Get to know Tev Finger, the man behind all your favorite beauty products
“My whole life I’ve been in the beauty industry, I absolutely love it.”
Tev Finger, the man responsible for establishing the platform for artist-driven beauty brands, is passionate about the industry he never intended on joining. “I didn’t even know the difference between blush and eyeliner,” laughs Tev, recalling his introduction to the industry. He got his start when a friend of the family secured him a job as a photography assistant in “a really upscale salon in Manhattan called Bumble & Bumble.”
When the salon launched the namesake products we all know today, Tev was their first employee. “The owner, Michael Gordon, took a liking to me and we just started working from that day on together,” says Tev.
Since then, Tev has been making waves in the $445 billion industry. In 2012, he founded Luxury Brand Partners (LBP) inspired by his first post-Bumble venture, Oribé. The luxury haircare brand morphed into a much bigger concept, an incubator for high-end beauty brands. The idea being to work with artists to create really unique brands that filled the “little niche zones” and gaps in the beauty industry.
Given the scope of beauty, and the subsequent opportunities to expand business, the fruition of LBP now seems inevitable. “We’ve kind of really grown up as an incubator that started with hair as our mantra to now we have makeup, hair, colour products, nail polish, men’s brands,” explains Tev. “Our motto is to look for the voids that we think are empty space and build really artist-driven brands.”
Despite the fiercely competitive market (“It can be just as cutthroat as the finance industry. There’s definitely an ugly side to beauty.”) and the challenges that come with collaborating with artists, LBP has made it’s mark. The company has grown exponentially since its inception. The original team of five has become a team of roughly 300, responsible for developing and managing esteemed brands such as R+Co and Smith & Cult, which are stocked in Sephora, Ulta, and department stores across the US as well as internationally.
It’s no easy feat entering into a globally saturated market, beauty is arguably a universal language when it comes to sales. Yet, LBP has managed to achieve global recognition. Tev attributes this success to the company’s home base. He believes that a stronghold on the US market is a key factor in ensuring international success. “I think that having your brand successful in the United States is the most important thing you can do. [Because] your chances of becoming a global brand are that much better. It’s almost like by being successful in the US you almost become like a bonafide brand throughout the rest of the world. When we started Bumble, we never tried to open international doors, they all came to us. The same thing happened with Oribe and the same thing is happening with all of our brands.”
A born-and-bred New Yorker, the beauty mogul has recently left the city he has called home for his “whole life” to relocate the company’s headquarters to Miami. Given New York’s “center of the world” status, from an outside perspective it seems an odd choice. So what triggered such a significant move? The weather. And not just the freezing winters that one endures as a New Yorker, but the weather event of 2012: Hurricane Sandy. As bad luck would have it the LBP offices were situated in the only building in Manhattan that got condemned. “It was almost like a meteorite came out of space and hit us,” recalls Tev. “Nothing really happened in the city at all… Except for us.” Too much water and a construction hole adjacent to their building sunk the company’s premises. “Total, utter disaster.”
Not one to shy away from a challenge, Tev decided to re-evaluate his life in New York and that of his company. After “schlepping [it] on a Subway when it’s freezing cold, slipping on ice” for his entire life, Tev was ready for a change of scenery. Hurricane Sandy, it seems, was the push he needed. And what better place than Miami? A city one might assume to be antithesis of New York, but which Tev says is currently “going through a renaissance.”
“I had always loved Miami. It has a living in the Bahamas feel to it. [...] And also, from an entrepreneurial side was the expense factor. You get a lot more in Miami than you get in New York. All of the sudden you look at your environment and think, ‘Wow we can have all of this, it’s less money, and no winters.’ All these perks. You kind of start asking yourself: ‘Why am I so tied to New York?’”
It didn’t hurt that business is “booming” in Miami, adds Tev. “I’ve noticed since we’ve been down here that it’s becoming more and more international. I think the prospect of Miami in the future is brighter and brighter. I should be on the Miami Travel Board. I tell people that all the time, I think it’s the most magical city I really do.”
One of the aforementioned “perks” of relocating LBP to Miami is their new office headquarters. Spread over six-floors, each floor specifically designed to reflect one of the company’s different brands, the workspace reflects the new-age trend made famous by Silicon Valley’s tech companies– to make employees’ mental wellbeing a priority. “We wanted the office to be what I call ‘Millennial-friendly,'” says Tev. While he was adamant that he didn’t want sleeping pods (“I thought that was just weird. I don’t get the sleeping at work thing.”) he was very much on board with creating what he calls “breakout” areas. That is, specifically designated areas with food and amenities. Take, for instance, the most popular floor– the "LBP Social Club," a place you can go and “have a lunch with a friend, and have a good laugh and relax.” Sounds like any old workplace staff room or canteen, right? Wrong.
With an in-club full time attendant whose job it is to “kind of make it [the space] exciting,” such as thinking to provide staff with warmed muffins in the morning, the ‘club’ is not only a haven for employees but has proved fruitful for business itself. Indeed creating a “really comfortable place” was paramount for Tev who, after listing just some of the amenities on offer at the ‘club’ (a ping pong table, "Massage Mondays," facials, a barber, and shower room to name a few), notes that productivity has increased significantly. Less inclined to leave the office, employees are instead congregating in these specially designed workspaces. Sure, they’re relaxing and enjoying these facilities but they aren’t ‘switching off’ completely. “They still talk about business when they’re hanging out here,” says Tev.
But the best part of the new Miami headquarters, according to Tev, is in the details. “[The building] is keyless so your phone opens all the doors. So [even] if your phone is in your pocket it works. Very futuristic.”
It’s fitting given that technology is quite literally key to ensuring future success in the ever-evolving beauty industry. In the last five years alone the way in which products are made, marketed, and purchased, has changed dramatically, as Tev himself bears witness to.“When we started Oribe there was no Instagram. And of course you had Facebook but we were not thinking social media when we started. We were thinking traditional– magazines, salons.”
Now, thanks to the Internet and social media platforms, there is greater demand on companies to keep up with the fast-paced, 24/7 environment which has seen a significant change in consumer habits.
Tev offers an example in the form of Pulp Riot, an LBP-owned semi-permanent hair color range geared towards a more millennial clientele. With its vivid colors, including a bright green (“Absinthe”) and pastel pink (“Cupid”), the brand is popular among the Instagramming, festival-attending, fashion-conscious generation who want to experiment with their look and stand out from the crowd. Knowing that their target audience was tech-savvy and more likely to purchase products online, LBP restructured their approach. Instead of working with a digital agency, the brand was built on Spotify. This strategy proved extremely successful, with Tev noting that it’s been less than a year and already there is interest from people wanting to buy the brand. As such, LBP are now making sure that every brand they launch builds on what was learnt from Pulp Riot’s embrace of marketing in the age of social media.
With so many new platforms to market products on, and the increasing success of the ‘click and buy now’ model, where does Tev see the beauty industry headed?
“I don’t think anyone exactly knows,” says Tev, although he does offer a few suggestions. “I see the beauty industry adapting now more than ever to help gear products for consumers. He believes that technology will continue to have a “big effect” on the buying and shopping habits of consumers, citing that people no longer only buy hair products in salons but on Amazon thanks to perks such as two-day Prime free shipping.
More access to information and different products also means that there is a demand for greater transparency when it comes to manufacturing. “I think, again, because of the internet and social media, people are much more inclined to know what’s in a product,” say Tev. “Back in the day, when we were at Bumble, nobody knew what sulphates were- nobody cared. But today, if you have sulphate in your shampoo it’s like you have plutonium in there. Or if you have gluten in your food, it’s like a no-go. I think people have gotten smarter and really understand what things they shouldn’t be putting into their skin and their bodies. So therefore you’re seeing companies adapt and they think about that more. A good reference point would be the Honest Company, for example.”
For Tev, technology’s impact on the beauty industry and it’s future is something to be excited about. “I think the best is yet to come,” he says earnestly. Especially if that means cracking the da Vinci code of beauty: hair cloning. “I know they’re working on it supposedly in Korea,” says Tev, “where they can take one hair off your head and then clone, then implant it in your head. You have your own hair and a full head, and you don’t have to cut a scar in the back of your head.”
He believes that if they manage to pull off many a bald-man’s dream, his own included (“I don’t have much hair which really sucks”), the entire industry would be forever changed in “the same way that Uber upended the taxi industry.”
Tev’s desire to continue to learn and embrace change, warm persona, and of course passion for beauty is key to LBP’s success. It’s something he prides not only himself on, but his company too. The Miami headquarters are a testament to this, with Tev’s own personal ethos and vision for success quite literally painted on the walls of every floor: “Entrepreneurial. Respect. Hard Work. Fun."
“We have a lot of humor in what we do, we do a lot of fun excursions with our staff,” says Tev. “And I think those four words are what really drives incredible culture. We learn from the Bumble days and the Oribé days to the LBP days. One thing that’s always been our sort of ‘secret sauce’ has been to have an incredibly strong culture, with people that really go to bat for the brand– like they’re fighting for a cause.”
At the end of the day a company’s success all “resides in the people” says Tev. “If you attract incredible people and keep them motivated, your brands will win. [You] gotta have a little bit of luck and definitely some good design, but it should be able to win.”
You can find out more about LBP by visiting their website: http://luxurybrandpartners.com