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Sephora is Ramping Up Its Mission to Empower Women in 2017

And it's doing so by focusing on sustainability and technology.
The opening of a Sephora store in Sydney, Australia. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

The opening of a Sephora store in Sydney, Australia. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Last year, beauty giant Sephora rolled out one of its biggest launches to date — and it had nothing to do with pushing the newest liquid lipstick or must-have highlighter. This time last year, the prestige retailer introduced Sephora Accelerate, a program that offers support and mentorship to female entrepreneurs in the beauty space. On Wednesday, the company announced plans to expand the program by unveiling an open application process for beauty businesses in two new, thoroughly modern categories: sustainability and technology. 

"With sustainability and tech specifically, we are very client-driven and we care about our customers and what they care about," says Corrie Conrad, Sephora's Head of Social Impact. "We see the opportunity to remain a dynamic and innovative leader on both of those fronts." Unlike last year's admission process, which was exclusively via invitation, the process for the two new categories is open to all applicants through the Sephora Accelerate website through the end of the month. 

In its inaugural year, Sephora Accelerate provided more than 300 hours of mentorship and helped its first class of female entrepreneurs build their businesses, even securing retail partnerships for four budding brands. "I think that our purpose of inspiring fearlessness and female empowerment has resonated so authentically," said Conrad. "If you look at our client base, the majority are women — it's building off of our previous ongoing commitment to [gender] diversity in the workplace."

Additionally, Sephora is expanding Classes for Confidence, the retailer's schedule of complimentary in-store classes designed to empower women facing major life transitions, such as unemployment or serious illness. In 2016, nearly 2,000 participants attended more than 200 beauty classes; for 2017, Sephora is hoping to get that number to 100,000. This coming spring, the LVMH-owned retailer will introduce a new nationwide course, Brave Beauty in the Face of Cancer, designed to offer makeup advice to with women living with cancer. (The course was developed by a focus group of Sephora employees who were cancer survivors.) "It's not about just selling skin care or makeup," Conrad tells me. "We're selling beauty products and the purpose of inspiring fearlessness. [That] is the 'why' of what we do and we have an opportunity to engage with our environment and community." 

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