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Will Gen-Z Buy Anything Millie Bobby Brown Sells?

With a very famous founder and zero public financial data, Florence by Mills is either a stealth winner in Gen Z beauty and personal care — or a placeholder for ventures that haven’t happened yet. Perhaps in the right hands it will be both.
Florence by mills
Florence by Mills built an enthusiastic fan base on Instagram and TikTok, largely revolving around Brown’s own barely-there makeup style. (Courtesy)

Every teenage girl knows someone who knows someone who bought a zit sticker from Millie Bobby Brown.

Cadence, 15, lives in Texas and said her friend’s younger sister, Olivia, 13 “bought, like, everything” from Brown’s four-year-old beauty brand, Florence by Mills. Ami, 17, said a freshman on her swim team in New Jersey wears the pimple patches during practice. Sasha, 16, told The Business of Beauty the other girls in her Millie Bobby Brown fan group — which began on Instagram but now lives in a shared Google doc — “all have at least one” of Brown’s blemish covers, which are lilac and shaped like butterflies or clouds.

Sasha oozes affection when discussing Brown. “I love her so much,” she said. But she, like Cady and Ami, hasn’t bought any of her skincare products. “I prefer Drunk Elephant,” she said.

Such is the paradox of Florence by Mills, a beauty brand with over 6 million total social media followers, a fragrance that entered Ulta Beauty on Jan. 4, had a coveted spot on the New York Fashion Week Calendar on Feb. 12, brand extensions into coffee, clothing, and petcare, and no public benchmarks of financial success beyond the “solid double digit growth” in the DTC space mentioned by CEO Meri Baregamian in an interview with The Business of Beauty.

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To be sure, Florence by Mills does have real people buying its Pout Party Coffee Lip Balm ($17) and Cheeky Pop Blush Sticks ($18). “I’ve spent about $100,” said Juliana Frank, 14, of Baltimore, at a one-day pop up event for the new Florence by Mills fragrance, Wildly Me, in New York’s Soho neighborhood last September. Chi Chi Vega, 24, of Brooklyn, added, “I did buy her toner last year, and it’s fire.”

Launched in August 2019, when Brown was just 15, Florence by MIlls was one of many properties created with Beach House Group, the beauty brand incubator behind Pattern Beauty by Tracee Ellis Ross and Moon Oral Care, which creates whitening pens with Kendall Jenner. The line’s initial offerings of glittery undereye patches and no-frills sunscreen was received with enthusiasm by some outlets — Harper’s Bazaar UK proclaimed it was “what the future of beauty looks like,” and Glamour said it was “full to the brim with good-for-you ingredients.” The hype took a sour turn in September 2019, though, when Brown was called out for not actually using her “amazing” products on her own face during a YouTube beauty tutorial. (A move that Gen-Z bible Cosmopolitan.com called “real weird” — the ultimate burn for the teen set.)

Despite the stumbling block, Florence by Mills built an enthusiastic fan base on Instagram and TikTok, largely revolving around Brown’s own barely-there makeup style. Eighteen months later, Brown and her family bought back the label with Give Back Beauty, an Italian firm with fragrance licensing deals for Tommy Hilfiger, Elie Saab and Dolce & Gabbana. Since the pandemic, the business has brought on a new team, including Baregamian, the former CEO of Bliss, and evolved as Brown has grown up — her personal beauty look has transformed too, from au natural to contoured glam.

“My priority is to really be hands-on,” Brown said over Zoom three months after first confirming our interview. “I am the consumer, so my opinion is not only important because it’s my company. It’s important because I know — I mean, I feel I know — what my generation wants and needs.”

According to Brown and the kingdom of Florence by Mills, that includes zit stickers, yes, but also fragrance, cosmetics pouches and an adorable bathrobe for dogs that retails for $45. Most recently, Brown created a line of loungewear, Florence by Mills Fashion, that debuted with a tiny “pyjama party” in Soho, New York on Feb. 12, in the middle of New York Fashion Week. Attendees included curve models like Ella Halikas and Denise Bidot, plus Brown’s best friend Gia LoRusso and her puppy, Winnie.

Thoroughly Postmodern Millie

Like a goddess summoned to her temple after months of devout prayer, Brown cheerfully popped onto our interview wearing cowboy boots, an Italian soccer jersey and pigtails. A Florence by Mills neon sign, a purple-hued painting of Audrey Hepburn and a Beauty Gamechanger award from Glamour UK were visible in the background.

“Wait, do you want to see it?” she asked, briefly leaving her screen and returning with the impressive engraved slab. “We’re all so proud of it. It was such a team effort.” In October, she was also named Glamour’s Global Woman of the Year.

Brown has had a busy 12 months. Her novel, “The 19 Steps,” based on her grandmother’s account of a World War II tragedy in London, spent almost one week on The New York Times best-seller list. She announced in the fall that after the final season of “Stranger Things,” she is done with the franchise that made her famous. In its place, Brown has four movies in various stages of development according to IMDB, including the dystopian action thriller “The Electric State” with Chris Pratt and the fantasy revenge saga “Damsel,” which co-stars Angela Bassett and a vengeful CGI dragon. Her wedding to Jake Bongiovi, son of Jon Bon Jovi, will reportedly take place in April. As for her beauty line, Florence by Mills Beauty, continues to diversify its product selection, recently dropping an acne spot treatment and a butterfly-print pore strip that’s perfect for TikTok reveals.

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But Brown is famously not on social media, even though her legions of fans are, and those at the Wildly Me pop-up attended as much for the social clout as they were for Florence by Mills product. “I want to make YouTube videos as my life’s work,” said Samantha Vazz, 18. “I’m hoping if I meet Millie she’ll be on my channel.”

Katie Castaneda, 19, waited with her friends from California. “We mostly buy Neutrogena and Charlotte Tilbury,” she said. “But we thought it would be a little shocking if we took a picture with Millie Bobby Brown and sent it to our friends… We’re not here to buy stuff, just for vibes.”

“Honestly, I try to stay unplugged so that I’m able to stay in the present… and that means the essence of Florence by Mills is what’s actually authentic to me,” said Brown of her social media presence. “It’s even as simple as, ‘I’m headed outside a lot, but when I’m in LA, it’s really hot and the sun is quite strong so I’m going to make a sunscreen that’s clean and that is perfect for my skin.’”

When URL Is IRL

Just like celebrity beauty brands Harry Styles’ Pleasing and Pattern Beauty, Florence by Mills has recently stocked its operations with beauty professionals to further legitimize its business. CEO Baregamian joined from Bliss in March 2023, replacing Paula Pontes, who was the brand’s lead at Beach House Group and transitioned as its first CEO in March of 2020.

Though Ulta Beauty is its biggest retail partner (the line is also sold on Amazon in the US and Lookfantastic and Boots in the UK and Ireland), Florence by Mills’ online site is its biggest driver, said Baregamian.

That’s largely because of the brand’s online engagement, a huge point of difference for Florence by Mills. As reported earlier by The Business of Beauty, it has converted its 6 million Instagram and TikTok followers into site visitors and, eventually, shoppers. “About half our consumers come to the website [from social media] and transact at one point or another,” said Baregamian. “It’s a large percentage.”

Give Back Beauty reports a sevenfold increase in overall revenue since its acquisition of Florence by Mills in 2020; they also report a 40 percent growth in DTC and brick and mortar sales in 2023. When Wildly Me launched online in August of 2023, it did so with a waitlist of 12,700 fans pledging to buy bottles that range from $26 to $65. According to Launchmetrics, the launch garnered $1.2 million in media impact value (MIV) in just 48 hours, accounting for over 14 percent of Florence by Mills’ monthly MIV rate of $7.2 million in just two days.

“She’s unapologetic about the authenticity she wants in the brand,” said Baregamian. “She’ll come in and say, ‘Oh, I have this problem and I searched for something to solve it, and nobody’s making it the right way!’... I’d argue that’s what makes us innovative.”

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But much like winning “American Idol” through free votes instead of tour sales — or watching “Enola Holmes” on Netflix because you have a subscription, not because you bought a movie ticket — a wait list is no guarantee of a sale. Nor are the tens of thousands of Florence by Mills product reviews left on Ulta Beauty and the brand’s website, since neither requires proof of purchase. (As a test, this author left 5-star reviews for the product on both sites despite never buying any of the items.)

Because of this, it’s hard to tell which brand fans adore Florence by Mills’ product, and which are merely there to adore Millie Bobby Brown herself. But this may be entirely the point.

Brown isn’t worried about those particulars for now.

“Numbers and things like that? Of course they’re important,” she said. “But ultimately I really just want to stay true to my brand… I think that maybe my superpower is that I’m able to channel my inner emotions, and that they’re always on the surface. I’m able to access my emotions and my visions really well. I really just try to stay focused on being able to spread love.”

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