From the Lab, which launched a little over a month ago, is just that. It was founded by two beauty industry and marketing veterans, Steve Dworman and Lorraine Dahlinger, and what the pair is counting on is that you, the world-weary and over-educated beauty consumer, are more interested in function, ingredients, and innovation than whether the bottle has a La Mer label on it. Allow me to explain.
A lot of big beauty companies have their own labs, but they will also often license ingredients or technology from smaller, independent labs. What From the Lab is doing is cutting out the brand name middle man (and all the associated price mark-ups that go along with it) and sourcing products straight from indie labs based in the US, Italy, and Switzerland. The labs produce small batches of products they’re working on that haven’t yet been picked up by a big cosmetics company.
Monthly subscribers, who pay $19.95 per month for a charter membership (that’s going to go up to $29.95 per month), will receive one to three full-sized products, including skin care, color cosmetics, and hair care. The products are all bottled in plain packaging and given numbers (ie Primer No.327). The company also sends an exceptionally detailed pamphlet about the ingredients, efficacy, and directions for use. Retail is not part of From the Lab’s business plan, so for the most part members will not be able to buy a product again after they’ve tried it (though if the company has leftovers, they will sell them to those who want). In general, the products are very limited edition and once it’s gone, it’s gone. That is, unless they get picked up by a beauty company. Then they’ll wind up on Sephora shelves for anyone who wants–with a much higher price tag.
“We’ve already had confirmation that October line is coming out in retail in February at a $200 price point,” Dahlinger told me. As more From the Lab products get picked up and made into so-called “real” beauty products, the subscription-based company will relay that information to its subscribers. Total bragging rights then: “Oh, yeah that hot new serum? I tried that months ago.”
In this age of designer makeup, collaborations, and celeb fragrance, name recognition is all-important in the beauty world, but the From the Lab founders are betting their concept will work. “Our members are savvy. They’re comparing ingredients,” Dahlinger said. “I personally want to pay for my fancy perfume in the beautiful bottle because it makes me smile. I may not want to spend $200 on a serum if I know I’m getting the exact same formula for $40. It’s up to the consumer to be educated and make their own decisions.”
I received the June box, which included a face primer and eye shadow primer. The stripped down packaging notwithstanding, the products themselves were good, if maybe not all that innovative to me. The primer felt silky and not sticky or greasy (a good thing), and the eye primer is pretty fantastic–I’ve been using it in 85+ degree temperatures with cream eye shadow and have suffered nary a crease, even after SoulCycle class. It’s a lot more matte than my tried and true Makeup Forever eye primer, but I don’t love the slightly nude base, which doesn’t completely blend in with my skin. My interest is definitely piqued for future offerings, though.
Will this concept work? Only time will tell. But the founders are confident. “Brands will spend years developing a product launch, but we’re coming out with new products on a monthly basis. It really is the hardest thing to do,” Dworman said. “There’s so much great stuff out there, we thought that was the best way to make it work.”