Is This the End of the "Cool Girl" Beauty Brand?

Gatekeeping is on its way out.

Glossier / Sephora

Sephora / Instagram

The years of religiously monitoring the FedEx tracking status of your Glossier packages have finally come to an end. In late February, millennial-pink banners adorned Sephora stores across the U.S. to celebrate the new wholesale partnership between the two companies.

It’s a big shift for Glossier after eight years of avoiding wholesale and perfecting the trademark cool-girl aura that skyrocketed them to cult popularity in the late 2010s. Glossier once turned the beauty world on its head with its emphasis on minimalism, social media, and direct-to-consumer marketing. Now, more and more brands are abandoning blase-chic for Gen Z's enthusiastic maximalism. For years, so-called millennial "blanding" has ruled the marketing and beauty world. But now, in the age of de-influencing and TikTok’s rapid-fire honesty, is being the cool girl even cool anymore? 

Glossier wasn’t reinventing the wheel with its direct-to-consumer marketing and “no-makeup makeup” approach, but the company did give it quite a makeover. Intertwining the two concepts to inform their brand identity made Glossier an innovator in the rising digital-first DTC beauty economy. The brand’s combination of millennial pink packaging and DTC marketing created an air of fashionable exclusivity and mom-and-pop charm. Glossier made minimalism chic with its signature baby pink splashed across everything from the products to the reusable bubble-wrap ziplock packaging. The simplicity of Glossier felt like a promise, a breath of fresh air from YouTube contouring tutorials, saucy blush names, and sparkly shadow palettes. 

The Glossier model became a golden beauty business standard, especially in the 2010s when “influencer” became a viable career. Brands with similar aesthetics, principles, and marketing strategies began to find similar success, while countless DTC businesses like The Ordinary, Kosas, and others thrived under a similar model.

The anti-aspirational aspirational brand flourished, relying on the allure of real-life cool girls, models, and bloggers armed with flawlessly curated Instagram grids. The new brands cropping up had minimalist product designs, quippy ad campaigns, and mission statements centered around simplicity, honesty, and raw beauty as a way of life. It was a makeup revolution marshaled by sophistication and austerity; it wasn’t stylish to care or try hard. Effortlessly beautiful people used effortlessly beautiful products as if it were all a matter of fact, as if to say, “We can’t help but be like this!”

Where image flourished, so did exclusivity; the coveted "cool girl" aura always stayed just out of reach. Glossier’s particular rise to stardom was bolstered by its unavailability. You couldn’t buy it in stores, and for a while, you couldn’t buy it online, either, due to the months-long waitlist for their products. They didn’t need nor want to be in stores with all the other brands. They didn’t want buyers to pick Glossier by accident or idly purchase after some browsing. You had to seek them out — you had to come to them. So why now—after all that success—are more and more brands seeking out wholesale partnerships like Glossier and Sephora? 

The industry is changing. Trends aren’t coming from celebrities or the runway anymore, and they’re evolving twice as fast. TikTok has a massive influence on the beauty world—just look at the runaway popularity of Charlotte Tilbury’s Hollywood Flawless Filter or its many supposed "dupes." Products sell out overnight thanks to the app, but it can also serve as a whisper network for products to avoid. Online community is keeping consumers informed and connected, whether it’s the appearance of a product on different skin tones, the origin of all those impossible-to-pronounce ingredients, or any number of other topics. Gen Z wants to champion one another and increase transparency, diversity, and accessibility in beauty. 

The air of exclusivity Glossier’s model created is no longer fashionable. Gen Z doesn’t want to be in on a secret; they want to be part of a community. They want to find the products they love at a real-life store, where they don’t have to factor in shipping costs or supply chain troubles when they want a new lip color. Gen Z is straddling the fast lane, concerned with the environmental impact of ordering everything online and hungry for everything at once. This concept isn’t new — but now, for the first time, it’s possible. In fact, with other DTC brands like Kosas and The Ordinary already available at multi-brand retailers, Glossier was one of the last holdouts. Alongside the rest of the beauty world, the brand is adapting to a market where they’re no longer the coolest girl in the room, and part of that means going where the customer wants you.

Clearly, Glossier has no intention of entering their next era as if they’re going backward. While customers can finally match their foundation shade or swatch the newest Cloud Paint color in-person at one of 600 Sephora stores across North America, the company’s also revamping other parts of the Glossier brand and experience. Take, for instance, the newly reopened NYC flagship store. The new store takes on an NYC metro flair with features like a custom Glossier MTA card dispenser, aestheticized claw machines, and deadstock limited-edition merch. The stores are just part of the company’s subtle rebrand toward making Glossier fun. They’ve also shifted towards a quicker, more flexible product release model that unveils new products and shades every four to six weeks.

Gen Z is over acting cool. People are getting less afraid to ask for what they want and to celebrate getting it. If everyone just wants to have a little fun, Glossier wants in on the ride.   

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