How makeup gets made in the In­ter­net age.

With ex­pec­ta­tions for beauty-prod­uct per­for­mance higher than ever, we dis­cover how the most in­no­va­tive brands de­liver.

ELLE (Canada) - - Insider - By Vic­to­ria Di Placido

it’s al­most noon in Berlin, and I’m hud­dled around a makeup sta­tion learning about Spell­binder—M.A.C Cos­met­ics’ very spe­cial new metal­lic eye­shadow. I’m at the com­pany’s global trends pre­sen­ta­tion, where the big­gest beauty looks of the fall/win­ter sea­son are pre­sented and the brand’s lat­est prod­uct in­no­va­tions are un­veiled. M.A.C’s most se­nior makeup artists from around the world have gath­ered here for the oc­ca­sion to im­part beauty les­sons both prac­ti­cal and in­spi­ra­tional: Ear­lier, I watched makeup pro Loni Baur use paint­brushes to trans­form fash­ion pho­tog­ra­pher Perou into a clown you would not want to run into at night. The ex­pe­ri­ence has been the cre­ative equiv­a­lent of a triple espresso. Across from me, Is­abelle Rovner, the vice-pres­i­dent of global prod­uct de­vel­op­ment, is ex­plain­ing that Spell­binder is a loose shadow with a dif­fer­ence. “[The for­mula] has black ion­ized pig­ment, and we have a mag­net in there,” she says, point­ing to the base of the pot, “so the loose pig­ment sticks to it. You use it, and then it goes back to its orig­i­nal de­sign.” This has the dual ben­e­fit of pre­vent­ing the prod­uct from fly­ing ev­ery­where when used and giv­ing it the oth­er­worldly ap­pear­ance of a sand dune. I swirl the pad of my in­dex finger in the olive-green shadow, pick­ing up vel­vety metal­lic pig­ment. It tem­po­rar­ily flat­tens the wavy de­sign and then bounces back into for­ma­tion. “It’s a magic prod­uct,” con­firms some­one to my left, apro­pos of the su­per­nat­u­ral name. I nod—it’s one of sev­eral I’ve al­ready seen that day.

As a beauty edi­tor, I see and try dozens of prod­ucts ev­ery week. My desk is cur­rently home to a rain­bow-hued K-beauty brush that of­fers to vo­lu­mize my hair by cre­at­ing “air holes,” a con­di­tioner with the tex­ture of shav­ing h

cream and the Ve­su­vius of matte-lip­stick piles. To my right, our beauty di­rec­tor has stock­piled prod­ucts to test, in­clud­ing a serum that re­pairs skin with a pep­tide ori­­g­in­ally found in hu­man plasma. Our health edi­tor was re­cently fight­ing for cu­bi­cle space for a crate of drink­able col­la­gen. It’s our job to know the en­tire beauty land­scape, but we have a low tol­er­ance for the bor­ing, the un­in­vent­ive and, no­tably, the in­ef­fec­tive.

It’s a sen­ti­ment in­creas­ingly echoed by Mil­len­nial con­sumers, who, says Sandy Silva, a fash­ion and beauty in­dus­try an­a­lyst with trend-track­ing com­pany NPD Group Canada, are al­ways after the next great beauty prod­uct. “There’s a sense of im­me­di­acy—a sense of ‘I want it now; I’ll have it now,’” she says of those born be­tween 1981 and 1999. “There used to be par­al­lels with fash­ion in terms of lead times, from con­cep­tion to when the prod­uct hit the shelves, but now ev­ery­thing is at a rapid pace due to so­cial me­dia.” It’s a de­mand that beauty in­cu­ba­tors—think of these as start-ups that fo­cus on launch­ing in­no­va­tive new beauty prod­ucts and brands—are do­ing their best to ful­fill.

“I think [beauty is] the eas­i­est cat­e­gory in which to be in­no­va­tive,” says Brandon Tru­axe, the no-holds-barred founder of three- year- old in­cu­ba­tor De­ciem. The Toronto-based com­pany was named for the ad­vice Tru­axe re­ceived to not do 10 things at once. (De­ciem is a vari­a­tion on the Latin word for 10.) It now has that same num­ber of skin­care, hair-care and beauty-sup­ple­ment brands in its port­fo­lio, and there are plans for three more this year. The num­ber of de­velop­ments in anti-ag­ing tech­nol­ogy ri­val those in com­puter tech­nol­ogy (which is to say, very many), says Tru­axe, but the ones used in beauty prod­ucts can be decades old, mak­ing “cu­ra­tion much more dif­fi­cult than cre­ation to­day.”

While Tru­axe is of the opin­ion that core in­no­va­tions should be at the prod­uct level, he ad­mits it’s not al­ways new­ness in that area that spurs cut­ting-edge de­vel­op­ments. Some­times there’s a gap in the mar­ket, like the one that in­spired the launch of De­ciem’s Hand Chem­istry brand, which fuses body prod­ucts with tra­di­tional skin­care ben­e­fits. “If I took a face cream out of my bag and started putting it on my face, you would as­sume that it had an­ti­ag­ing ben­e­fits,” says Tru­axe. “If I grab a hand cream, you would just think it’s a mois­tur­izer be­cause the hand-ag­ing cat­e­gory has largely been ig­nored.” Thus the cre­ation of the brand’s In­tense Youth Com­plex hand cream, which fea­tures a cop­per-pep­tide com­plex that per­forms bet­ter than in­jec­tions at in­creas­ing col­la­gen lev­els in skin and is a best­seller in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Cap­tion At in­cu­ba­tors, prod­ucts are of­ten re­leased on an ac­cel­er­ated timeline. “Speed is cer­tainly a facet of the process that we use,” ex­plains Laura Nel­son, co-founder of Seed Beauty, the two-year-old in­cu­ba­tor that is home to ColourPop and Kylie Cos­met­ics. They are con­scious of muda, says Nel­son, which is a Ja­panese term for waste—an ex­am­ple be­ing “the time [wasted] wait­ing for things to hap­pen.” One way Seed com­bats this is by hous­ing all of its re­sources, from the mar­ket­ing team to the lab, un­der the same roof. “Then, through so­cial net­works, we can vir­tu­ally bring our con­sumers in here as well,” she adds.

Con­sider ColourPop Cos­met­ics’ Churro high­lighter, which went from idea to con­sumer in two days this past June. On so­cial me­dia, cus­tomers were ask­ing for tie-dye high­lighters, so the com­pany pro­vided them with the op­tion of three dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of ex­ist­ing high­lighter shades remixed in tie-dye form. Fans voted for their favour­ite on Snapchat, and they crowd­sourced the shade name. It sold out in a minute. The sub­se­quent #be­cause­ofchurro cam­paign to bring back the lim­ited-edi­tion prod­uct in­spired memes and thou­sands of en­thusi­as­tic, hy­per­bolic com­ments such as “#be­cause ofchurro I’ll be able to re­flect the world’s neg­a­tiv­i­ties off my high­light and bounce them back into haters’ souls.”

Get­ting prod­ucts out quickly means cap­i­tal­iz­ing on trends when they’re still fresh, but be­ing ahead of the trends isn’t al­ways an ad­van­tage. As se­nior vi­cepres­i­dent and cre­ative di­rec­tor for M.A.C Cos­met­ics, James Gager over­sees spe­cial col­lec­tions and col­lab­ora­tions. (This year alone, these have in­cluded Ariana Grande, de­sign­ers Char­lotte Olympia, Chris Chang and Zac Posen and Trolls—yes, like the dolls—to name a few. A col­lec­tion in­spired by Se­lena, the beloved Latina singer who died more than two decades ago, launches in Oc­to­ber.) It’s Gager’s job to be aware of what’s up-and-com­ing in the cul­tural zeit­geist. Some­times, he says, be­ing the first to spot a trend re­ally works. In 2015, when M.A.C was set to launch its col­lec­tion with Chi­nese cou­ture de­signer Guo Pei, Ri­hanna showed up at the Met Gala in one of her de­signs. “It was a to­tal co­in­ci­dence. We didn’t know Ri­hanna was go­ing to wear it,” says Gager. “But maybe it’s no sur­prise: When you’re in touch with what’s go­ing on, you’re not the only one, and that’s a good thing be­cause at least you get sub­stan­ti­ated some­where and it can be­come a big­ger trend.” Other times, says Gager, “we [look] back on a col­lec­tion and say ‘We were a lit­tle too early on that one’ and some­body else did it bet­ter be­cause the tim­ing was maybe more rel­e­vant or the au­di­ence was more ready.”

M.A.C Cos­met­ics is the orig­i­nal beauty in­cu­ba­tor­—and has been ever since founders Frank Toskan and Frank h

“There’s a sense of im­me­di­acy— a sense of ‘I want it now; I’ll have it now.’”

An­gelo set up a counter in Hud­son’s Bay in Toronto 32 years ago with the dec­la­ra­tion that their prod­ucts would be for “all ages, all races, all sexes.” This meant shades of foun­da­tion for peo­ple darker than “tan,” putting African-Amer­i­can drag queen RuPaul in ad­ver­tise­ments and do­nat­ing 100 per­cent of the price of Viva Glam prod­ucts to com­bat HIV/AIDS. (This was at a time when some peo­ple, re­calls Gor­don Espinet, se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of makeup artistry, were of the opin­ion that “[the dis­ease] doesn’t even af­fect women.”)

At M.A.C, new­ness can also be trend fo­cused—colours and fin­ishes, for in­stance—or a prod­uct in­no­va­tion, like the ion­ized Spell­binder eyshad­ows that Rovner tells me M.A.C is the first to bring to mar­ket. All new prod­ucts, from lip­sticks to eye­lin­ers, are tested by the com­pany’s ex­ten­sive network of makeup artists. “When we have the prod­uct ready, or al­most ready, to go, it goes back to our artists,” says Rovner. “We ask dif­fer­ent re­gions—North Amer­ica, Asia, Europe, Latin Amer­ica—‘How do you feel about this prod­uct?’ If our artists don’t like the prod­uct, we will not launch it.”

One ex­am­ple of a prod­uct that was re­worked after artist feed­back is Vam­plify lip­gloss, says Juliet Falchi, di­rec­tor of global prod­uct de­vel­op­ment. Artists re­ported that the prod­uct was bleed­ing, so the for­mula was ad­justed to be more jel­li­fied and the ap­pli­ca­tor was changed. “We had been us­ing a sim­ple doe-foot ap­pli­ca­tor,” says Falchi, “and we gave it to [our artists] and asked: ‘How can we op­ti­mize this? What’s the best de­liv­ery sys­tem?’ We worked with them to de­velop this pointy-leaf-shaped ap­pli­ca­tor. It has a well in the cen­tre that loads the prod­uct so you re­ally get a pre­cise ap­pli­ca­tion.”

Cristina Car­lino, founder of Phi­los­o­phy skin­care, gave prod­ucts names like Hope in a Jar long be­fore ev­ery­one was tot­ing bags re­mind­ing them to breathe deeply and sweat ev­ery day. Now, as founder of BIG Beauty (the “BIG” stands for Beauty In­cu­ba­tor Group), she con­sults with grow­ing brands at a time when “ev­ery­thing mat­ters.” “It can’t just be one thing that’s great about the brand. It’s got to be ev­ery­thing,” she says, from the for­mu­la­tion of the prod­uct to the pack­ag­ing to the com­pany val­ues.

“The bar­ri­ers to in­for­ma­tion and [prod­uct] re­views are gone,” says Nel­son. “You have this amaz­ing free flow of in­for­ma­tion that’s im­me­di­ate and un­fil­tered hap­pen­ing out there. The con­sumer is be­com­ing more ed­u­cated; they have more and more ac­cess to dif­fer­ent points of view.”

While our stan­dards for beauty prod­ucts—richly pig­mented shades, pack­ag­ing that makes our lives eas­ier, skin­care that does what it says it will—are un­likely to wa­ver, the vo­ra­cious “I want it five min­utes ago” ap­petite won’t last forever, says Silva. Car­lino agrees: “When there are too many choices, peo­ple like sim­plic­ity.” Silva pre­dicts that we’ll see a re­turn to nat­u­ral prod­ucts that take time to cul­ti­vate. “You’ll end up see­ing this kind of cli­max,” she says. “[It] can only go so fast, un­til you can’t go any faster.” n

M.A.C Cos­met­ics Spell­binder Eye­shadow ($26 each, avail­able in Oc­to­ber). For de­tails, see Shop­ping Guide.

Hand Chem­istry In­tense Youth Com­plex ($19)

M.A.C Cos­met­ics Vam­plify Lip­gloss ($24 each)

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