Sephoria Gives The Beauty Festival Format A Sephora-Style Makeover
Sephora entered the realm of made-for-social-media IRL experiences last week with the debut of Sephoria, its take on the beauty festival genre that’s become increasingly popular as brands, subscription boxes and retailers sort through how to connect with customers who are constantly connected.
Marking the beauty specialty chain’s 20th anniversary, the LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned company’s immersive event occupied three floors of the 25,000-square-foot wedding and filming venue The Majestic in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday and Sunday. More than 50 brands created activations for the occasion; and attendees posed for Instagram posts atop a super-sized product at Glamglow, riding a flower-powered pretend car at Tarte, inside a British phone booth at Jo Malone, and in front of enormous makeup sponges at Beautyblender.
Sephoria’s layout was broken up into 16 areas called that, in the vein of Refinery29’s 29Rooms, Sephora called rooms. In The Fragrance Bar room, cocktails and mocktails inspired by Tom Ford, Atelier Cologne, Kilian and Maison Margiela scents were whipped up. At The Makeover Vanity room, Drybar, Benefit and Sephora offered blowouts, and brow and makeup touch-ups. Even The Bathroom was a room, and it featured products from Method.
Brands enticed the Sephoria flocks with Insta-worthy setups, services and samples, but appearances from celebrities, influencers and renowned beauty professionals like Charlotte Tilbury, Jen Atkin, Mario Dedivanovic, Laura Mercier, Chrissty Teigen, Kandee Johnson, Daniel Martin, Patrick Ta and Lauryn Evarts, aka The Skinny Confidential, were perhaps the biggest draw. Teigen stoked a frenzy at The Kitchen, the room devoted to food-linked merchandise, as she handed out limited-edition Becca X Cravings products Sunday evening.
“I love Becca, and I love Chrissy Teigen,” said Lexie Burdelas, a 21-year-old FIDIM student when asked about what she most excited to see at Sephoria. An employee working for Benefit during the event noted that almost every shopper he spoke to throughout the weekend was hoping to sneak a peek of Teigen.
“As a young brand, exposure is crucial. We’re in a crowded industry competing with major beauty conglomerates that have extensive marketing budgets. Unique and memorable interactive brand experiences like Sephoria are the most impactful way to get the customer’s undivided attention.”
Another FIDM student, 20-year-old Chris Lepordo, stood in line for the chance to meet Kim Kardashian’s go-to glam guru Dedivanovic. He gushed, “Mario is an icon, and I love all of his looks and take a lot of my inspirations from him.”
The majority of the brands at Sephoria were large players owned by beauty conglomerates or under the LVMH umbrella (Fenty Beauty, La Mer, Glamglow, IT Cosmetics, Too Faced, Gucci, Dior, Murad and Marc Jacobs, for instance). However, several independent brands available at Sephora got in on the action. Youth To The People, Artist Couture, Tatcha, Dennis Gross, Briogeo and Pinrose had a presence, and the primary purpose of it wasn’t to drive sales.
“As a young brand, exposure is crucial,” said Kate Kazaryan, a spokeswoman for Pinrose. “We’re in a crowded industry competing with major beauty conglomerates that have extensive marketing budgets. Unique and memorable interactive brand experiences like Sephoria are the most impactful way to get the customer’s undivided attention.”
The fragrance brand isn’t a stranger to the festival circuit. It was involved with Sephora’s beauty tents at Coachella and Panorama, and found its sojourns into the domains of music and millennial merrymaking beneficial for brand-awareness efforts. At Sephoria, Pinrose showcased on its Secret Genius Shimmer Mist.
“This is more spread out than the other shows I have been to. There doesn’t seemed to be as many people crammed in. I would definitely come back next year.”
“This opportunity offered a playful product experience for Sephora shoppers who may not be familiar with our brand or not noticed our collection during their last visit to a store,” explained Kazaryan. “Sephoria gives us an opportunity to offer customers a memorable experience with one of our newest products and, hopefully, inspire their curiosity to explore our brand further in Sephora stores or through our own website.”
Not surprisingly given its in-store expertise, Sephora joined the festival fray with a prestige-oriented event that was heavy on education. Glamour described the event as “adult” compared to similar conventions and likened it to “an amped up version of Sephora.” In addition to Dedivanovic, skincare experts and makeup artists such as Artist Couture founder Angel Merino, Tatcha founder Victoria Tsai, Renny Vasquez from Make Up For Ever, and Natasha Denona taught master classes.
The relative intimacy of Sephoria also made it seem quite adult. Sephora limited tickets to 5,000, and ticket prices were priced at $99, $249 and $449, depending on the privileges and swag doled out to ticket holders. Tickets permitted attendance to single session, and the two-day event was broken into four sessions each with around 1,200 people. Gold House Key ticket holders paying $449 received $700 in swag, fast passes to access three rooms, a $25 Sephora gift card, a reserved master class or Makeover Vanity seat, and expedited entrance to the event.
At Beautycon, the beauty festival Sephora was at one point in discussions to partner with, ticket prices range roughly from $50 to $1,000. General admission to the recent edition of Ipsy’s Gen Beauty in New York cost $99. The hordes at Gen Beauty and Beautycon regularly exceed the number of attendees at Sephoria. Estimates of Beautycon attendance figures run from 15,000 to 30,000 per event.
“This is more spread out than the other shows I have been to. There doesn’t seemed to be as many people crammed in,” said Sephoria attendee Tifini Hartman, 30. “I would definitely come back next year.” Scarlet Sanchas, 27, a past Beautycon attendee, was thrilled not to fight crowds or wait in long lines at Sephoria. She reported, “I waited in a two-hour line at Beautycon. This was so much better.”