PARIS, France — “I think I would wither up if I wasn’t collaborating and meeting people and talking to people and hearing their stories,” says Emily Weiss, founder of Into The Gloss, a popular website dedicated to the beauty routines of fashion industry insiders which now attracts over 200,000 unique visitors each month, generating approximately 4.5 million monthly pageviews.
“I appreciate the role beauty plays in people’s lives and how transforming it can be,” says Weiss with characteristic verve when we meet between shows at Paris Fashion Week. “I just interviewed Isabel Marant the other day, who I’ve been dying to talk to for three years because she doesn’t colour her hair or wear any make up. I am just as interested in why a woman decides that’s her M.O. in life as I am in a woman who won’t leave the house without flat ironing her hair everyday.”
Indeed, with just a few questions, Weiss has the uncanny ability to strip away the surface and uncover what daily beauty rituals and priorities reveal about an individual, drawing out interesting personal narratives that go much deeper than product recommendations. It’s the natural curiosity behind this approach, alongside the site’s impeccably professional aesthetics, that have made Into The Gloss one of the most compelling new voices in the fashion and beauty blogosphere with the potential to grow into a full-fledged media business for the digital age.
Until recently, many of the world’s top fashion bloggers followed a similar path to success. Out of personal passion and interest, they began to create words and images with a distinct point of view, striking a chord with niche audiences, then tapping opportunities to reach larger audiences through contributions to mainstream media brands. Tavi Gevinson, Susie Bubble and Tommy Ton all developed their blogs this way.
Weiss did things the other way around. When she started Into The Gloss at the age of 26, she was already something of a fashion veteran, having spent several years working in various intern, assistant and contributor roles alongside some of the biggest names in fashion media, including Teen Vogue’s Amy Astley and Jane Keltner De Valle, and, most recently, long-time American Vogue contributor Elissa Santisi.
This experience armed Weiss with the range of professional skills she needed to develop her own quality content. “I’m always observing people and their style, so I would stop girls on the street and ask to take their picture and pitch them to the magazine,” recalls Weiss of her days interning at Teen Vogue. “Quite often, the magazine would say yes and they would have me style the shoot or write the piece. I learned to see every story in a very 360 degree way, from concept to pitching to execution; from ‘Who is she? How are we seeing her? What’s her story? How are we going to capture that?’ to the layout and ultimately seeing the whole process,” she continues.
Though Weiss never worked as a beauty editor, “I was always a consumer of beauty,” she says. “I was always fascinated by products and the beauty teams — hair stylists, makeup artists — I got to work with on shoots and for shows.”
Her experience at major magazines also enabled her to identify gaps in the way the established fashion media has traditionally covered the beauty industry. And after an epiphany on Compo Beach in Westport, Connecticut, during the summer of 2010, Weiss decided to develop a plan for her own publication. “[In mainstream magazines], I think beauty is very condensed, like little sound bites everywhere. If it’s a quote from a make-up artist, it’s very small, tiny glimpses of these things. I wanted to really hear more from these people in their own words, not just the professionals, but also the women in fashion,” she explains. “I was so fascinated by the French girls, like Jane Birkin, Carine Roitfeld and Caroline de Maigret who all have that very nonchalantly sexy quality about them. I was also really into the super precise women who are so gung-ho in one direction with their look, so consistant, like Victoire de Castellane or Michèle Lamy. There are a bazillion blogs about personal style, about their outfits, but where do they go and get their hair coloured?”
Critically, Weiss also took a different approach to product recommendations, emphasising information she thought women would actually find useful, not just new product announcements. “Did you use this thing for a month and does it really make your dark spots go away?” she asks. “A lot of women, the way they learn about products is from recommendations from their friends and the people they look up to. So I think it’s as much about the mascara you have been using for eight years, as it is about the new mascara you have been using for a week.”
When Weiss first launched Into the Gloss, she was still freelancing and only posted about three times a week. “I was only posting that frequently because I wanted everything to be really, really great. I’m all about quality over quantity.”
Then, earlier this year, in a big push to ramp up the volume of content, she asked Nick Axelrod — an old friend who worked across the hall from her five years ago, when Weiss and Axelrod were both newly hired assistants at W and Women’s Wear Daily, respectively, and the two publications were still both part of Condé Nast’s Fairchild Fashion Media division — to become the site’s editorial director. The frequency of posts on Into The Gloss jumped from three times a week to three times a day, resulting in a tripling of traffic almost overnight, according to figures supplied by Into The Gloss.
Reflecting on his decision to leave established fashion media (most recently, he was senior fashion news editor at Elle) and join Weiss, Axelrod says: “The media industry that we entered into as early twentysomethings changed very quickly in October 2008. All of a sudden it was not the same thing. The way you could map out your life suddenly shifted. But I think we’ve both benefited from rigorous print training.”
With content that was simultaneously professional, authentic and sophisticated, the website was appealing to advertisers right from the start and has since expanded into sponsored content and brand partnerships.
“I’ve worked on a number of projects with Into The Gloss,” says Kerry Diamond, divisional vice president of public relations and collaborations at Coach. “When I was vice president of public relations at Lancôme, the brand was the first to advertise with Into The Gloss. Emily cold called us and, via her charm and tenacity, convinced us to meet with her. She gave us a sneak peek at the site and we were so impressed. In terms of content and design, it was incredibly sophisticated.”
Lancôme has also collaborated with Into The Gloss on sponsored content. For a piece to promote a new matte lipstick, Weiss did the makeup, took the photos and wrote the text, as well as rounding up friends to model in the story. “She’s a real triple threat,” says Diamond, who continues to work with Weiss at Coach. “Posts like this are common today, but they weren’t back then. We were thrilled with how Emily brought the product to life.”
“When Bumble & Bumble were launching a new product and decided to debut it on Into The Gloss, we did a really successful sampling campaign,” says Weiss of a recent brand collaboration. In fact, when the campaign (for Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil) was published on Into The Gloss, last August, the site became the third largest driver of traffic to bumbleandbumble.com, after social media behemoths Pinterest and Facebook, and the product became the company’s number one e-commerce seller. Indeed, with this kind of power to move product, Into The Gloss could one day become an e-commerce success of its own.
But what’s in the immediate future for the budding new media impresaria?
“When I started the site, people would ask me, ‘What’s your five year plan?’ And I started freaking out, because I thought, I don’t really know,” recalls Weiss. “Because blogging — especially at this level, where it’s a real business — is still such a new medium. I’ve been pitched a lot of things, from guest blogging for brands to designing makeup collections, but I think right now, the number one thing is focusing on the quality and breadth of our content. Expanding the website, and our audience, is what’s most important.”
Imran Amed is founder and editor-in-chief of The Business of Fashion