Popular millennial makeup brand Glossier was born on Instagram and Facebook, using the power of social networking to win over a young, image-obsessed crowd. Social media may also prove its downfall.
Over the weekend a new Instagram account called “Outta the Gloss” sprang up, alleging abuses and discrimination. Perhaps the red lips and effortless dewy skin were too good to be true?
The account, called “Outta the Gloss,” says it is a collective of former Glossier retail employees, who have come forward saying they were misled by the brand’s public emphasis on progressivism and human connection. They instead allege that they had experienced abuse and racial discrimination both from customers and from Glossier during their time working there.
On August 13, in several lengthy statements posted both on Instagram and an accompanying Medium blog, anonymous former retail workers told stories of feeling overworked because of understaffing, working in unsanitary and hostile conditions — including allegations of unsanitary working conditions in NYC buildings — as well as an unresponsive HR system.
The employees also alleged that while most of the retail workers were people of color and/or LGBTQIA+, the upper management of the company was comprised overwhelmingly of white women.
The Outta the Gloss account took off when it was launched, garnering more than 6,000 followers and tens of thousands of likes and comments in a mere three days.
The movement seems to have been in the works for some time. Staff been furloughed in May and then laid off at the beginning of August, according to Women’s Wear Daily, but a note on the account indicates that this action had been planned since before those layoffs occurred.
The name of the anonymous account is a play on the blog that Glossier founder Emily Weiss launched in 2010, which was called “Into the Gloss.” Weiss eventually parlayed that huge following into the makeup and social media juggernaut now known as Glossier.
Glossier officially launched in October of 2014 as a direct-to-consumer brand, with the tagline “democratize beauty.” Through the savvy use of social media and careful deployment of millennial pink-branded products, the company garnered huge attention and competed with giant legacy brands like Estée Lauder and Revlon.
The social media appeal of Glossier was baked in from the start: The makeup wasn’t heavy-handed or advertised as something that would completely transform your face.
The messaging of the site — which told customers that they’re great the way they are, maybe just put a little lip gloss on — grew a cult following. In March 2019, according to the Wall Street Journal and Forbes, Glossier was valued at $1.2 billion. Its growth, previously fueled solely by the internet, included the launch of several pop-up stores and two permanent brick-and-mortar retail locations in New York and Los Angeles. It was at these retail locations that workers alleged they began to experience problems.
But now, the company is fending off the accusations as they spread on the very social media platforms it previously leveraged for its success.
Weiss herself has responded quickly, first on a blog on its website, and then the brand responded on its own Instagram, which still boasts 2.8 million followers. On Instagram, the company issued an apology, and detailed an action plan that was the result of “many hours of Zoom meetings.” It included instituting new metrics for performance evaluations, having on-site human resources, and regular corporate anti-racism training.
Glossier did not respond to a request for comment, and Outta the Gloss told Digital Trends its members were not able to speak yet, but in another post on the Instagram account, the collective said that while it appreciates the apology, “this is only a first step.”
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