How And Why The BrowGal’s Tonya Crooks Created Sub-Brand Arches & Halos To Sell At Target
What prompted brow expert Tonya Crooks to create mass brand Arches & Halos?
She wasn’t pressed for something to do. Crooks’ Los Angeles brow-shaping salon is thriving, and she has the upscale The BrowGal brand that’s sold at luxury retailers such as Bloomingdale’s, Revolve, Selfridges and Nordstrom.
The reason for Crooks’ sub-brand starts with her late mother. “I came from a single-parent family. My mom was hardworking, trying to make ends meet. I’d watch her get ready for dates. Maybelline and Max Factor were her friends,” she recalls, adding that her mother, who worked at Hewlett-Packard on the first LED lightbulbs, yearned to buy the luxury merchandise in the mall. “But that wasn’t in her budget.”
Crooks also takes note of the financial struggles of students and others desiring beautiful brows, but without the discretionary income for expensive brands or salon visits. She says, “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to create a brow line for the masses to empower them to be able to do their own and not break the bank?’ The mass category shouldn’t have to sacrifice quality.”
Of course, there were business considerations, too. The top tier of the beauty industry is very competitive in brows. Anastasia Beverly Hills and Benefit have strong market share positions in it. Overall, revenues in the prestige brow category have been steady, according to The NPD Group, but it hasn’t seen the surges it did in previous years as makeup looks skew natural.
At the mass tier, there are dollars on the table to be had for Arches & Halos. The brow category is one of the few bright spots in a dull mass makeup segment. Sales in the category soared 9.1% for the 52-week period ended August 11, according to IRI data for mass-market stores.
“Wouldn’t it be great to create a brow line for the masses to empower them to be able to do their own and not break the bank?”
Arches & Halos debuted on Target’s website and in a special display at 550 of the retailer’s doors in July. The line spans 61 items from eyebrow grooming implements to brow shaping and coloring tools retailing from $4.99 to $12.99. Exclusive to Target for launch, it has the potential to roll out to other doors later. Crooks declined to comment on financials, but industry sources estimate Arches & Halos could hit $6 million to $8 million in sales by 2020 and surpass the mother brand.
Crooks knows personally what it’s like to live on a budget. Budget constraints actually led her to become a brow guru. “While going to art school [in the United Kingdom], I ran out of money, so I needed to find a job or go home,” she says. Without British citizenship, the options were limited, and she earned extra cash painting store windows and, eventually, became a makeup artist. Crooks recounts, “My friend volunteered me to do it and said, since I knew how to shadow and shape, I could do a face, which is a three-dimensional canvas.”
She zeroed in on brows when she saw how much a perfect brow impacted editorial work and clients’ self-esteem. She eventually relocated to Los Angeles where there were ample brow and makeup gigs. Crooks set aside money from those gigs and opened her salon with it. The salon would go on to attract celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Halle Berry and Megan Fox. Customers requested the custom formulas she used on them, and she developed The BrowGal to give them those formulas. The brand enabled consumers more generally to pick up Crooks’ products as well.
Prestige retailers sought out The BrowGal, but it was always in Crooks’ blueprint to reach outside of them. Without the funding to do it herself, she struck up a relationship three years ago with Beauty Partners LLC, a company headed by beauty industry veterans Barry Shields and Bruce Kowalsky, who were introduced to her through financial contacts. The two parties are equal partners in the brand.
Shields and Kowalsky launched numerous blockbuster products for the likes of Del Laboratories and Coty prior to branching out on their own. Along with Arches & Halos, Beauty Partners’ portfolio includes Defy & Inspire, an exclusive nail lacquer line at Target. The company continues to hunt for opportunities to take budding beauty brands to the next level.
Crooks had total autonomy to direct Arches & Halos’ assortment. “I didn’t want to make an inferior drugstore brand,” emphasizes Crooks, mentioning the “Angels” in its name is is in honor of her late mother. “Bruce and Barry let me take control, and they are products that I use on my celebs.” The pop singer Fergie, in fact, recently posted on Instagram about Arches & Halos.
“One of the key goals of Arches & Halos was to create a destination for brows in mass. The category was splintered.”
“One of the key goals of Arches & Halos was to create a destination for brows in mass,” says Kowalsky. “The category was splintered everywhere. [For example, Maybelline brow products are merchandised with other Maybelline color cosmetics]. We wanted to create a place where he or she could get everything…and colors from blonde to auburn to dark.” The line is vegan, dermatologist- and ophthalmology-tested, hypoallergenic and certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny.
“The brand is meeting all expectations, and we will be expanding distribution early next year,” says Shields, managing partner at Beauty Partners. Arches & Halos’ social platforms have gained 38,000-plus followers in two months. Shields shares Target is so enthusiastic for brows that the retailer slated it in before department resets. The Arches & Halos fixture sports a picture of Crooks along with her tips and tricks.
Crooks is building The BrowGal as she amplifies her presence in mass with Arches & Halos. The original brand’s product pipeline contains offerings that stretch it beyond brows. With the addition of Arches & Halos, Crooks’ business joins a small, but increasing cadre of companies such as Urban Skin Rx, Coola and Karuna, the latter two which distribute Bare Republic and Avatara to mass retailers, respectively, attempting the tricky task of straddling mass and class channels with unique ranges.