Thousands of beauty-lovers descended on New York City recently to enjoy the return of Sephoria, a consumer beauty event that Sephora first launched in 2018. After cancelling the festival entirely in 2020 due to the pandemic, Sephora introduced a digital version in 2021. This year marked the return of the in-person festival, held at Skylight at Essex Crossing in Lower Manhattan, alongside the virtual version. Dozens of beauty houses, from legacy players like Yves Saint Laurent, to up-and-coming
coming brands like Tower 28 and Ceremonia, hosted their own mini parties at the event, alongside product activations from brands such as British haircare label Fable & Mane, whose tiger mascot was seen jumping around, and makeup artists who were on hand to apply products for the excited attendees. Sephoria survives rain out Prior to the event, the Sephoria team was expecting to welcome 6,000 in-person attendees and over 40,000 virtual ones. However, due to a torrential downpour and flash floods on 29 September, which led New York Governor Kathy Hochul to declare a state of emergency, the first day of the highly anticipated festival was shut down. Sephora refunded ticket holders and promised to send beauty bags worth over US$500 ($790) to their homes. The rain out didn’t dampen spirits for the rest of the event. Beauty lovers of all ages, aesthetics and gender presentations were in thrall to their favourite influencers and founders, loving the swag, and enjoying a collective passion for the beauty and fragrance industry. Tickets were divided into two tiers, Silver Key and Gold Key, and cost US$119 and US$369, respectively. All ticket holders were granted access to eight rooms, where over 50 beauty brands offered experiences, master classes and special appearances by beauty brand founders and influencers, as well as swag bags worth over US$500 and US$1,300, depending on the type of ticket purchased. Brand founders such as Danessa Myricks, of Danessa Myrics beauty, and makeup artist Patrick Ta participated in live panels, where they discussed and demonstrated both core products and new releases. The retail appeal of hosting interactive festivals Sephoria isn’t the only beauty festival in the game. Beautycon is another major multi-brand beauty and fragrance event, which is run by Essence Ventures, a private equity company that acquired Beautycon Media in May 2021. Beautycon, first launched in 2012, held an in-person event in Los Angeles in September, after a four-year hiatus of both in-person and virtual events. Beautycon also had a presence at the 2023 Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans in July. Beautycon’s organisers stated that about 40,000 individuals interacted with the festival, reflecting both online viewers, who watched the livestream on beautycon.com, and in-person visitors. Like Sephoria, Beautycon taps into a mix of influencers, celebrities, beauty brand owners and entrepreneurs, and offers onsite brand activations, to engage beauty lovers of mixed consumer backgrounds. A marked difference with this year’s edition of Beautycon was the inclusion of a more diverse array of panelists, such as Nyma Tang, a beauty influencer and activist for more inclusive beauty shade ranges, who hosted an event along with Emira D’Spain, a fellow beauty influencer and the first black transgender model for Victoria’s Secret. Events like Beautycon and Sephoria offer an organic and entertaining venue for brands to engage both new and returning customers. They are places where beauty lovers can find out more about their favourite brands, and also discover and interact with businesses they may not be aware of, in a way that doesn’t feel transactional. Fragrance and beauty influencer Abigaille Cadet says it is the cultivation of both onsite and online experiences – for both influencers and everyday beauty lovers – that will lead to Sephoria’s post-pandemic success. “Sephoria embraced a hybrid approach that combined both in-person and virtual elements. This allowed influencers to reach a wider audience while accommodating those who may not be comfortable with in-person gatherings,” Cadet told Inside Retail. “Sephoria also provided influencers with exclusive content creation opportunities at the event, including access to new product launches, behind-the-scenes content, and exclusive interviews, which enhanced the value of attending Sephoria IRL this year.” Cadet noted that Sephoria seems to have adapted to the changes in the past four years by embracing innovation and prioritising inclusivity, positioning the event not only to recover from its hiatus, but also to thrive in the beauty and influencer industry moving forward. Sephoria made its international debut in Paris on 6 October. Jessica Stacey, Sephora’s senior vice-president of external communications, events and experiential marketing, said there are plans to take the festival to more locations in 2024.