What happened to Jane cosmetics?

Most 90s teens recall Jane (also known as j.a.n.e.) cosmetics as a fun, accessible and affordable makeup brand. I definitely remember strolling the drugstore makeup aisle and seeing the seemingly out of place section reserved for the popular teen brand. Over time, the brand developed a cult following that’s left many millennials and gen x-ers longing for the past. Today the brand has ghosted its customers. But why? And what happened to Jane?

Where the brand got its start

Launched in 1994, owner Sassaby Inc marketed products almost exclusively towards teenagers with price points starting at $2.99. One may think branding the line as “j.a.n.e” was some sort of kitschy ’90s thing. In actuality, it was an anagram for juniper, aloe, nettle and elderflower. The brand also featured these ingredients in their products. The line focused on lifting the spirits of young teens who used their products, with ads featuring text like:

Wishing you looked different is a major waste of time. Don’t freak out over every flaw. Fix it and get on with it. Learn to see the positive . . . there’s no such thing as a plain Jane!”

Jane cosmetics ad from the 90s

Another thing unique to the brand was the mini booklets they released with how-tos, which some customers started collecting. Looks featured in these booklets were applicable to real life and focused on looks for school, work and job interviews.

It’s obvious to see why teens loved Jane, with its catchy advertising, single pan products and easy-to-follow tutorials.

Estee Lauder axed Jane

Dear reader, I have to admit that I am not a fan of Estée Lauder’s acquisition history. Lauder historically acquires smaller brands, gets confused what to do with them and shuts them down. Yes, I’m still mad at Lauder for shuttering Becca, which existed for 16 years before Lauder bought it in 2016. Becca was toast by 2021.

So, it was no surprise that Jane met a similar fate.

Lauder purchased the company in 1997. Jane was a big deal for Lauder because it was the company’s first mass market drugstore brand. Up until that point, Lauder only owned prestige brands like MAC, Clinique, Jo Malone and more. Jane was a revolutionary move for the company and a quick way to enter the drugstore mass market.

Lauder had no clue what do with Jane and sales plummeted from $50 million to $25 million by 2004. Jane was sold that year to a newly formed company called Jane & Co. LLC, founded by Harry and Alex Adjmi and Lisa Yarnell, a longtime mass market beauty executive. Yarnell had high hopes, stating, “I don’t see why Jane can’t be a $100 million brand.”

Then came the 2008 recession

In 2009, Jane & Co LLC joined the 1.8 million businesses that would go out of business between December 2008 and December 2010 following the recession. They closed “due to significant cash liquidity issues faced by Jane arising from the economic crisis that affected retail customers nationwide.” Court documents detailed assets of between zero and $50,000, and liabilities of between $1 million and $10 million.

Jane, revived again

Jane relaunch in 2013
Products from 2013 relaunch

In 2009, Patriarch Partners, an investment firm focused on acquiring and turning around struggling companies, acquired the wayward brand. The company ultimately made two failed attempts to relaunch Jane: Once in 2013 and again in 2016. The 2013 relaunch harkened back to the early days of the brand, with similar marketing and new products at a slightly higher price point, $5.99 to $9.99. At the time, stores like Ulta and Kohl’s carried Jane. This relaunch ultimately failed.

Jane relaunch in 2013
Product image from the 2016 relaunch

The second relaunch in 2016 didn’t go much better. Lynn Tilton, the CEO of Jane and Patriarch Partners, thought she had learned the lessons she needed to learn in 2013. In one interview she shared, “Rather than to push the brand where it was, I gathered a team around me that would love and nurture the brand, and we have completely re-branded it.” It did not go well.

Much to customer’s ire, Jane tried to relaunch at a higher, prestige price point. The company retooled the brand’s slogan, with the website featuring touchy feely language like, “Meet Jane. She believes that true beauty comes from giving back.” And “Compassion is contagious. Kindness is cool.” What does this have to do with mascara and lipstick? I don’t know, which might explain partly why the relaunch failed. Again.

Jane’s online ghost town

As it stands today, the brand is dunzo. Leaving behind a default Shopify site, an Instagram unupdated for 213 weeks and a Facebook last touched three years ago. And the fans of seemingly disappeared Jane? Well, they were mad, with one person commenting:

Oh well. RIP or good luck. You had loyal customers who would have continue your patronage given opportunity and consistency. . . Why buy a brand just to abandon it again? No social media presence? Weird

Will Jane be back?

All this has me wondering: Will be see another iteration of Jane? Is it too late to bring the brand back for a fifth time? Personally, I’d love to see a relaunch that includes a capsule of the original 1994 products that teen customers loved so dearly. If history has anything to say about it, I think we may indeed one day see yet another Jane relaunch.