Ten years in and fresh as a daisy.
LoveShackFancy, the ultrafeminine brand founded by Rebecca Hessel Cohen in 2013, is in expansion mode. There was a collaboration with Gap, an anniversary collection, many, many new stores, and now, Hessel Cohen is taking her rose-colored viewpoint to a new category: fragrance.
The brand’s first perfumes are set to debut this fall at the company’s stores, on its website and with Sephora. Hessel Cohen said scent was always in the cards.
“Fragrance has always been a part of our brand DNA since the very beginning, because flowers are at the heart and soul of everything that I do, and that we do as a company,” Hessel Cohen told WWD in the company’s rococo offices in New York.
“Even when we opened our store, we first started with the exterior and this beautiful facade of flowers. When you enter the store, you’re wandering through this magical garden…it’s very much this feeling and sense of florals and fragrance. That’s the soul of the brand.”
Since it launched — which followed Hessel Cohen designing her own bridesmaids dresses — LoveShackFancy has been able to drum up a devoted fan base with its ultra-girly offerings. The brand started opening stores in 2018, and now has 17.
“Once we started opening stores, everyone started asking when we were going to do fragrance,” she said. “Fragrance always seemed a little intimidating with these huge companies and licensing. It felt very distant and daunting, but when you enter into the world and the universe of LoveShackFancy, you feel you’re taken on this journey, a sensibility and mood and feeling. And that’s very much what fragrance represents.”
Rather than partner with an external licensee, Hessel Cohen jump-started LoveShackFancy’s beauty division with the hire of Stephanie Supko, an Estée Lauder Cos. and Unilever Prestige alumna who serves as general manager.
“We wanted to have full creative direction, ownership and vision. Any new category we start needs to feel very authentic,” Hessel Cohen said. “If I don’t love it and it doesn’t feel close to my heart, it’s not going to work. Instead of just saying, ‘here’s this great way to start a new category, make all this money and work with a big licensing company,’ I don’t think that would have ever worked. It wouldn’t have been able to be so true to the brand DNA and to my vision ultimately.”
Part of the rationale was also the interest expressed by LoveShackFancy devotees, which span generations, and express their connection on social media. The hashtag #LoveShackFancy has more than 420 million views on TikTok; the company’s following on Instagram is just shy of 1 million. Social media prowess is one of the pillars of Hessel Cohen’s strategy for staying close to consumers, and she responds to comments and answers direct messages herself.
“I’m able to understand and connect with all of our customers, and that’s what we do so closely with social media and through our stores,” said Hessel Cohen. “I get stopped all the time from girls of every age, every generation, saying how important this one dress is to them — they wore it at their graduation, or they can’t believe they were finally able to buy their first miniskirt.”
Executives declined to comment on the overall size of LoveShackFancy or sales expectations for the fragrance launch. Industry sources, though, say the total business has doubled in the last two years, and fragrance could reach between $20 million and $30 million in retail sales in the next three years.
Stacy Lilien, LoveShackFancy’s president, credits Hessel-Cohen’s finger-on-the-pulse mindset for its success. “A part of what makes LoveShackFancy so successful is the approach that Rebecca and the brand take in building community. She takes you in and along her journey. You feel you’ve been with her every step of the way and she’s created this highly engaged community, socially and in real life,” she said. “Rebecca is this visionary storyteller, and it’s so important to her for that community to see it all from the beginning.”
The fragrance foray jibes with LoveShackFancy’s whimsical and vintage aesthetic codes and was, according to brand executives, always a part of the vision.
“We’ve been talking about it for a really long time, but we had such a small team,” said Lilien. “During COVID-19, we took our time to focus on stores, we wanted to create the environment for our customers to be able to create this place in this community for customers to come and explore and learn and have fun.”
The stores also create a hub for brand enthusiasts and serve as an incubator for different expansion opportunities. “Opening our first store was really eye-opening because there was never one place that our customer could really see the world of LoveShackFancy. It allowed her to have this immersive experience,” Lilien said. “We had started with ready-to-wear, then it turned into home, and it was all a natural extension from that aspect. Rebecca had kids, and it became this mommy-and-me moment. Our little girl business evolved from there, and then we’ve learned a lot as a brand during a lot of collaborations.”
Among those collaborators are Bandier, which precursed LoveShackFancy’s activewear range; Supergoop, on a range of sunscreens; Hurley, for a surf collection, and the Gap, which included a campaign fronted by Ciara that “sold out within 24 hours,” Lilien said.
“We learned a lot as a brand during a lot of these collaborations, and going after categories that we didn’t offer on our own to learn what our customer was looking for,” Lilien continued. “It allows you to try something so new and reach this audience that you weren’t able to before, especially at the different price points. Getting into the beauty category is going to just open so many doors for the brands and reach a whole new audience.”
On the brand’s website, a floral-printed notepad sells for $25; a sheet set retails for $295. Various vintage-inspired prints of wallpaper go for $140 per roll.
Among its current categories are rtw, swim, sunglasses, shoes, bedding, bath, wallpaper and stationery. Lilien didn’t rule out the possibility of collaborating with other beauty brands down the line, if those brands meshed well with LoveShackFancy’s visual identity.
Sephora was an ideal partner, Hessel Cohen said, given the swaths of customers the brands share. “We have such a similar customer base, there are so many girls that walk into LoveShackFancy stores with their Sephora bag, and they like to show me what they bought,” she said.
LoveShackFancy’s business is roughly split into thirds between e-commerce, the brand’s own brick-and-mortar stores and retail partnerships, Lilien said. “It’s important to keep that business as much as we can, because so much can happen. Look at COVID-19, we had our stores and e-commerce to fall back on,” she said.
The goal is for beauty sales to come from those same channels. “Our LoveShackFancy stores create this environment for our customer to come in and experience the world of LoveShackFancy, and beauty is just another category within the whole world of LoveShackFancy,” Supko said. “It’s going to be natural for the customer to come in, style their whole outfit for a special occasion, and fragrance is such a big part of customers’ lives. It just fits with the whole maximalism and special mentality of LoveShackFancy.”
LoveShackFancy boasts a devoted community, which Supko said spans generations, with a sweet spot of Gen Z and Millennial shoppers. “What we see is that’s the consumer we have in mind for beauty, too. What’s great about Sephora and partnering with them is that we are able to be in brick-and-mortar communities and places in the U.S. that we don’t have a LoveShackFancy store, so that’s going to expand our community awareness and engagement.”
LoveShackFancy customers often arrive to the brand by way of special occasion — a wedding, a graduation — and Lilien expects that emotional connection will drive purchases of the brand’s fragrance.
“You hear all these girls, women and grandmothers buying the product, and many of the times, it’s associated with a time in their life, whether it be a high school graduation or a bridal shower. They have LoveShackFancy as part of their memory, and the same thing will happen with beauty,” Lilien said.
LoveShackFancy’s move into fragrance comes during a booming time. Product sales are up 8 percent for fragrance in the first half, according to Circana. Carye Campbell, Sephora’s vice president of fragrance merchandising, said perfumes have been riding high ever since the pandemic.
“The last two-and-a-half years, we have grown significantly and found that our U.S. consumer and our clients are engaging more,” Campbell said. “In the past, they would collect bottles or save them for special occasions. But it really wasn’t a part of their life. Now, we’re seeing our consumer engaged with the category, it helps with their mood, provides confidence, and she’s building a wardrobe of fragrance.”
TikTok has emerged as a key driver for fragrance sales, Campbell said, giving her a positive outlook on the future. “The everyday people that started out and became influencers or microinfluencers — it’s propelled the category, and the clients definitely engage. We don’t see the business slowing down at all and believe there’s a significant opportunity.”
LoveShackFancy’s fragrance will sit within the designer fragrance category, which is growing, thanks in part to new launches. “There’s a lot of innovation in the category and our Sephora client loves newness,” Campbell said.
The brand boasts multigenerational appeal, both LoveShackFancy and Sephora agreed, which will also help differentiate it from the onslaught of holiday launches. “I reached out to our team to see what they knew about the brand, and it totally came back with overwhelming interest from our younger team members,” Campbell continued. “We just believed it filled a white space because it’s ultra-girly, super-feminine…we’ve seen on TikTok the interest in ballet core, cottagecore and movies and shows like Bridgerton.”
“Rebecca and Todd have created this brand, they have quite a following, and they’re so true to their brand DNA and their codes. They live and breathe flowers, femininity and pink and wanted to get into fragrance, which is the perfect thing,” Campbell continued.
Though minimalist design has pervaded niche and luxury fragrances in recent years, leaning into the brand’s codes — floral notes, prints and feminine touches on the bottle — is part of how the brand is setting itself apart from the pack.
“Our LoveShackFancy maximalism aesthetic is so different than what you see in beauty and fragrance,” Supko said. “There’s a lot of minimalism, and we have a product that is going to stand out as this fun and unexpected thing. People are going to be drawn to this fun and optimistic brand.”
That strategy has worked thus far in every other category. “That is something that is has really differentiated ourselves as a brand from everyone else. We don’t listen to the noise around us,” Lilien said. “Rebecca and I have been together for so long and she’s very fast-forward, while I wear more of the commercial hat. To be able to tie the two together is an incredible balance of both. She asks what everyone else thinks, and I say, no, we need to stick with what feels right to us. Because this is what we’ve done to get to where we are today.”