Launched in 2011, Beautycon was once an underground event catering strictly to YouTube beauty influencers, but it’s grown up significantly in the last few years. Since 2014, it’s been open to the public and, more recently, it’s been leveraging its ample customer data for brand partnerships with the likes of MAC and Charlotte Tilbury.
Taking place in five cities — Dallas, Dubai, New York, Los Angeles and London — the events now attract an average of 15,000 per city, according to the company. Last year, its Los Angeles event expanded from one to two days to give customers more time to explore, and its next New York installment, taking place April 21-22, will follow suit.
Upward of 200 brands, ranging from traditional juggernauts to indie upstarts, participate at each conference, with the option to sell products directly, host giveaways or participate in event programming, which includes panels and tutorials. These brands can expect to rake in $1 million or more, according to Beautycon.
“I’m really happy that this whole idea of Beautycon as a teeny-bopper, YouTube event has started to dissolve, and people now understand that it’s really a central function of the beauty industry,” said Moj Mahdara, who took over the business in 2014 from its founders Marina Curry and Jonathan Burford. (Only the latter is still involved, as creative director.)
A former investor and entrepreneur, it was Mahdara’s decision to open the events to the public and double down on data collection to add appeal for participating brands. Product sales, on-site interviews, technology engagement at different booths and RFID-enabled wristbands tracking shoppers’ movement throughout are used alongside routine email surveys to flesh out the data Beautycon can offer its clients.
One result of the company’s findings has been its bi-annual FOMO report, a qualitative and quantitative study examining the way younger generations are shopping for beauty.
Beautycon is well-placed to weigh in: The majority of its audience is aged between 16 years and 27 years. The second largest, and a quickly growing tier, however, is aged between 38 years and 47 years. Altogether, it’s roughly 96 percent female, although Mahdara claims that most of their visitors are gender non-conforming and fluid.
“Society as a whole has moved away from the discussion around beauty being only this vapid, driven-by-cosmetics conversation,” she said, adding that it’s also no longer seen as just for women. In fact, Mahdara reported seeing increasingly more heteronormative men attending the festivals alongside their girlfriends.
She’s also noticed an uptick in beauty buyers and trend forecasters at the event, as well as increased interest from luxury brands in participating.
“You can have amazing products and amazing things to say, but it’s only in the presence of your community that it really starts to matter,” explained Mahdara. “From a brand point of view, Beautycon is a place for them to tell their stories and have a real time experience with their audience.”
Alongside its two-day expansion, the New York event next month is also moving to The Javits Center from the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, to better accommodate out-of-towners who venture from places like Long Island and Washington, D.C. for the events.
“We’re no longer this experiment, so the best location for us is somewhere that’s easy for everyone to get to,” said Mahdara.
The event will also be debuting two new activation areas, which sync with some of today’s most buzzy beauty categories: B-Well, offering health and wellness products (from supplements to toothbrushes), and K-Town, a K-beauty section featuring popular Korean brands like Amorepacific and Innisfree.
According to Mahdara, the content programming has also evolved over the years, featuring more influential names like Gabrielle Union and makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic. Panels cover everything from using makeup as self expression to body positivity. Even politics gets mixed in: The founders of the Women’s March spoke at last year’s New York event.
“We take seriously our place within the industry to have these forward-thinking conversations, so we will continue to push the envelope there,” said Mahdara.
The impending New York event will boast appearances by Pat McGrath, Teen Vogue/Allure editorial director Phillip Picardi, actress Lucy Hale and the YouTube personality Gigi Gorgeous. Paris Hilton will also be on hand to discuss her recent venture into beauty.
Beautycon, which now boasts a total of $11 million in funding, may be one of the incumbents in the space, but competitors are slowly trickling in. Last year, the beauty subscription service Ipsy launched a similar public-facing Gen Beauty festival, and UBM Fashion’s trade show Coterie will open its [Pre]Coterie event to the public this summer, in an effort to keep its dated model afloat.
“It’s flattering that Beautycon has started a trend, and I think it’s great that beauty has been democratized for the consumer,” said Mahdara of the “friendly” competition. “It keeps us on our game and is a huge part of why we’re trying to push ourselves forward.”