Beauty Boom: Is Sephora Becoming High Fashion’s Next Target?

In 2013, the retailer will debut a fragrance collaboration with Elizabeth and James, one of several fashion lines designed by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and a makeup line with Marc Jacobs

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Dado Galdieri / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Ever since Target debuted its collaboration with Isaac Mizrahi in August 2003, designer diffusion lines have been, for the most part, a booming success. Demand for Target’s collection with Missoni in 2011 crashed the mass retailer’s website, while Stella McCartney’s H&M line in 2005 sold out within hours at some stores.

But if recent disappointing sales from the Target + Neiman Marcus collaboration are any indicator, consumer interest in fast fashion may be on the wane. More and more powerhouse brands are focusing their attention on beauty partnerships instead, where Sephora has been an industry leader. Over the last two years, Sephora has seen collaborations with Marchesa, Pantone and Karl Lagerfeld. In 2013, the retailer will debut a fragrance collaboration with Elizabeth and James, one of several fashion lines designed by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and a makeup line with Marc Jacobs.

(MORE: Target Turns 50—How the Retailer Stays Chic)

These partnerships give consumers an opportunity to own a small designer product for even less than what they might pay for a diffusion collection dress at Target. And they make sense for businesses, too; beauty products have historically been considered recession proof, a trend that continues to prove true in the recent economic slump. The NPD group, which conducts market research on fashion and beauty, reported increasing sales across all beauty categories during the first half of 2012. Makeup sets alone raked in $61 million, a 19% increase from its performance a year earlier.

If those numbers continue to tick up in the coming years—and if fashion designers continue to explore the beauty industry—we’re likely to see even more big name collaborations at Sephora. And maybe long lines and crashed websites, too.

MORE: Democratic Design—A History of Fashion Diffusion Lines

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