Sue Y. Nabi
Chief Executive Officer, Coty Inc.
The Comeback Kid
Fortune favors the brave, and Sue Y. Nabi might just be the bravest woman in beauty. In July, the veteran beauty executive took on the role of chief executive officer of Coty Inc., one of the most storied names in beauty—but also one of the most challenged. Nabi, who was the youngest president in the history of L’Oréal before launching her own brand, Orveda, was tapped to turn things around. She has her work cut out for her. But if she succeeds, she stands to earn more than $140 million over the next three years, making her one of the highest-paid ceo’s in business.
“I joined Coty, because this is an incredible opportunity to lead the comeback of a truly iconic company,” Nabi said. “I want to transform Coty into a global, product-centric powerhouse, where sustainability and health-oriented products are driving innovation. That is my ultimate goal.”
The early signs are positive. Coty’s results for the quarter ending Sept. 30 exceeded the company’s own expectations and those of Wall Street, too. CoverGirl maintained U.S. shelf space for the first time in five years, and Marc Jacobs’ most recent launch, Perfect, resonated with Gen Z.
While no doubt a turnaround of this size is a marathon, Nabi is moving at the speed of a sprinter. She hired a new chief digital officer and chief commercial officer for luxury and is reinforcing relationships with key licensees like Kering, the owner of Gucci.
“This has been an unprecedented year in so many ways. On a personal level, life has taught me that health is wealth,” said Nabi. “For the business broadly, this year has obviously been challenging and accelerated existing trends. Coty has adapted quickly and doubled e-commerce penetration in recent months.”
In the year ahead, she and her team will focus on building out Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty, the Kardashian-Jenner brands that the company has invested over $800 million in thus far and that company chairman Peter Harf expects to be billion-dollar brands in the next few years. Clean is another priority, particularly for CoverGirl, which launched the first clean mass-market mascara in late November. Nabi sees the trend for inclusivity and self-expression as a third key driver. She is laser-focused on finding the convergence of all three. Said Nabi, “We must be the best at understanding, predicting and shaping the trends that will define beauty.”
Chief Executive Officer, The Hut Group
Beauty’s tech titan is flying high.
At a time when many beauty companies are looking to make the leap into technology, The Hut Group is already there. When the company went public in mid-September, it was the U.K.’s largest technology initial public offering, and the largest IPO overall of the last five years. Not bad for a company that Matthew Moulding started just 16 years ago, and has since built into a beauty and technology powerhouse.
Moulding has created perhaps the most multifaceted business in beauty. THG comprises brands, such as Perricone MD, Illamasqua and Espa; its own multibrand commerce platform, Lookfantastic.com, and Ingenuity, an end-to-end technology and operating platform that services both its own brands and others.
“We are trying to embed ourselves across the industry as the go-to partner for brand,” he said, in an exclusive interview with Beauty Inc earlier this year. “We’ve now got, if not the largest digital platform in the world, certainly one of the largest. We’re certainly the largest pure-play platform with Lookfantastic. We’ll give Sephora a good run for the money in terms of who’s biggest online.”
And it’s not just e-commerce. THG has its own studios to create content for its brands and others and runs its own influencer network; its data analytics are among the most sophisticated of any company, and it’s about to launch its own airline, THG Air, with two dedicated cargo planes to ship internationally.
As for what’s next: Moulding has made no secret of his intention to buy more brands, beauty and otherwise, and build infrastructure.
“All we’re trying to do is fix problems,” he said. “We’re very passionate about that. We’re looking at our business, and how best to serve the customers. And if we can solve our problems, then it’s going to make the business stronger every year.”
Influencer and Founder, Forvr Mood
From influencer to activist entrepreneur
Content creator Jackie Aina has built a following of millions by not being afraid to use her voice. After all, the OG beauty YouTuber, who today counts over 3.5 million subscribers, first came to prominence when she called out Tarte for its lack of shade inclusivity in its highly touted Shape Tape foundation launch. As the movement for social justice accelerated this spring, Aina was a leading voice in calling for equity—and accountability. She urged her followers to do the same.
“More than anything, 2020 really reaffirmed what a lot of us already knew: that a lot of what we see on social media and brand “allyship” can either be performative or genuine,” said Aina. “It’s up to me to decide as a consumer and influencer which is which and who I want to support and/or align myself with accordingly.”
Despite strides being made, Aina sees room for improvement in how the beauty industry speaks to consumers. “Right now, ‘less is more’ and skin is in and heavily embraced…but if a beauty brand posts a photo on their socials of someone with acneic or less than perfect skin they will still get talked about heavily in the comments,” she said. “It seems like no matter what conversations in beauty are at the forefront, the audience will still be there to unnecessarily critique and pick people apart, even if it’s unjustified.”
As she looks to the future, Aina is looking to impact the conversation in the year ahead. For one, she’s looking to drive awareness around Black-owned brands, including her own lifestyle venture called Forvr Mood (which she describes as “boujie on a budget”). Aina is also executive producing a documentary called “Social Beauty,” about trailblazing Black women in the industry. In an age in which content rules the roost, Aina is at the forefront of compelling storytelling.
Cofounder and Chief Operating Officer, Credo Beauty
The Standard Bearer
Where Credo goes, others follow. When Annie Jackson and Shashi Batra launched Credo Beauty, it quickly became the standard bearer for clean beauty. Five years later, during a time in which health, safety, inclusivity and sustainability were top of mind for everyone, consumers flocked to clean beauty and all it stands for.
Despite the potentially crippling impact of having to close brick-and-mortar doors, Jackson and her team were able to tap into the business’ founding values to help it not just weather the challenge, but win. “In this uncertainty of 2020, people had time to listen. To think. To hear our story,” said Jackson. “And we talked about what we believed in—protecting our team, championing brand founders conscientiously creating products, sustainability, equity and accessibility. That resonated deeply with our customers and our team.”
Stores may have been closed for much of the year, but that didn’t stop Credo from introducing initiatives that are helping to set the clean standard for the industry overall. There was the launch of Exa, Credo’s private label, clean makeup brand with foundation in 43 shades, filling a much-needed gap in the market. The partnership with Ulta Beauty, which expands the purview of clean beauty. And the introduction of milestones for sustainable packaging, including eliminating single-use products in 2021.
Going forward, Jackson’s focus is on continuing to bring clean beauty to the masses, and to make the online-offline experience ever more seamless, even as people start to return to stores. “In 2021, by far the greatest opportunity is that clean beauty is moving mainstream and the importance of health, wellness and safety are a part of the customer mind-set now,” she said. “The beauty industry was overdue for a shakeup in a lot of different ways. The pandemic and social issues that are occurring around us have converged and not only is there more awareness about the health and safety of products for people and the planet, there is an extremely attuned customer demanding transparency.
“Beauty has long been an industry dictating a certain standard for people,” Jackson continued, “and that has been shaken up this year. Customers are holding beauty accountable.”
Celebrity Hair Stylist; Cofounder, Starring by Ted Gibson
Using his star power for the greater good
With a client roster that includes Debra Messing, Lupita Nyong’o, Angelina Jolie and Rosario Dawson, celebrity hair stylist Ted Gibson is no stranger to the limelight. But usually, he’s been content to let his work speak for itself.
This year, though, as Gibson’s worlds were rocked by the impact of the pandemic and the new civil rights movement, he became a strong advocate for advancing the interests of the professional salon community, as well as speaking only about the racism he’s faced as a Black hairdresser.
Gibson’s newest salon, Starring, had been open just under a year before it was forced to close when Los Angeles was put under shelter-in-place orders. In the summer, as other businesses were allowed to slowly reopen but hair salons weren’t, Gibson became a vocal proponent for change, hiring civil rights attorney Mark Geragos in the fight to reopen salons. As the Black Lives Matter movement cascaded across the country, Gibson used his platform to speak candidly about his experiences in the industry, such as never being booked for a Vogue cover.
“Now is a time when there is so much at stake,” he said. “This year sparked something in me—having a voice and being able to speak up is vital.”
Gibson isn’t just a strong advocate for social change, however. Business-wise, he and his partner (and husband) Jason Backe have also been prescient about the direction that the professional salon industry is heading into. Starring features five individual styling “pods”—Gibson calls them clouds—where the entire client experience is enabled by technology, from the lighting to check in to retail sales.
While the salon was designed pre-social distancing, the confluence of Gibson’s professional vision, personal values and social forces was more than just serendipity. “You can never get to the point where you’re satisfied with the status quo,” he said. “There is so much at stake right now. It’s important to have a voice and speak up and use my platform to make change.”
Executive Vice President, Global Chief Merchandising Officer, Sephora
The brand whisperer with worldwide reach
Ask today’s most successful indie brands the secret of their success, and chances are they’ll name Artemis Patrick. Over the last 15 years, the veteran retailer has been known for not just shaping but helping to create some of beauty’s most important trends, from indie fragrance to clean beauty. Thus far, her work has centered largely in the U.S., but in July, her purview broadened considerably when she was named global chief merchandising officer of Sephora.
Up till now, Sephora has taken a largely regional approach to its merchandising strategy. No longer. Now, Patrick is tasked with growing brands—and securing exclusivity—worldwide. Her role will be to “identify, fast-track and develop multiyear growth plans for new and exclusive brands within the Sephora portfolio,” said the company at the time of the announcement. In other words, part of Patrick’s mission is to make Sephora as dominant in, say, China, as it is in the U.S.
“My primary goal is to ensure that Sephora continues to be the best and most natural choice for any brand partner, in any market and to deliver the most exciting and differentiated product assortment to our clients worldwide,” she said. “Sephora has such incredible regional expertise around the globe but, at the same time, as the largest prestige beauty retailer in the world, we recognized an opportunity to deploy our regional strength as a powerful asset for our brand partners.
“Ultimately, while we know that each region is unique, we also know that no matter where they are in the world, our clients expect the best and most innovative products from us, and we want our clients and unique brands to come together as seamlessly as possible,” she continued. “Our brand partners work incredibly hard to bring their products to market, and we are committed to helping their businesses thrive.”
Still—that may be easier said than done in a retail landscape that has been rocked by the events of 2020. Patrick believes that the solution lies in bringing the fun back to beauty. “We’re focused on ways that we can make beauty come alive for our community, wherever and whenever they want it,” she said. “It is not new news that digital acceleration is a long-term business imperative, but we cannot forget how critical tactical and human experiences are for beauty.”
In her mind, that means rethinking everything from the product mix to in-store experience to education. “At Sephora, we have an opportunity to offer the market a beauty lifestyle, one in which every aspect of beauty—from skin care to hair to makeup to health—is abundantly present across our integrated omnichannel platform,” she said. “The brands and retailers that will emerge from this crisis even stronger are those that not only pivot to digital but also generate new and more efficient ways of creating experiences.”