YouTube’s “caked looks” of 2016 have been replaced by TikTok’s “less is more” makeup. The current desire for minimalistic and sustainable yet effective makeup is also analogous to the renowned five-minute makeup routine developed by Katherine Power, co-founder of Avaline and Who What Wear, and CEO of Versed and Merit Beauty.
Power came up with her “five-minute,” clean makeup brand, Merit, through the same “lens of minimalism” that colors her natural wine label Avaline and clean skin-care brand Versed. Power launched Merit in January 2021, when the push for minimalism was further accelerated by the pandemic.
“Historically, January is not a great time to launch a new brand, but for Merit, it was perfect, because we had spent a year becoming comfortable with our natural hair texture, our bare nails. [Personally,] I lost my eyelash extensions. We’re barely doing anything, and we started to understand that we don’t need a lot. As we started to reenter the world or be on Zoom, it was the perfect, comfortable makeup,” she said. “You don’t feel like you’re not yourself, and you’re used to looking pretty natural, at this point. It was wonderful timing.”
But Power, who, for years, did her makeup during her five- to 10-minute drive to work, said she saw the “trend even prior to the pandemic.” Merit came from a “personal need,” as well as consumer research compiled by Clique brands, the parent company of fashion site Who What Wear, said Power.
After developing an aversion to her “normal” lip products while pregnant, Power sought out cleaner products. “I wasn’t finding anything that resonated with me as a brand and that made me feel the same way I felt walking out of a department store when I would buy that new YSL lip tint,” she said.
That, along with ample research, was curated and edited down to this “‘less is more’ approach to beauty.”
In line with Power’s omnichannel strategy, Merit’s concise line of seven products is available online at meritbeauty.com, sephora.com and sephora.ca. It’s also in Sephora stores across the U.S and Canada.
Merit’s gained massive popularity among its “older millennial” customers as a purveyor of “responsible luxury,” Power said, noting that its prices are 30% lower than those of traditional luxury brands. As a result of Merit’s success, Power was able to raise $20 million in Series A funding prior to the brand’s 1-year anniversary.
“We’re using [Series A funding] to accelerate growth, to do new product development and to build out both our retail business and our direct-to-consumer business,” said Power.
Also with launching Merit in January, Power also announced her SPAC, Powered Brands, focused on beauty and wellness brands. She co-founded it with Greycroft founder Dana Settle. One of few female-founded SPACs, Powered Brands raised over $1.5 billion in orders before the end of its first pricing day. Just as Merit’s novelty has attracted an influx of new beauty customers, Powered Brands’ multi-brand strategy “may prove more attractive to some investors.”