Sun care brand Darling expands its distribution range in the United States – WWD
MILAN — “What Moncler is for down jackets, we want to be for suncare,” Alberto Giacobazzi said of the ultimate goal of beauty brand Darling, which he co-founded with Ilenia Gebennini in 2018.
Launched with a mission to make SPF products fresher to raise awareness of the importance of skin protection, especially among younger consumers, Darling is part of a new wave of independent Italian brands that have gained popularity through a targeted assortment; recyclable packaging in pastel tones with a nod to Millennials and Gen Zers, and engaging digital communication.
The brand’s main difference from the plethora of beauty brands launched in Italy in recent years is its targeting of a specific category, often seen as complementary to skincare rather than an entity in its own right. It is also among the emerging players who have bet big on physical distribution in addition to its e-commerce and which has already expanded beyond national borders, planning to decisively step up its game in the United States in 2023.
While the brand has so far only had a limited presence in the United States – partly due to registration procedures for its SPF products – expanding distribution is seen as essential not only for the potential of the market, but also for personal reasons.
“This brand was born during a trip we made to California, and even in choosing the name we already wanted to telegraph our international ambition,” recalls Giacobazzi. The founders plan to launch more than 300 high-end doors in the first half of next year, as well as partner with online retailers.
Both passionate about beauty and “spending time at Sephora discovering new products,” Giacobazzi and Gebennini realized in 2017 that there was a void in the suncare market.
“We love the beach life, but when it came to the sunscreens available, the choice was between drugstore labels or brands such as Sisley,” Giacobazzi recalled. Influenced by American brands, the duo decided to fill this price positioning and launched Darling after having created its parent company AG Cosmetics.
The brand’s assortment is structured around five products, including medium and high protection lotions, a face cream, an after-sun and a tan activator, all offered between 31 euros and 45 euros and based on formulations rich in vitamin E, aloe vera and jojoba. oil.
This month, the company expanded its portfolio by launching its first spray product, the most expensive item to date at 49 euros for the 150ml format.
Giacobazzi stressed that the launch will be strategic to attract new customers looking for a different method of application while respecting the light texture and fast-absorbing qualities that the company has promoted since its inception. Available in two SPF values - SPF 30 and SPF 50+ – the Darling Screen-Me Spray formula includes ingredients such as Moringa seed oil, hyaluronic acid, squalene and niacinamide, and is scented with the fragrance Monoï de Tahiti which identifies all the products of the brand.
“In countries like Italy and Spain, where the scent experience is still important, this is appreciated, while we see markets like the UK or the US prefer fragrance-free options,” noted Giacobazzi, envisioning future adjustments in formulations to suit local demands.
“There is huge potential in this category, with new needs and many product facets to explore, also depending on the different markets,” he added.
The goal is to reach an assortment of around 15 skus “then close the range and start moving it around the world”, said the co-founder, assuring that the brand’s core business will always remain sun care. . Potential additions could target SPF products specific to sensitive areas of the body as well as complementary after-sun care, among others.
Currently, the brand’s main markets are Italy and Spain, which Darling entered in 2020 through a distributor. The company aims to exceed 100 doors in Spain – where it recently launched the new WOW concept store in Madrid – as well as cover all of Europe in terms of distribution by the end of 2022.
Darling launched last year at Liberty in London with a six-month exclusive for the brick-and-mortar chain, which followed an 18-month exclusive for online with Cultbeauty.com in 2019. The same year, the brand signed an exclusive with Niche Beauty for the German market, where it was recently launched at KaDeWe. Last month, the company debuted in Bijenkorf units in all major cities in the Netherlands, while in France it has a presence exclusively at Galeries Lafayette.
While the company is in talks to expand its physical footprint in the French market as well as Switzerland – where it aims to be distributed through 80 doors by 2023 – in the second half of this year, Darling will debut in Israel. and in Thailand, Giacobazzi mentioned.
Meanwhile, the company will set up a traveling pop-up format across Italy this summer, touching base in popular local beach destinations. These will add to the strong distribution in the domestic market, which includes high-end niche retailers such as Zhor perfumery in Milan’s Golden Triangle or Fragrans in Fabula, 50ml and Ylang Ylang stores. of the city, as well as the legendary hotel Le Sirenuse in Positano and on the LuisaViaRoma online platform.
Although the company sees physical distribution as its priority – investing in securing premium placement and visibility in stores – its e-commerce and social networks are also key channels, in particular to strengthen brand awareness. To that end, influencer marketing activities, which have grown organically so far, will be boosted with dedicated budgets going forward, Giacobazzi said.
“Until now, all financial resources belong to us alone,” said the millennial entrepreneur. “We launched the company with our capital and were contacted by funds already after two months, but the truth is that we have always had good relations with banks and have been reluctant to find investors because we want to be more agile in our choices and not that does not diminish the value of the brand.
He also pointed out that the company has been approached by financial players rather than beauty players and “if I have to open the capital, I would like to have added value like real know-how in this industry and not only money”.
His determination and resolute approach to fundraising could adapt to allow the brand not only to make the investments necessary to expand significantly in the United States next year, but also to plan for the long term. To that end, Giacobazzi revealed that there are already other beauty brand founders registered under the AG Cosmetics umbrella.
“Darling was born with a specific target, but it is also a seasonal offer. The idea is to offset this aspect with other ‘sister’ brands with different identities in the future,” he teased.