Forget the malls. These Miami-based fashion and beauty brands are making it on their own
With its international sizzle and entrepreneurial energy, Miami is a natural magnet for fashion and beauty entrepreneurs. But this year, with no runway shows, trunk shows, flashy launches, trade fairs or holiday bazaars, the industry is focused less on the splash and more on sheer survival. Fashion and beauty product companies have seen in-store sales and wholesale accounts decline or even implode this year, as the coronavirus crisis accelerated the consumer shift to online buying. With department store chains declaring bankruptcy — Lord & Taylor, Brooks Brothers, J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus and J. Crew, to name a few — and favorite neighborhood boutiques barely hanging on, designers and beauty product makers may soon have fewer outlets for sales. McKinsey & Company predicts that the fashion sector will contract by 27% to 30% this year compared to last. “We expect a large number of fashion companies to go bankrupt in the next 12 to 18 months. The interconnectedness of the industry is making it harder for businesses to plan ahead,” McKinsey analysts said in the report. Still, McKinsey believes modest growth – about 4% - will return to the sector in 2021.
What does all this mean for Miami’s emerging fashion hub? According to the MiamiDade Beacon Council, the county’s economic development organization, 5,129 people are employed in the fashion industry in 433 companies — about the same as in 2019. But numbers are sometimes slow to reflect the pain on the ground.
“Everybody is extremely scared. When you go down Miracle Mile, it’s frightening when you see all the empty stores,” said Charlene Parsons, the long-time director of the fashion program at Miami International University of Art & Design. “It takes a creative mind and a creative business person to keep going.” Fortunately, Parsons sees that creative spirit flourishing in Miami. Some of her students and alumni have jumped into selling masks; others closed their boutiques but work from home servicing long-time clients. Others have gravitated from luxury to leisure wear to reflect the times. Another alum planned an outdoor fashion show in downtown this past weekend. And nearly all have jumped wholeheartedly into social media and online selling. “They have to in order to be competitive,” Parsons said. The beauty industry – makers of hair care, skin care and cosmetics – has a head start on making those digital transformations. Pre-COVID, these companies alread were shifting to direct-to-consumer e-commerce, shopping-friendly social media platforms and marketplaces, including online giants like Amazon or Ulta.com. Although McKinsey believes 2020 will be a bad year for the beauty industry overall, online sales surges during COVID — in some cases triple-digit growth – will lessen the pain, it said in a report. “Consumers across the globe are showing by their actions that they still find comfort in the simple pleasures of a “self-care Sunday” or a swipe of lipstick before a Zoom meeting.”
Local fashion and beauty brands that have put e-commerce in overdrive could be in for some needed holiday cheer. The National Retail Federation predicts e-commerce holiday sales will experience 20% growth in 2020 and reach an estimated $202 billion. Black Friday alone generated $9 billion in online purchases, up nearly 22% compared to last year.
Whether South Florida’s brands are multimillion-dollar companies or side hustles that gain a cult-like following and grow, they all have one thing in common: Passionate entrepreneurs that can’t imagine doing anything else — even amid a global pandemic that closed factories, disrupting supply chains, and shut down events and travel. Here are a few of the companies that have put e-commerce at the forefront.
IT’S A 10 Carolyn Aronson wore just about every hat in the beauty industry before setting out to create her global brand, It’s a 10 Haircare. In high school she worked at a beauty supply store, then became a hairdresser, then a salon owner and then migrated to product manufacturer. Like many entrepreneurs, Aronson’s first company failed — miserably. By her own account, she started with too many products — nine. She used too many different vendors to make them, a strategy that created quality control issues. And she didn’t have the right team around her. With those lessons under her belt, she and a partner each invested $40,000 of their own funds to start It’s a 10 and launched product No. 1, Miracle LeaveIn, in 2006.
Product quickly followed product. In 2017, she bought out her partner and set out to position the company for global growth – and venture beyond hair. “Being the CEO of a nine-figure brand is not exactly what I totally envisioned – of course we all have those dreams — but I had a lot of learning to do along the way. It’s been an amazing ride, it really has. I love, love, love what I do and embrace it wholeheartedly,” said Aronson, who still owns 100% of her business. Today the South Florida company generates a half-billion dollars in annual revenue. That first product, Miracle LeaveIn, is still massively popular with 13 million units sold last year. During COVID, It’s a 10 was one of the biggest sellers on Ulta, where ecommerce sales were up 550%, said Aronson. Her company is now so influential that she recently sponsored and helped judge the Miss USA pageant. Over the last 18 months or so, It’s a 10 has launched in nine countries, mainly in Europe; Aronson expects to be a dozen more countries by early 2022. “We are going to be launching into the Middle East, and we are opening up India and parts of Asia.” Her vision goes beyond hair care.
“My mission is to create It’s a 10 Enterprises, which is a head-to-toe beauty experience. I’ve created It’s a 10 hair tools, It’s a 10 hair extensions and now we’ve launched the Be a 10 makeup line. That’s my favorite part of it all – I love creating so much that I don’t think I will ever stop doing that.” Be a 10 Cosmetics, a multifunctional makeup line, launched last month. “We are all a 10, and we all need to learn how to embrace our own natural beauty,” Aronson said. “The applicators are built right into the makeup — you don’t need YouTube tutorials or a million brushes. It is very simple for the average consumer to use but it gives you very professional results. I thought it was something women needed — your entire face system all in one little bag.” Aronson, better) who is pregnant and has four other children as part of her blended family, is creating a line called Tiny 10, for ages newborn to 10. She’s also adding adding additional collections to It’s a 10, such as a coily hair line of products planned for a 2021 launch. It’s a 10 recently purchased a building in northwest Miami for its headquarters; it had been in Broward for years. It’s a 10 employs 14 people full-time, plus contractors; a network of vendors around the country manufacture the products Aronson creates for the bottles she designs. “Trust me, just because you get to a certain level, it doesn’t get easier necessarily. You just have more zeroes after your headaches. You never quite get off that roller coaster ride as an entrepreneur. But you do learn to master it a little bit more.”
CEO Kate Boyer and creative director Shawn Boyer at AnatomieÕs headquarters in Miami on Tuesday, December 1, 2020. Anatomie is a successful global fashion brand known for its high-end high-style travel and leisure clothing for women. Keeping them company is their dog Luna, seen below. Al Diaz ADIAZ@MIAMIHERALD.COM
Recessions don’t scare Kate Boyer. After all, the co-founder and CEO of Anatomie launched her upscale women’s brand by holding over 600 events across the country during the financial crisis of 2008-2012. That laid the groundwork for a direct-to-consumer approach the firm continues with today. Known for stylish, versatile and durable clothing, Anatomie also operates as a wholesale business targeted at resorts, spas and boutiques, Boyer said. “It’s been a wild ride, but the brand evolved, the products got better, the customer base got stickier and stickier, and we became a better company in the process.” The Budapest-born Boyer is a former competitive gymnast. She went to France to pursue an MBA, and while there, she coached a champion girls gymnastics team and made clothes for them.
“And that’s how my first line was made – to travel, train and compete. So what was born out of necessity turned into a solution-based brand,” Boyer said. “Very early I recognized the power of three generations of women shopping together — mom, daughter and grandma. That’s still our audience. We are timeless, seasonless and ageless.” After finishing her MBA and working in the Caribbean for a few years, Boyer moved to Miami in 2005 where she met Shawn Boyer, who was designing custom athletic menswear.
The couple, now married, collaborated on private label work for others before launching the Anatomie brand together from a one-bedroom apartment in 2008.
Shawn runs design and product development, while Kate runs finance, sales and operations. Today, Anatomie has a team of 16 at its headquarters warehouse space in northeast Miami. Around the country, Anatomie has six showrooms and 50 VIP stylists who have their own customer bases.
Annual sales have grown from $60,000 in its first full year of operations to over $10 million today, Boyer said, powered by a 3-year growth rate of 196% that landed Anatomie on the top half of the 2020 Inc 5000’s Fastest-Growing Companies. That would not have happened without funding from an “A-team” of Miami angel investors including Andy Sturner, a seriel entrepreneur, and former Burdines executive David Scheiner, Boyer said. With the funding, Anatomie made key hires, including a president/COO from New York City and a CMO from Silicon Valley. This year, direct-to-consumer sales have grown to 70% of sales from 50%, part of the company’s longer-term strategic plan accelerated by COVID. In the last six months the company launched an e-commerce platform tailored to worldwide sales, upgraded its website, added a loyalty program and increased social media to drive more D2C growth.
Anatomie’s collection is made of up a core group of essentials available year-round — nine pants designed by body type, four tops and four jackets, in five colors. Then it adds seasonal fashions, too. The essentials range in price from $128 to $378 each. To help convince new eyeballs that they are worth it, Anatomie recently added a lifetime guarantee. While competitors come from top designer brands as well as the upscale athletic wear brands, a key differentiator, Boyer says, is that Anatomie is “a product with a service” with its VIP stylists and its 1-800 hotline. “We love to be on the phone like old school, we want to be talking to everybody.” Neiman Marcus is a big customer, and you’ll find Anatomie’s line in five-star resorts like Canyon Ranch, Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton properties around the country, as well as the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell. Boyer’s advice to other fashion entrepreneurs: Find a need, stay focused, and surround yourself with good people. Always plan for the next level, whether it’s capital or talent or personal growth, and keep popping up with new ideas. This month, Anatomie is taking over the retail space at Carillon Resort in Miami Beach for at least a year. Retail partnerships like this could be a gamechanger for the industry, Boyer said.
“You have to be very agile in management, go with the flow and give the ladies what they want.”