Nov 20, 2023
Marie Drago, founder of the Gallinée skincare brand, is now based on the rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, in the Shiseido Europe offices. After spending twenty years in the UK, Drago, a dynamic doctor in pharmacy is returning to her native country, France. Her return follows the acquisition of her brand a year ago by the Japanese cosmetics group, whose portfolio includes brands such as Ulé and Drunk Elephant.
A quick look back. Initially based in London and founded in 2016 by Marie Drago, Gallinée is a cosmetic skincare brand pioneering the use of active probiotics (living micro-organisms with a beneficial effect on the body, ed. note), which was quickly spotted by the behemoths of the sector.
In fact, while the brand’s launch involved a crowdfunding campaign Kickstarter, raising 100,000 euros – “a nice sum, but in the end quite small for developing a brand,” says Marie Drago – Gallinée attracted the interest of the Anglo-Dutch group Unilever in January 2018. And it was via its Unilever Ventures programme for investing in young companies that it had become Gallinée’s main investor.
“I think we were the smallest brand that Unilever invested in. Working with them enabled us to structure the company and benefit from their contacts and expertise,” explains Marie Drago, who points out that Gallinée was certainly too small a brand for Unilever.
After four years with the fund, Marie Drago is now looking for new investors to help her brand grow. At the time, the brand had around twenty products for face, body, hair and even oral hygiene, compared with five when it was launched.
Marie Drago enlisted the services of a broker to help her in her search. “He told me it was the first time he’d had 100% response for a beauty brand. We had potential investors in the pharmaceutical and beauty industries. But I can’t tell you their names!” joked Marie Drago, who then said she had the luxury of choosing Shiseido.
“It’s a group with an excellent ethic, in line with Gallinée’s values, and with excellent research and development centres, including one in Ormes (Loiret). They have also opened a centre dedicated to the microbiome,” says Marie Drago.
The power of good bacteria
Marie Drago, who has also worked for L’Oréal in Ireland and Soap & Glory, is a specialist in the microbiome. It’s a specialism linked to her personal history, as over ten years ago she was diagnosed with pyoderma gangrenosum, an inflammation of the skin caused by an auto-immune reaction. To control her illness, she took probiotics and prebiotics, and wondered whether applying them to the skin could be a solution to the inflammation. She went back to university and wrote her thesis on probiotics for the skin. “I patented the thesis and used it to create the Gallinée formulations,” says Marie Drago.
The founder of Gallinée, who sold all her company’s shares to Shiseido, is now the brand’s creative director, working alongside Anne Ravillion, Gallinée’s business development and integration director.
Under the impetus of the Shiseido group, the brand, which generates 30% of its sales online and has ten employees, has revamped its packaging and tightened up its network of retailers. In France, Gallinée, which does not disclose its sales figures, is present only in Marionnaud shops and is aiming to develop its presence in pharmacies. It is also distributed by Cult Beauty in the UK. The first products developed with the Japanese group will be launched in April 2024.
In the third quarter of its financial year, Shiseido saw its worldwide sales decline by 2% to 228.2 billion yen (€1.4 billion).
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