When Ilia founder Sasha Plavsic began considering acquisition offers from larger beauty brands, what was most important to her was how comfortable she felt.
“Once the business had reached a certain size, I was looking to find a new home, but a home I could still live in,” said Sasha. “Sometimes when a brand is looking for a new home, the founder is not always allowed to live in it nicely.”
That wasn’t the case when the Courtin-Clarins family, owner of the Clarins skin care brand, acquired Vancouver-based ILIA earlier this year, in a deal that, Sasha said, came about slowly.
“They were one of the first companies we met with,” said Sasha of the privately-owned, France-based company. “We had many meetings and spent time together on Zoom, which is challenging if you’re hoping to sell something or essentially get married, which was what was happening. But it’s the same as when you are dating someone; you have a sense of what’s right and what’s not. It was intuition and realizing that they were really the best fit. Nothing feels like it’s changed.”
Plans for the 10-year-old brand to grow globally had already been in place for ILIA, and the Clarins alliance supercharged some of that; a few months after the acquisition, ILIA bowed at 20 of Sephora’s top doors in France. The UK is next on ILIA’s expansion agenda.
“We are not looking to grow internationally quickly,” said Sasha. “We are doing one territory at a time, and we need to invest in that and take the time to build and grow. To grow anywhere, you spread yourself thin, and without enough resources or support it makes it quite challenging to be successful.”
In July, Ilia launched its eight-shade Liquid Powder Matte Eye Tint, a follow-up to a shimmery eye tint the brand bowed two years ago. Ilia is known primarily for its complexion products and mascara, so expanding into a multi-hued offering of chromatics was something of a departure; the range includes unexpected shades, such as lavender.
“It’s a very easy formula to use, just swipe, blend and go,” said Sasha. “I really like neutrals, and I like neutrals with a twist. This is something a bit unexpected, but they work well on a multitude of skin tones.” Sasha said that the $28 product has performed “above plan” with a few shades already sold out. Other recent launches include the C Beyond Triple Serum SPF 40, a $64 lightly tinted sunscreen.
“We’re not just a makeup company anymore,” said Sasha. “Makeup is our North Star; it’s where we started, where we are, and where we will continue to grow. But we are trying to build very effective products. And if there’s an ingredient like vitamin C, we dig into it, and we find a way to make it the most effective for the skin. The pipeline can be endless. We’re here not just to launch products, but to build great ones that will stand the test of time.”