Following The Wing, Away, Everlane, and Refinery29, Glossier is the latest company to fall short of its progressive, feminist branding. Last week, a group of more than 50 anonymous former retail employees calling themselves “Outta The Gloss” accused the billion-dollar beauty brand in an open letter of mishandling racist incidents in the workplace and fostering a culture that blocked BIPOC employees from succeeding.
“We were worn down by the contrast of the idyllic culture presented to us online, in our first days with Glossier, and the weight of our daily indignities,” reads the letter.
Hypocrisy was the spark, according to a Fortune interview with Outta The Gloss leaders. The group organized after Glossier made a $1 million donation to racial justice causes, including investments in Black-owned beauty brands. “We’re not trying to cancel Glossier,” signees told Fortune. One member added, “If you’re about to be in charge of helping other Black businesses, you need to fix your own house first.”
💎 Data Digs
Glossier’s Instagram following took a sizable hit, currently down 60,000 followers from their peak in July of 2.86 million. On Twitter and Facebook, people don’t seem as perturbed. Glossier added several hundred Twitter followers since the open letter was posted, and stayed steady at 350,000 Facebook likes.
⚔️ Big Picture
- Glossier became a cult phenomenon because of their fresh-faced, no-makeup makeup aesthetic, affordable products, and aspirational cool girl branding. Will the Glossier Nalgene remain an It Girl accessory after consumers read Outta The Gloss’ letter?
- The letter’s authors, all of whom were “editors” (Glossier’s term for retail workers) describe feeling “duped” by the brand, after seeing how, they say, an “overwhelmingly” white management team treated a “majority LGBTQIA+ and/or BIPOC” retail staff.
- The grievances paint a picture of a general mistreatment and neglect of the retail team. The letter describes overworking, dirty and unsafe working conditions in the flagship store in New York City, pay gaps among employees, and retaliation against those who spoke out about company issues.
- Glossier thanked Outta The Gloss for “holding them accountable” in a statement and outlined an action plan on Instagram, promising an overhaul of their HR department and pay scale, and a new “no tolerance” code of conduct.
⚡ Get Ahead
While there has been some chatter, for the most part, the accusations against Glossier have flown under the radar. The overall lack of outcry isn’t unusual. Over the last few months, a wave of employees across industries have spoken out about racism, sexism, transphobia and bullying in the workplace. But brands that have experienced similar accusations of racism, like L’Oreal, Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, have all seen the controversies fade away, retaining massive followings.
Although Glossier isn’t going out of business any time soon, a crack in armor of an industry leader can make room for competitors. Based on the comments on the brand’s most recent Instagram post, (“unfollowed. longtime customer but these actions are inexcusable. didn’t expect to see you acting like nothing is wrong”) at least a few beauty fanatics plan to source their brow kits and cheek tint elsewhere.
Boutique “no-makeup makeup” brands with an emphasis on skincare, such as Pixi, EM Cosmetics, Glow Recipe, RMS Makeup, Milk, Make, Lilah B and Versed are all in a position to make a play for defectors. Glossier’s “going out” line Glossier Play, CNBC suggests, was styled after bold brands Pat McGrath and Nars to begin with. Pixi, beloved for its exfoliating “Glow Tonic,” is at a particular advantage, given their bold new strategy: wholesale deals with grocery store chains like H-E-B.
Glossier’s stumble might push forward the general trend of luxury make-up’s decline. Prestige make-up sales fell 36% in the second quarter, significantly further than cosmetics sales at large’s 22% dip. As shoppers try to make as few stops as possible, grabbing concealer or mascara at the grocery store instead of stopping at Sephora, giants like E.l.f, L’Oreal, Maybelline and Burts Bees might just be the new Glossier.