D2C Building conscious brands. 12 FaB companies to watch in Fashion and Beauty.
The 5 Cs: 👋🤝Community, ✨🔥Content, 🛍(e)-Commerce, 🌱💙Conscious Living and ♻️Circularity.
Time flies during Covid, and March 2020 seems like yesterday. One thing is certain — the past year has made us feel vulnerable and become more cautious of the physical and mental wellbeing of our loved ones and ourselves. We learned the importance of taking care of ourselves and the environment. In addition, with all the recent violence against Black and Asian Americans, it’s become obvious that we need a more inclusive world.
I founded Fab Ventures to back purpose- and data-driven founders who work hard to make a difference in the way we live and treat ourselves, each other and Mother Nature kindly and equitably. Our brands empower people to find and be the best versions of themselves. Our fund had its first close in May 2020, and we are so grateful for our investors who advocate the ‘conscious fashion and beauty” space.
As highlighted on the Crunchbase site, Fab has a diverse portfolio of founders that we are so very proud of. In fact, 10 of our 13 portfolio companies are female-founded, and we also have one company — Good Light World– focusing on gender fluidity “beyond the binary”. In addition, half of our companies are founded by first or second-generation immigrants. Even if we didn’t position ourselves as investors of female, BIPOC, and minority founders, we truly believe in the power of communities tackling underserved needs. With only 2,5% of VC funding going towards female founders and 5,6% female-led VC firms out there, there is clearly a wide gender gap within the venture and startup space; therefore, it is important to be aware of this issue and encourage diversity in these sectors.
As Zack Parker, founder of LÜK Network says, “we believe tech empowers humans” and this has never been so true. Zack founded LÜK as an easy-to-book talent marketplace for fashion and entertainment industries — clients can find all types of models, photographers, stylists, etc here. This platform celebrates self-expression and diversity, which are all positive changes for the industries it serves.
I work closely with all of my portfolio companies. In fact, in addition to communicating regularly, we meet virtually every six weeks. I find it a great way for the founders to share new ideas, discoveries and help each other out. Every one of our founders is so engaged and resourceful. Here are themes and portfolio companies I invest in — they reflect the shift in consumers’ desires based on the social changes today.
1- Beauty is now holistic…
We see beauty as an inclusive new definition of self-realization. Our approach is holistic and integrated, seeing one’s beauty through the lenses of mindfulness, wellness, and self-care. We believe in a more holistic approach to beauty — being rooted in our values, personality, and unique preferences. The physical changes us women go through during our different stages of life — from teenage acne, puberty vulnerabilities, pregnancy, to menopause and simply aging — should be reclaimed and destigmatized.
One of Fab’s portfolio companies Yina, our latest investment, provides these holistic solutions inspired by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to protect, nourish and rejuvenate the body and mind via personalized rituals. The founders are both Chinese Americans: Angela Chau Gray lives in the San Francisco Bay Area while Ervina Wu currently resides in Singapore. They are working to build a strong tech platform, create transformative products, and provide interactive education to empower users during their wellness journeys. The products are sustainable, made with pure and potent bio-adaptive botanicals, and are backed by science. Ervina stated “Our vision is to promote self-care, modernize, and demystify traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). By sharing wellness rituals inspired by TCM, we are here to help you achieve glowing skin and true vitality inside out.”
Potli offers edible cannabis to provide users anti-inflammatory, relaxing, and pain-relieving effects. Their products can be incorporated within one’s daily wellness routine through meals — the company offers CBD-infused chili oil, honey, apple cider vinegar and etc. The company was founded by Felicity Chen and Christine Yee who are two Californians proud of their Asian roots.
We empower people to find their Best Self. And new services are part of feeling confident. Luum Precision Lash - Revolutionizing beauty services with automation, was founded by Philippe Sanchez and Lynn Heublein on the belief that everyday beauty should be effortless, giving women back their most precious resources: time and peace-of-mind.
…And there is a new frontier with Women Wellness and Health.
Two of our female founders have a deep understanding of women’s health issues and are well-positioned to tackle the global Femtech market, which was ~$820.6 million in 2019. This market is expected to reach at least $3 billion by the end of 2030 (PitchBook). We believe that the future of women’s health should be designed and dominated by women — there is so much opportunity in this sector!
Founded by Cynthia Plotch and Jamie Norwood, our investment Stix provides women the products, education, and support they need throughout their health journey — starting with pregnancy and ovulation tests, and now offering UTI diagnosis, preventative and relief products as well as prenatal vitamins. The two founders live in Philadelphia and are proud to have their core customers in the South and Midwest. The company addresses some major, embarrassing female problems and provides discreet packaging and shipping — this prevents awkward and unwanted accidental run-ins with people you know at the drugstore!
Another wellness company of ours is Bloomi. Founded by Rebecca Alvarez Story, WoC health activist and Latinx Sexologist living in Oakland, Bloomi is the leading destination for clean intimate wellness. Rebecca created the first “Clean Standard” in the industry to promote product transparency. She empowers women and has ‘real-talk’ conversations about our female bodies. In a period where people struggle with mental health, and with self-care as a rising trend, Bloomi is breaking the taboos. Sexual wellness and body-positivity are becoming a big part of women wellness.
We are about self-expression and being true to ourselves. Stix, Bloomi and Yina build engaged communities and share content to educate customers on the importance of wellness and self-care and love.
2- New brands are powered by communities…
In order to increase the probability of a successful beauty brand in the modern day, it is essential for companies to build online communities before an actual product launch, and nowadays it has become key for founders to use their own voice in their communities and brand marketing. David Yi, the founder of our portfolio company Very Good Light, is an activist, proud Asian American entrepreneur, influencer and key person in the beauty industry. He quoted recently “For far too long the beauty industry has lacked diversity and inclusion. It’s either hyper-masculine or hyper-feminine in its approach — but what about those who blur the lines between outdated gender roles? Good Light is a brand that celebrates beauty from all spectrums, elevating the conversation around Gen Z, inclusion, diversity and ever-expanding identity.”
Based on the insights of their high traffic and loyal community and after two years of deep R&D, Very Good Light launched its new skincare brand in March 2021 inclusive of all gender identities and skin types. David Yi and Michael Engert, ex-Supergoop! Head of DTC, founded Very Good Light to be an authentic, diverse and fast-growing community. With more than 1 Million unique visitors a month, the website is putting forward underrepresented communities and raising their voice as they felt excluded from the beauty conversation. They believe that beauty should be accessible across the non-binary spectrum.
Another one of our companies built upon communities is Bubble, which was founded by Shai Eisenman. The brand understands what teens really want and need for their skin through their loyal and tight knit online community. Shai is leveraging an engaged Gen Z community on platforms such as Geneva and partners with key influencers including Jazz Jennings to grow awareness and loyalty. Teens resonate with these social platforms and influencers as they feel part of a group that shares the same values and concerns surrounding self-esteem and confidence in a period where a third of them say they suffer from mental health issues (Axios Future March 17 2021, Sapien labs 18.25 years old in 2020).
They see, hear, and support teens especially since skin issues can affect self-confidence and mental health. And because life as a teen today is complicated already, their skincare routines shouldn’t have to be. In today’s overwhelming skincare world, Bubble focuses of providing high quality, safe and super affordable products for young skin.
3-… and backed by Science.
As an ex- CEO of Lancôme, I have always been conscious of how corporations invest in R&D and develop and test their products rigorously. There are too many brands that start in a college dorm using cool web designers and growth hacking techniques, but a key part seems to be often missed in building a brand and having sustainable success: providing excellent products to their target market. It’s important to have data-driven, science-backed, and highly efficacious products. Our companies Dr. Elsa Jungman, K18, and Yina are all science-driven brands that provide highly effective products with results.
CEO and Founder Dr. Elsa Jungman, PhD, an adept of minimalist beauty and a French renowned skin pharmacologist recently said “We have never been using so many products and yet our skin has never been so worse. And it’s not about natural ingredients or not, it’s about the terrible impact skincare is having on our skin health. As a skin scientist, I decided to build a movement to bring awareness, education and research on this growing issue. A radical change is on its way.” Britta Cox, co-Founder of K18 hair, patented haircare endorsed by hairstylists and celebrities, recently stated “Haircare today with its genesis in cosmetic chemistry is like what skincare was in the nineties — a temporary fix to mask damage without addressing the culprit.”
Along with Yina’s founders Ervina and Angela, Elsa and Britta are founding members of the Science of Beauty Collective, a movement born in California, with Women in Science and Female Founders wanting to push the industry to become more transparent about the ingredients and efficacy of their products. Learn more at scienceofbeauty.org. 🌱🔬The organization has hosted conversations on Clubhouse and Zoom webinars to celebrate #Womenshistorymonth and help other founders. There is a growing solidarity between founders, sharing their knowledge and expertise with each other.
4- Future of Luxury and Fashion is sustainable, and circular:
In order to save and respect our environment, we believe in a future focused on circular fashion. The circular economy refers to a model where products are kept in use for as long as possible and, once we are done with them, raw material is extracted as much possible for reuse. Our clothes should never end up as waste if they don’t have to!
It begins with materials…
Kintra Fibers, is a sustainable material science company founded by Alissa Sandra Baier-Lentz and Billy McCall, which makes high-performance, 100% bio-based, and compostable yarns for the fashion industry. They provide a powerful solution to harmful microplastic ocean pollution perpetuated by traditional synthetics. The patent-pending Kintra fiber technology can be seamlessly integrated into existing synthetic manufacturing and textile production supply chains at a competitive price point, providing a scalable and cost-effective sustainable alternative to traditional synthetic fibers.
… And the future of retail is closed loop,
Our portfolio Thousand Fell follows a closed loop system which allows old sneakers to be reintegrated into the supply chain to make new sneakers. As company’s co-founder Stuart Alhumn quoted, “we are leading this with the first at-scale recyclable sneakers designed to never go to landfill”. Co-founder Chloe Songer stated that the sneakers are positioned “at an accessible price point, removing barriers to entry to the circular economy for next gen consumers”.
There are bridges between beauty and fashion verticals, especially when we talk about transparency and circularity.
It often falls on consumers to do the research and decide what form of “not quite perfect”.
5- Future will be eco-conscious and we can all make a difference.
We stand by transparency as a new way to raise awareness and set real expectations. Our company Brightly is the #1 destination for conscious consumers. Founders Laura Alexander Wittig and Liza Moiseeva’s visions were aligned — their goals were to “inspire millions of people to practice imperfect, planet-focused living on a daily basis…share eco-friendly product recommendations, sustainable living tips, and community-driven advice from thousands of millennial and Gen Z women who are making a difference.” Brightly’s podcast, Good Together, has been featured by Apple three times as the top podcast for conscious consumers and Brightly currently reaches over hundreds of thousand Millennial and Gen Z women every day.
Community-conscious consumption is our credo. We all participate as customers. We aim to increase awareness of the impact of beauty and fashion purchasing decisions on the environment and our health, and life in general.
All the companies we back combine ✨🔥Content, 👋💪Community, and 🛍(e)-Commerce to scale 🌱💙Conscious Consumerism, ♻️Circularity.
Our companies are conscious businesses focusing on the entire ecosystem, creating and optimizing values for all stakeholders, for healthy, sustainable, and resilient businesses. They want to make an impact and do what’s best for our world.
Join the conversation. To continue learning about and following the latest news within fashion and beauty tech, follow Fab Fashion and Beauty Tech on social media (Facebook, Linkedin, and @fab_fashionandbeautytech on Instagram) to find out about upcoming events and the latest news! By joining, you can participate in our public meetings on Clubhouse, in conferences, webinars and etc.
FAB FASHION AND BEAUTYTECH COMMUNITY
Fashion and Beauty Tech San Francisco Community
Invest in Women and Minorities. If you are an interested investor, I’m happy to share more information about Fab Ventures. Only 5,6% of VCs are female led and historically women-led VCs have shown to provide great performance and returns. Investing as LPs in Female VCs is a great way to gain access to a diverse set of passionate founders and also diversity your platform of fund managers. Business angels, Family offices, Corporate ventures, I’m happy to continue the conversation with you!
Thesis: Direct-to-consumer, sustainable & inclusive
Criteria: purpose and data-driven founders
Location: Bay Area/ LA investing in the US
Check Size: $50k to 450k. average $250k
Thank you Jennifer Kwan Mandelbaum for being the first attentive reader of this post (grateful for your input!)