When Morphe Beauty hit a rough patch early in the pandemic, as masked-up consumers turned from eyeshadow palettes to niacinamide serum, it looked to some of the culture’s biggest stars for help.
YouTube sensation Emma Chamberlain signed on as creative director of Bad Habit, a skin care label that launched at the end of 2020. TikTok mega-influencer Charli D’Amelio was tapped to release a fragrance, plus a skin care line developed with the help of famed dermatologist Dendy Engelman. A Demi Lovato beauty line was put in motion.
But the “silver bullet” was meant to be R.E.M. Beauty, according to several former executives. Forma Brands, the “brand incubator” formed in 2019 to manage Morphe and a growing portfolio of sister lines negotiated the license to release beauty and skin care products for the pop star Ariana Grande in early 2021, and rushed a line of space-themed makeup into production.
The first products were released in November amid a massive marketing blitz, including a launch experience in Los Angeles where guests could get their photo taken against a space backdrop with an R.E.M. flag, like a reenactment of Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin planting an American Flag on the moon in 1969 (but with “Interstellar” highlighter).
“[Forma Brands’ leadership] all assumed it would be the silver bullet that would save the sinking ship,” said a former Forma Brands executive who requested anonymity.
Today, Forma Brands has little to show for its efforts. Chamberlain quietly left Bad Habit when her one-year contract expired; the brand reported just $3.4 million in sales last year, less than half Forma’s projections. D’Amelio released her fragrance, Born Dreamer, in June, but the skin care line has been shelved, as has Lovato’s beauty brand. R.E.M. Beauty’s release was overshadowed by other blockbuster celebrity launches, including Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty and Hailey Bieber’s Rhode Skin Care; it is seen by many inside Forma as an expensive disappointment, according to several people with knowledge on the matter.
Meanwhile, Morphe’s status with young makeup enthusiasts continues to slip. The brand, still responsible for the lion’s share of Forma’s revenue, struggled to adapt when maximalist makeup fell out of favour during …….