It didn't take long for The Arrivals, an outerwear brand founded by architect Jeff Johnson and tech entrepreneur Kal Vepuri, to win over customers with its yummy leather jackets and wool overcoats. This May, Vepuri is trying to pull off another win with discerning women, tackling the competitive and crowded beauty market with a line of products that merges skincare and cosmetics.
It's called Onomie, and it launches with a slim range, comprising a only a concealer and a highlighter, on Thursday.
"The opportunity, broadly, was highly credible beauty products," Vepuri says. "The credibility factor in beauty, I thought, was generally low."
Fighting words. With that investor-like sense for an opening in the market, he set out looking for a co-founder who was "entrepreneurial but also had a very deep skill set in product development and really understood skincare." Enter Lauren Hoffman, who previously worked in skincare and global product development for Kiehl's, focusing on its business in Asia.
In Hoffman's words, the goal of Onomie is to take cosmetic products and infuse them with actives so that they can perform the way a skincare product does, enhancing and correcting its quality. The highlighter, for instance, contains 10 percent vitamin C, which Onomie claims elicits a 30 percent improvement in fine lines around the eye area over eight weeks. If true, that's the kind of credibility Vepuri's talking about.
The brand is also banking on price point to help differentiate it from the herd. Though it has similar ingredients to more expensive eye treatments, Onomie's highlighter sits at $32 because the brand is selling directly to consumers and therefore avoiding the markups associated with wholesaling — a business model popular among startups and one famously employed by Warby Parker, in which Vepuri is an investor. It's also the approach that Glossier, the beauty product offshoot of Into the Gloss, has taken.
To attract customers, the Onomie team is planning to launch a referral rewards program, will send concealer samples for free and has a "very exclusive but inclusive" VIP program going. But it's going to be an uphill climb: The beauty business is overcrowded, and it's difficult for small brands to catch consumers' attention without a truly unique, kickass flagship product. Onomie is relying on shoppers' ability to see its concealer and highlighter — two ubiquitous products that nearly every line carries — as singular for their use of active ingredients.
Hoffman says that the team is rolling out future products in a deliberate fashion in order to make sure that they're hard hitting functionally. Will its first offerings be enough of a win with shoppers to make that wait worthwhile? We'll have to wait and see.