PRO­FILE In spite of be­ing the hearts of their brands, th­ese fe­male founders hit “re­set.”

In spite of be­ing the beat­ing hearts of their beauty brands, two founders walk away to hit the re­set but­ton.

Fashion (Canada) - - Contents - By Lesa Han­nah


In 2007, Linda Rodin cre­ated a mix­ture of 11 plant oils in a cof­fee cup in her New York apart­ment. The former stylist ini­tially cre­ated the fa­cial oil for her­self but then started bot­tling it and shar­ing it with models and makeup artists on set. Though she even­tu­ally be­gan ped­dling it, tak­ing it to small shops she hoped would sell it, she main­tains there was no rush or endgame. “I call my­self ‘the ac­ci­den­tal beauty en­tre­pre­neur,’” she says. “I wasn’t build­ing a brand. ‘Brand’ wasn’t even a word in my vo­cab­u­lary. I was just mak­ing some­thing I loved and was pas­sion­ate about.”

Re­gard­less, her oil, Olio Lusso, started to take off. Rodin’s years in fash­ion pro­vided a con­nec­tion at Bar­neys New York, which got her into the lux­ury depart­ment store. Olio Lusso helped kick off the fa­cial oil trend, but even as her brand grew, Rodin al­ways planned to keep the line fi­nite, with no more than 15 to 20 items. “My the­ory is that you can’t be all things to all peo­ple,” she ex­plains. “I only made what I was pas­sion­ate about or would use my­self.”

But it wasn’t just Rodin’s prod­ucts that caught peo­ple’s at­ten­tion. Her eclec­tic style—long sil­ver hair, bright lips and bold tinted glasses—and her age gave her a dis­tinct look as a beauty prod­uct founder. Fash­ion com­pa­nies even cast her in some of their cam­paigns. This, com­bined with Rodin’s can­dour and obliv­i­ous­ness to trends, made au­then­tic­ity part of her brand way be­fore it be­came the buzz­word it is now—though it re­flects how she’s al­ways been. Rodin con­tin­ued to bring her own per­spec­tive to her prod­uct launches, in­fus­ing them with anec­dotes from her past: Her fra­grance, Bis, was based on a scent mem­ory of her mother go­ing out on a Satur­day night, her five lip­sticks have a per­sonal tale at­tached to each of them, are named ac­cord­ingly and are the only shades she will wear, and the laven­der ver­sion of her oil was in­spired by her love of wear­ing the colour in the late 1960s rather than by the scent. So, it was a gut punch to fans of the brand when she an­nounced this past Oc­to­ber that she was step­ping down from her role. It re­mains to be seen how Olio Lusso will fare with­out her, yet it seems im­pos­si­ble that it will be the same with­out her per­sonal touch and cre­ative vi­sion.

But Rodin, who turns 70 in March, is nei­ther run­ning off to live in Italy (as she has of­ten fan­ta­sized about do­ing) nor wind­ing down. She has an idea and says it won’t be in beauty. “I think I did the best I could there,” she says. “I have no re­grets and am deeply proud of ev­ery prod­uct.” A fash­ion-re­lated project ap­pears to be the next log­i­cal move, though Rodin re­mains coy about the de­tails ex­cept to say that she’s in the early stages of some­thing new and ex­cit­ing and that she can’t make it at home. Her vague­ness might also have some­thing to do with the fact that it’s not like her to lay the ground­work for any­thing; she has al­ways just put one fash­ion­able foot in front of the other. “I’ve never had a plan in my en­tire life,” she says.

I wasn’t build­ing a brand. ‘Brand’ wasn’t even a word in my vo­cab­u­lary. I was just mak­ing some­thing I loved and was pas­sion­ate about.

I’ll have con­ver­sa­tions with some­one on the sub­way about my lip­stick. They won’t even know I’m the per­son who made it.


Poppy King launched Lip­stick Queen in 2006, when she sensed that lip­stick was in dan­ger of be­com­ing an­ti­quated. Shim­mery nude lip­gloss was be­ing worn by ev­ery­one un­der 40, and King, a life­long ad­vo­cate of lip­stick (at the age of 18, she started a line called Poppy in her na­tive Aus­tralia and then moved to NYC to work at Pre­scrip­tives), made it her mis­sion to re­de­fine it. “It was leav­ing the ver­nac­u­lar,” she says. “I wanted to make lip­stick mod­ern again, with a very vin­tage feel to the ac­tual prod­uct.”

King, who has al­ways felt that the ex­pe­ri­ence of wear­ing lip­stick is not just glam­orous but in­tel­lec­tual, kicked off her com­pany with 10 shades in two dif­fer­ent in­ten­si­ties—five sheer (called Saint) and five matte/opaque (Sin­ner)—and sold them on flat cards. As the line ex­panded, she con­tin­ued to play with the pig­ment lev­els so that she could pro­vide op­tions for those who are trep­i­da­tious about wear­ing full-on, vi­brant shades. She also cre­ated lip­stick colours that look strange in the pack­ag­ing but trans­form once they are ap­plied. “They’re like stock­ings for your lips,” she says about the tints they leave be­hind. “Hello Sailor” is blue but be­comes a berry hue, “Mornin’ Sun­shine” is a yel­low that de­vel­ops into a peachy coral and the best­selling “Frog Prince” is green but turns into a rosy pink tone de­pend­ing on your pH level. “I don’t veer too far from what the body could nat­u­rally pro­duce,” she ex­plains.

Though King’s ideas for lip­stick are for­ward-think­ing and un­con­ven­tional, she has al­ways kept her dis­tance from so­cial me­dia, an un­ortho­dox move for any com­pany in this day and age. Even on the brand’s ac­counts, it’s like she doesn’t ex­ist. “I just don’t be­lieve in so­cial me­dia and gen­er­at­ing it about my­self,” she ex­plains. “I think that’s a form of pol­lu­tion. I re­al­ize that that’s a very un­pop­u­lar opin­ion,” she says, adding that In­sta­gram is “a sewer of self­ies.” Be­sides, King, who calls her­self “very old school,” would rather en­gage in per­son. “I’ll have con­ver­sa­tions with some­one on the sub­way about my lip­stick. They won’t even know I’m the per­son who made it.”

Those dia­logues will most def­i­nitely con­tinue even as King moves on, hav­ing re­signed from her com­pany in Novem­ber. Though it feels a lit­tle un­fath­omable that the queen her­self is leav­ing, it’s be­cause she has a new idea she wants to pur­sue. It still in­volves lip­stick (“The dance part­ners may have changed, but the dance re­mains the same,” she says), but it’s a con­cept and a busi­ness model that she felt wasn’t right for Lip­stick Queen. “It’s much more con­cep­tual and very ab­stract,” she ex­plains. “This is not about trends.” In fact, King plans on tak­ing lip­sticks out of the beauty in­dus­try and cross­ing over into a dif­fer­ent genre to bring them to peo­ple in a way that has never been done be­fore. “I might be crazy,” she says, “but we’ll find out.”

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