source for beauty inspiration on the internet. Gaining access to the medicine cabinets of fashion’s most famous makeup artists, hairstylists, and celebrities may have seemed ambitious in itself, but for Weiss, it was just the beginning. With the introduction of Glossier, she and her team are setting their sights on a new goal, getting women to take charge of their beauty routines and giving them the tools to do just that, one Balm Dotcom at a time.

Q / Hi Emily! What does a typical day look like for you? Do you have a routine or do you just go for it every day when you wake up?
A / Honestly, I just chug coffee. I go get a coffee and hurl myself into what ever is first. There’s not one specific routine because every day is really, really different for me, so it varies every single time. This morning I had to be at the office by nine because I had a meeting with Cristina Carlino, the founder of Philosophy, and yesterday I started my day at breakfast with a girlfriend, then I ended up at a Korean beauty sale for my friend’s company Peach & Lily, which is kind of like a Sephora for Korean beauty products. I went to her sample sale to do a little product research and then I had a meeting with the beauty director of Net-A-Porter, Newby Hands, so I wasn’t back at our office until two or three. But then there are some days, for example Mondays, when we are very meeting-centric. We’re about 35 people now at Glossier, which encompasses Into the Gloss as well, and at the beginning of each week we do all of our team meetings. I’ll meet with my creative director, editorial director and our head of physical product and we re-group after the weekend, so I’m really grounded here on Mondays.

Q / Is there a time or place when you’re most productive and feel like you can really focus with everything you have going on around you?
A / Yes. Definitely not mornings, I’m NOT a morning person. I would say in the afternoons. I actually love coming up to the Glossier Penthouse where we’ve been hosting Summer Fridays. I do work on the sofa or out on the deck. I try to take as many meetings as possible out here and in our Escape Room. Mainly, I like not sitting at a desk, and I move around a lot.

Q / Do you spend a significant amount of time working by yourself or are you usually with your team?
A / It’s mostly with other people and my team these days, which is a big change because I used to work a lot by myself when it was just me in my apartment writing for Into the Gloss. Back then I was alone a lot, but even then I was doing so many interviews and shooting people. Now I spend more time with my teams, as they’re the ones creating content for Glossier and Into the Gloss.

Q / That must feel like a really big change. I imagine your role has evolved so much from when you started the company.
A / Yeah, it’s very different and even though I’ve always been the founder and CEO, my job has changed so drastically recently. Sometimes it changes every six months, but lately because we are growing so quickly it is changing almost every month and I constantly have a new thing that I need to focus my energy on, there is always a new aspect of the company that needs my attention.

Q / How did you originally start developing your team? Was it something that just organically developed or was there more of a focused growth plan?
A / It sort of just multiplies based on new departments. For example, when we started working on the Glossier products, we had to hire into things like product development and operations because we needed someone who could set up a warehouse and fulfillment center.

Q / Do you have a big part in the hires or is there an HR person who you delegate that responsibility to now that the company has grown so much?
A / No, no, we’re still pretty small. I mean, 35 is bigger than when I started Into the Gloss, but we’re still a really tight team, and because we’re creating new content every day, nothing is about maintenance; it’s all about creation and “may the best idea win.” We’re also listening to our community to tell us what we should focus on and what’s next, because a lot of what we’re doing right now is still so much in its infancy. Glossier is going to be a very different company in five years, and we’re trying to lay the ground work by spending a lot of time asking our community what they’re responding to and what we can do better for them.

“We’re constantly curious what our editors and team are discovering.”

Q / Do your two two teams work together really closely or do they function more as separate entities?
A / We’re really cross-functional because a lot of the time, the way that we listen is through comments and interactions on Into the Gloss, and the way that we discover so many products to try and then form opinions on is through the people that we interview, so the site is really a great gateway for us. We’re constantly curious what our editors and team are discovering.

Q / You seem to be using social media in a more effective way than any other beauty company I can think of off the top of my head. How big of a part does it play in your business, specifically relating to the launch of Glossier?
A / It’s huge! Most beauty companies spend a lot of money on marketing and advertising, and we have spent very, very little and really relied on word of mouth to create a movement toward a different way of looking at beauty. If I think hard about why I get out of bed every day, I believe Glossier’s mission, as well as that of Into the Gloss, is really to make women feel proud of who they are and where they are at in life. Whether they just got married or went through a break up, got a promotion at work, or simply because it’s a Tuesday and they decided to try something new. I think we as women, especially today, are constantly evolving and trying to be at peace with ourselves, and so I really want Glossier to encourage women to take ownership of their beauty routines and to allow them to become the masters of their own destiny through beauty, which is an industry that can be very intimidating, oppressive, and kind of problem/solution oriented. For us, social media kind of speaks to that organic desire for a different kind of conversation. So much of Glossier is being built by other like-minded people who believe what we believe, and we really rely on them to be the brand ambassadors for us in a lot of ways, rather than hiring a celebrity to front an advertisement.

“I think we as women, especially today, are constantly evolving and trying to be at peace with ourselves.”

Q / Your branding really projects a sense of realness. There doesn’t seem to be a trace of that sort of unattainable photoshopped imagery that we’re so used to seeing as the status quo in beauty advertising.  How did you decide to go in such a unique direction?
A / Our creative team is incredible. They’ve really honed in on and are constantly inspired by real life individuality and uniqueness, so in our pictures, we discover and cast a lot of girls through Instagram. A lot of them are actually already fans of Glossier who write in to us and become friends. We end up collaborating with a lot of people we discover through social media, and both of our shop girls were Glossier fans we met online.

Q / When you first started the site you had been working in fashion for almost a decade. How did your change in career trajectory affect your life both professionally and personally?
A / I was in fashion for so long, first an intern at Teen Vogue and then out of college I assisted at W and went on to work with Elissa Santisi for a few years. She was the style director at Vogue at the time. All through my late teens to mid twenties I had an incredible crash course in how magazines and fashion shows work, how stories get formed both verbally and visually, and frankly, just how business gets done. A place like Vogue is a great example of a brand that really is a well-oiled machine, and it’s great to get that corporate experience as a creative person. What is really interesting for me now is that I’m very much in the start-up world. This has been a real shift, because my work sits somewhere in between the tech, beauty, and fashion industries, but I definitely would not be here if it were not for all those experiences and again, those sort of crash courses I end up dropping myself right into the middle of and learning from. Glossier is a venture backed start-up, and I believe we are equal parts a tech and beauty product company. We are leveraging technology to create an experience that I hope one day soon will not just rival, but actually be better than going into a brick-and-mortar store. You won’t need to go to a salesperson who you’ve never met before to make an informed decision about what you want to try, buy, or be like. Instead, you’ll be able to rely on a like-minded community of girls and get inspiration through our channels. Such a big part of my professional and spiritual growth as well as my personal development has come from my willingness to learn and be self aware, though it’s constantly a work in progress. I can definitely get carried away because I’m an extremely passionate person and can be very impulsive.

“We are leveraging technology to create an experience.”

Q / Have there been any moments with ITG and Glossier when you’ve felt like you maybe went to far in the wrong direction and needed to regroup? You’ve had what seems to be a pretty smooth growth process from an outsider’s perspective.
A / It’s luckily been pretty organic and I credit that to the people who I work with. You can’t build something truly meaningful that touches this many different people by yourself. In a lot of ways it’s been a really wild ride, and obviously there have been a lot of growing pains, highs and lows. As with any new business there are great days and not so great days, but at the end of each day, you feel a lot, and that’s the mark of caring. It shows that you’re pushing forward toward your mission, and that can feel awkward sometimes but it also feels good and keeps you honest.

“You can’t build something truly meaningful that touches this many different people by yourself.”

Q / Is there anything exciting that you have in the works this year?
A / Right now, we’re doing the Summer Fridays Showroom here at Glossier, and earlier in the year we had a pop-up shop. We’re a digital direct-to-consumer company like Warby Parker, Reformation, or Nasty Gal, but they also have physical stores. At the same time, we only have six products, now seven with Coconut Balm Dotcom, so it’s sort of an interesting challenge for us: how can we create these offline touch points with our customers in a way that they really get what they want, which is to experience products first hand, in person, to touch and feel them, and to walk into our world and thought process. So much of Glossier goes beyond just products, but they function as a kind of talisman of our battle cry to take ownership of your own personal beauty style. We want girls to be able to develop that on their own, with us here to help and provide inspiration. The Summer Fridays Showroom has been a sort of living experiment of being able to welcome everyone into our office. Girls are able to leave with products and also see our process, because our whole creative team is up here working on everything from packaging and casting to digital design. Our mood boards are everywhere and we are here everyday getting our energy and inspiration from our community, girls who posted on Instagram or tweeted at us, who got the products and are happy, so that’s been really cool. This fall we have an awesome new launch coming up and we’re also working hard on some digital product developments that I think are going to help girls share with each other the things that they’ve learned about beauty. We all know that no matter how high or low maintenance you might describe yourself as, everyone has a very particular relationship to and with beauty. We’ve also all spent a lot of money and time, whether we like it or not, on products as well as on trial and error. One of the things that’s truly valuable is that real life experience, so we’re constantly trying to figure out how to build through technology and provide a platform so that our community can share what they’ve learned with each other.

Q / Your recent pop-up at Nasty Gal in Los Angeles was your first entry into a brick-and-mortar retail experience outside of the Glossier bubble. Thinking about the future, are you looking to develop more partnerships with retail stores or would you mainly like to keep Glossier direct-to-consumer?
A / The Nasty Gal pop-up was great. We just did it for a weekend in Santa Monica. It was really fun and Sophia Amorouso is a friend of mine and has always been so supportive. I’ve been so in awe of what she’s been able to accomplish and build. Honestly, the pop-up was one of those things that we just decided over drinks, you know “what can we do together.” We also did a pop-in at the Everlane studio in San Francisco, a cocktail shopping event. The girls in San Francisco who came to that event were so great. There were high school girls, moms with babies, and even professionals from the tech scene. It was really fun! There was such great energy in that room. We also did something in Chicago for a day, so we’ve been experimenting. Summer Fridays is the first thing we’ve done since our pop-up that’s extending over a long period of time. I think anywhere that we can interact with our community in person is super fun and inspiring for me. I just want to introduce Glossier to more people, and we’re constantly thinking about new ways that we can find more of our community.

Q / Lastly, what would you say has been the most important lesson you’ve learned throughout your career and especially during the past few years as you’ve developed Into the Gloss and Glossier?
A / I think I maybe spoke to this earlier, but the biggest thing for me has been to ask for advice and really get a lot of input. I’m someone who really goes off of gut and intuition, and everyone in the world has that, but at the same time, when you’re building something, especially as an entrepreneur trying to build a whole company, you have an idea and want to see how far that can take you. You can go by gut and intuition, but to grow, you also need to be informed, and so I’ve asked for a lot of advice and input. I’ve asked for a lot of informational meetings with different people at various e-commerce brands and community platforms, and I think just asking a lot of questions is important and really crucial to creating the best company possible.

The Glossier Summer Fridays Showroom is open every day from 11-6 at 123 Lafayette Street in NYC.

Article & Photography
Catherine Litke

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