Turner said of the partnership, “I think it’s very clever of Great Bowery to start an incubator, mainly because it gives their artists a chance to exercise a specific area of creativity that they might not have had the opportunity to do before. I would say working with GBI is one of the best experiences of my career so far. My mind is stretched into areas that I never considered before, and it has put the wind back in my sails. I’ve found it such a breath of fresh air and overall very exciting. This is where the incubator has helped my development as an artist.”
The proliferation of the “indie” beauty craze has given birth to platforms, accelerators, and incubators that have become a trend in and of themselves. Traditionally thought of as more of a Silicon Valley phenomenon, the beauty and wellness sector has given birth to its own ecosystem of businesses with various models but a shared business thesis that, given the right experience, resources, and capital, there are efficiencies in building, operating, and scaling a portfolio of brands.
Great Bowery, the parent company of fashion-focused talent agencies and licensing firms, has thrown its hat into the beauty incubator ring with the aim of revolutionizing the talent and management model by offering artists a platform to launch brands. Great Bowery Investments (GBI) will be led by Jorge Cosano, who will act as a co-founder for the front-facing founders bringing their visions to life as market-viable brands. Cosano joined Great Bowery at the end of 2019, first as an advisor and later as an executive, to build and launch the incubator and investment arm.
Cosano explained his experience uniquely positions him for this role: “I have 20 years of career experience as an executive in tech and leading luxury consumer companies like IBM, AOL, McKinsey, L’Oréal, and LVMH. As a start-up investor, primarily in beauty, I understand the two sides of brand-building well—from scratch to scaling brands. At L’Oréal in 2011, I launched the Incubator for New Brands, where I worked with the CEO and CMO to explore new business models and investments (I acquired Baxter of California for them in 2013).”
With the hindsight of having built the incubator for L’Oréal, coupled with extensive research on incubation models across categories, what became clear to him was talent is a required asset for success and true talent is scarce. Brand accelerators and incubators have become an increasingly prevalent business model, but what differentiates GBI is exclusive access to top talent globally across beauty and fashion.
Founded in 2015 by talent agent Matthew Moneypenny with funding from Waddell & Reed, Great Bowery followed a Hollywood agency model that united leading agencies in fashion and beauty to better leverage commercial opportunities for the traditionally behind-the-scenes talent it represented. Moneypenny and several founding partners exited the business in 2015 and the company is now under the leadership of CEO Liz Sands. Great Bowery’s current portfolio includes CLM, Streeters, M.A.P, Bernstein & Andriulli, Trunk Archive, Gallery Stock, and Coveteur.
“We believe that talent, more than ever, is eager to bring their ideas and dreams to the market. We want to give them the platform to do so, successfully. That was the inception of GBI.”
By Jorge Cosano, Co-Founder, Great Bowery Investments
Cosano and Sands met in 2019 and aligned over the shared vision that an incubator was a natural evolution of the talent representation and management model, and a part of the larger vision for the future of Great Bowery in its mission to better serve talent. Cosano shared, “We believe that talent, more than ever, is eager to bring their ideas and dreams to the market. We want to give them the platform to do so, successfully. That was the inception of GBI.”
Their model is the first talent-led incubator that will co-found brands with well-known industry professionals, primarily represented by its agencies to leverage expertise and social following to prime innovative launches and fuel traction to scale growth. GBI is an early-stage incubator, seeding the brands with expertise, resources, and capital from zero to launch in the market, acting as a co-founder alongside talent. The group’s ambition is to become an independent incubator of reference in the market, and the first option and go-to platform for top talent looking to bring their ideas to life. While Great Bowery had access to talent through its portfolio of companies, GBI is independent of the company’s other holdings and is an open platform that welcomes talent from anywhere across the creative industry.
Creatives usually have no shortage of ideas but often struggle finding business partners to actualize their vision—that’s where GBI comes into the equation. The artist takes on the role of Chief Creative Officer with responsibility for the overall vision of the brand and product development, while GBI leads business and operational functions until the brand is funded and an executive team can be put in place. As the brand grows, GBI will stay involved offering support across all key functional areas of the business and throughout the life of the brand but will not be responsible for day-to-day operations.
GBI has a strategic partnership with leading investment bank Ohana & Co. to support fundraising for these brands from start-up to exit. Laurent Ohana, Senior Advisor from Ohana & Co., said, “We are very pleased to have partnered with GBI to build bridges to the investor community from day one for their brands. We love the commitment to innovation and boldness of the projects and the extremely talented and passionate artists that have joined GBI to launch their dream products.”
GBI’s first cohort includes five artists, all launching their brands between Q4 this year and Q2 2022. Moving forward, the incubator will have a new cohort of 3-5 artists every year using a rigorous screening process based on both quantitative and qualitative data while focusing on the talents’ readiness and the market opportunity. The expected category split will be roughly 70-80% beauty and 20-30% fashion.
The launch will include talent from the Great Bowery roster, with the first two brands coming from collaborations with artists represented by Streeters. The first brand will launch in the red-hot hair category with Anthony Turner, one of the most sought-after hairstylists in the fashion industry. Based in London, Anthony has a deep connection with street and youth culture. His vision is to bring a provocative and unapologetic hairstyling brand to market that pushes the boundaries of gender and self-expression and that will define the future of the category.
The second brand to launch will be with Alexandra Carl, an acclaimed fashion stylist with a passion for eco-conscious living and design. Collaborating with the world’s leading brands in her commercial and creative projects brings a sense of utilitarianism infused with her unique irreverent vision of femininity and womanhood. Alex has a vision of building a designer accessory brand that pioneers the idea of “slow fashion” and champions new practices in sustainability.
Carl shared, “It has been incredible teamwork, to be honest. In my case, I always knew that if I had to engage in a brand myself, I would need it to solve a design problem or offer an alternative created more mindfully. GBI helped me navigate the process of setting up a brand and focus on the important elements right in front of us so everything would run smoothly and be aligned with my vision. GBI always encouraged me to approach this as a long-term product and business rather than a momentary trend, to stay true to my mission and not divert off the path.”
While the beauty sector had been flooded with various incarnations of incubators, accelerators, and platforms all scrambling to make their mark, Cosano is optimistic. “We know that the market opportunity is vast. Beauty alone is a 500Bn+ market, with fashion presenting a similar market size, and the US today and Asia tomorrow as the epicenter of the opportunity. We also know that challenger brands are growing at 10x the rate of large brands, and acquisitions are the only way leading corporations (all public) can keep delivering market growth and investor returns.”
Cosano continued, “On the other side, we believe specifically in the opportunity for artist-driven brands. When we look at historical M&A activity of the last two or three decades, this type of brand has proven to be successful representing a high percentage of the acquisitions by the major groups. For this reason, we actively seek for exceptional artists who are passionate and have an authentic vision to attack new white spaces in the market.”
2 Article(s) Remaining