On a Wednesday evening in late summer, Glossier’s downtown showroom is beginning to fill up with tourists, high school girls, mothers—a typical crowd for a weekday, says founder and CEO Emily Weiss, who often pops into the penthouse turned retail showcase for quality control. Suddenly a trembling college-age brunette named Jaden bulldozes over my exposed toes. She can’t believe she’s in the same city—let alone the same store at the same time—as Weiss. Jaden changed her major to marketing once she became a Glossier rep, one of the brand’s loyal customers incentivized to create product content on their own social channels. Weiss is her idol, she says, and meeting her is a dream in which I am mere background scenery.
This kind of thing happens a lot, I quickly learn. A similar scene unfolds in the building’s elevator when Weiss is recognized after checking on a meeting in Glossier’s Kate Moss conference room. “We name our conference rooms after different women we like,” she explains. (There’s also a Beyoncé room and a Naomi room.)
A former Vogue fashion assistant who logged time on photo shoots lacing up a then–fifteen-year-old Karlie Kloss’s shoes, Weiss launched Glossier in 2014 and has since become a cult figure: an Estée Lauder for the Instagram generation well versed in skin care, makeup, and millennial pink. She found early success with her blog, Into the Gloss, conceived in 2010 to bring women the insider beauty tips she had gleaned on set, and ramped up with interviews with designers, editors, models, and tastemakers. In the process, Weiss had an epiphany: These women loved individual products, but there was no deeper relationship with any line. She began questioning her own loyalties. “There wasn’t a brand that I wanted to be friends with,” she concluded. She created Glossier to fill the void, and her digital community now numbers 2.3 million and counting.
Its debut ushered in a marketing paradigm that relied on inclusive castings, natural styling, and a simple message: “Skin first, makeup second.” The concept was revolutionary for its time, harnessing a certain come-as-you-are acceptance then new to an industry on the verge of seismic change. “Emily’s ideas have been influential to women ready to challenge the status quo—myself included,” says Kloss, who now counts herself among Weiss’s myriad supporters.
At 32, tall, brown-haired, and impossibly lithe, with the boundless energy of a kid in her own candy shop, Weiss churns out ideas at an almost manic rate. She’s looking forward to a busy season ahead, in which she will start shipping to the U.K. this month while readying a proper European headquarters in London that will expand to service a rabid base of French followers early next year. Weiss is also about to reveal her first-ever fragrance, a subtle scent with equal parts powder and musk and the zing of fresh-cut iris. “I want it to smell like your boyfriend’s neck after he has been wearing cologne for eight hours,” she says. Glossier You, as it’s called, is a nod to her philosophy that it’s the woman, not the fragrance—nor the woman behind the fragrance—that should be recognizable.
As we walk down Lafayette Street past onlookers, Weiss waxes lyrical about the possibility of extending her reach into toothpaste, deodorant, and maybe even laundry rooms. “Customers are the king and queen makers of brands today.” She adds, with surprising humility, “We’re just starting the conversation. I feel like I am a conduit, and that is it.”