Estée Lauder Incubator Invests in Chinese Fragrance Brand Melt Season


Estée Lauder Cos., the American beauty conglomerate, has agreed to take a minority stake in Chinese fragrance label Melt Season.

The deal was made through the company’s early investment and incubation arm, New Incubation Ventures, or NIV.

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“Melt Season is a luxury brand born and raised in China. The label reinvents Chinese aesthetics and values with a modern vocabulary that is uniquely alive and fits well with the Estée Lauder Companies’ corporate culture,” the American beauty giant said in a statement.

Melt Season is the second China-related investment for NIV. This September, NIV announced an investment in Code Mint, a Chinese clean beauty label. China has been a core part of Estée Lauder’s business strategy for several years.

Founded by Lishi Ni, a 29-year-old former music entertainment executive and Gentle Monster alumni in 2020, Melt Season is known for its modern take on Chinese aesthetics, similar to its peers including To Summer and Documents.

Shana Randhava, senior vice president of New Incubation Ventures, and Lishi Ni, founder of Melt Season.Shana Randhava, senior vice president of New Incubation Ventures, and Lishi Ni, founder of Melt Season.

Shana Randhava, senior vice president of New Incubation Ventures, and Lishi Ni, founder of Melt Season.

”Today’s shoppers are accustomed to buying specialty fragrances at high price points, but they also expect more from the brand, such as the tone of the message, the visuals, as well as the product quality,” Ni said of evolving Chinese consumer needs.

Melt Season’s 10 scents range from 980 renminbi, or $137, for its classic perfume products, to 1,280 renminbi, or $179, for its high-end perfumes. The company also offers scented candles and reed diffusers.

In 2020, Melt Season raised a seed round led by One Capital followed by an angel round of more than 10 million renminbi, or $1.4 million, led by Breeze Capital in early 2022.

The brand began to establish a retail presence beginning with a store in Shanghai last August, located at the historical building that used to be the residence of Cheng Nien, the author of “Life and Death in Shanghai.”

From there, Melt Season opened six more stores at popular retail hot spots such as Taikoo Li Sanlitun in Beijing, Kerry Center and Qiantan Taikoo Li in Shanghai, The MixC in Shenzhen, and Tianmu Li in Hangzhou.

According to data from Kantar, China’s fragrance market is expected to grow at an annual rate of more than 20 percent to reach 37.13 billion, or $5.2 billion, in sales by 2026.

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