Luxury Fashion E-Tailer Moda Operandi Launches Beauty Selection With 55 Brands

After revealing last year that it would enter beauty, luxury e-tailer Moda Operandi’s beauty assortment is officially live.

Customers can shop more than 300 beauty products from 55 established and emerging skincare, makeup, fragrance, haircare and body care brands on the platform. Brands in the selection include 111Skin, Augustinus Bader, BeautyStat, Sisley Paris, Dr. Barbara Sturm, Eighth Day, Noble Panacea, Ellis Brooklyn, Roz, Tan Luxe, Crown Affair, Roen Beauty, Dr. Lara Devgan Scientific Beauty, Costa Brazil, Leonor Greyl, La Mer and Vintner’s Daughter. Accounting for about half of its brand roster, skincare is a major focus for Moda, and tools will be joining its beauty lineup. 

“Our mission for Moda is to become the authority on luxury beauty,” says Jessica Matlin, director of beauty at Moda Operandi, co-host of the podcast “Fat Mascara” and former beauty director at Harper’s Bazaar. “It’s a special editorially led experience. We have a huge editorial space here at our headquarters in Industry City, so you’re going to see a lot of custom product shots and beautiful videos. We’ve invested quite a bit in the storytelling of beauty. It’s not just going to be an endless scroll of products. Everything is really contextualized on the site.” 

Aside from beauty, Moda’s merchandise verticals cover fashion, accessories, fine jewelry and home. It stocks over 550 designer brands such as Paco Rabanne, Stella McCartney, Valentino, Jimmy Choo, Bottega Veneta and Anita Ko. Ex-Vogue editor Lauren Santo Domingo founded the luxury e-tailer with fashion executive and entrepreneur Áslaug Magnúsdóttir in 2010. 

Moda underwent a management revamp in 2021 when it hired CEO Jim Gold and COO Dermott Sullivan, and filled a number of other positions, notably CIO and chief merchandising officer. To date, it’s raised almost $400 million in equity and debt financing from G Squared, New Enterprise Associates and Apax Digital, among various investors. According to industry sources cited by the publication Women’s Wear Daily, the e-tailer generated between $150 million and $200 million in 2021 sales. Gold told WWD beauty could constitute 10% of Moda’s sales.

Jessica Matlin, director of beauty at Moda Operandi

To ease shopping, Moda has organized products into groups on the site like Beauty Bestsellers, Beauty Essentials, Incredibly Effective Skincare and Lauren’s Edit spotlighting Santo Domingo’s top beauty picks. Santo Domingo’s fashion curation, Lauren’s Closet, has been a hit with Moda shoppers.

One of Matlin’s favorite categories, fragrance will be housed in a separate landing page called The Fragrance Shop. Matlin says, “It’s all custom shot. We’re very thoughtful about the brands we’re bringing on, and we’re going to have these mini vignettes for different fragrance personalities there.”

As she assembled Moda’s beauty assortment, Matlin says she was on the hunt for “credible,” visionary brands with inspiring founder stories. Emerging brands play a crucial role in the assortment as discovery engines, but products and brands that have reached icon status and are widely used by industry insiders were on Matlin’s priority list, too. 

“Moda was founded on this idea of established and emerging names. I didn’t come here to reinvent the wheel,” she says. “So, with beauty, we’re bringing these names that we know our client is already using, but I’ve also been able to bring on brands that I believe may be new to our clients.”

Matlin points to Isamaya, Régime Des Fleurs, Kismet Olfactive, Sidia, Wonder Valley and Ourself as examples of emerging beauty brands in Moda’s beauty repertoire. The majority of beauty brands on Moda have preexisting retail distribution, but the brands Violette_FR, Ever Amid and The Beauty Sandwich are making their retail debuts in its selection. The French hand and foot care brand Révérence de Bastien is making its debut in the United States on Moda. On top of their presence on Moda’s site, brands may receive exposure as a result of its social media presence. The e-tailer has 2.7 Instagram followers. 

“I was a beauty editor for 20 years, and I’ve seen it all. What excited me about Moda is that they don’t bring on newness just for the sake of newness. They bring on what’s the most interesting, the most curious and the most cool. It’s incredibly exciting that we can launch emerging beauty brands that will get the eyeballs of the Moda fashion client, but also those of our tremendous social following,” says Matlin. “I feel quite excited about that because honestly it’s these smaller brands that I think are doing some of the most exciting work.”

To help drive discovery, Matlin cherry-picked the beauty products Moda is selling based on each brand’s heroes and hidden gems. Moda doesn’t carry any brand’s full collection. While featuring a brand’s bestselling product is a no-brainer for a retailer, she’s animated by highlighting lesser known products or hidden gems that brand founders are passionate about. 

“Which product is the creator’s favorite that maybe isn’t going to get any love in that editorial? Or what is the makeup artist’s favorite that nobody really knows about? We have the ability and the nimbleness at Moda as a company to hero that kind of product,” says Matlin, singling out fragrance brand By Far’s Daydream of Hopscotch and makeup brand Surratt Beauty’s Lid Lacquer as hidden gems Moda shoppers should check out. 

Moda Operandi is the latest fashion e-tailers to move into beauty. Marketplace Farfetch and Amazon-owned Shopbop previously jumped into beauty.

Moda’s league of personal shoppers informed Matlin’s beauty buy to ensure she aligned it with the tastes of the e-tailer’s loyal customers. Referred to as private client advisors, Moda has 34 personal shoppers that provide one-on-one styling services to the top 10% of its customer base. Private client advisors’ customers shop full-price items that frequently run into the thousands of dollars and pre-order runway pieces from the site. They place an average of 20 orders a year. Beauty is being incorporated into Moda’s personal styling services.

Sixty-eight percent of Moda shoppers are under 45, and the average age is 38. Its customers tend to live in densely populated cities around the globe like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Toronto, London and Dubai. The e-tailer reports its average order value is typically 225% higher than its competitors.

Moda faces stiff competition as it wades into luxury beauty online. Farfetch broke into beauty in April last year soon after acquiring upscale specialty beauty retailer Violet Grey. Amazon has been trying to capture luxury market share since the launch of its Luxury Stores concept in 2020. Today, the e-commerce giant sells luxury beauty brands like Clé de Peau Beauté, Omorovicza, Edward Bess, RéVive and Noble Panacea.

Meanwhile Amazon’s subsidiary, the fashion e-tailer Shopbop, launched a beauty vertical last October. Net-a-Porter is a formidable contender in the online luxury beauty space, too, carrying several brands that Moda has picked up like Augustinus Bader, Noble Panacea, Dr. Barbara Sturm and La Mer. 

Moda isn’t relying just on the strength of its assortment and private stylists to entice new and existing customers to buy beauty on its platform. It’s also giving its customers access to designers, creators and places with events and experiences. “Access is really what Moda Operandi is about,” says Matlin. “You’re not going to find these experiences anywhere else.” 

Beauty-related events have already started virtually on the platform. Westman Atelier founder Gucci Westman held a private Zoom for Moda customers last year; Costa Brazil offered a getaway to the Palm Heights Spa in the Cayman Islands; and Dr. Macrene Alexiades, founder of Macrene Actives, created a custom bundle for the site. Events are open to all Moda shoppers.

Beauty is being integrated into Moda’s larger marketing and advertising efforts for its site and social media, and it will be merchandised across categories on the platform. “Beauty brands really want to see themselves as part of a bigger moment. Who is their client? What are they wearing? Where are they going?” says Matlin. “It’s sometimes hard to see one product as part of a bigger world, but we can bring it to life through our storytelling and curations. The Moda client looks to Moda for her whole universe.”