Celebrity hairstylist Kristin Ess has filed a lawsuit against brand incubator and long-term partner Maesa, in a bid to reclaim the rights to her business.
The filing claims that Maesa has deprived Ess of both the creative control over and ownership of her brand.
Maesa is also alleged to have threatened to prevent her from pursuing new opportunities for herself.
Ess said the private label manufacturer had originally sold the idea of its business model to her based on its ability to launch and grow her hair care brand.
This was with the end goal of eventually selling the company.
According to Ess, the parties agreed that once Maesa and Ess grew the business to a value in excess of US$40m, it would position the brand for a sale to ensure the business’ continued success.
However, the complaint accuses Maesa of refusing to sell the company, despite it being valued at more than $40m.
The lawsuit also claims that business model changes have allegedly harmed the brand's reputation.
In a string of Instagram story posts, Ess, who is the co-founder of thebeautydepartment.com, claimed she was “misled” during their partnership.
“Instead of holding true to their commitments, they’ve continued gripping onto my brand, using it as a piggy bank to fund their many other ideas,” she said in a separate Instagram post.
“Their actions are not fair to me, or to the long-term growth of Kristin Ess Hair.
“The one thing I know for sure is – if I don’t fight with everything I’ve got in this moment, the Kristin Ess hair brand will continue to suffer and deviate from the path I’ve always dreamed for it.
“I can’t just sit back and watch that.”
Maesa was granted exclusive rights to sell hair care products under the Kristin Ess brand and the two worked together to develop her hair care line.
The business has worked with other brands such as American actress Drew Barrymore’s cosmetics brand, Flower Beauty.
Ess’ breach-of-contract lawsuit was submitted to the California Central District Court on 22 November 2022.
Cosmetics Business had reached out to Maesa and Kristin Ess for comment.