Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Creating a Makeup Trend

Whenever I tell somebody that I design makeup for a living, the first question they ask is, "How does that work?" So I tell them that it is all about making your dreams into reality.  You have to be able to dream of a look that would inspire you. What colors do I want to wear?  What feature do I feel like enhancing?  What new technology have I seen?  What runway trends are trickling down?  Then it is about tying all of the pieces and ideas together.  This is easier said than done, because this means that you have to think outside of the box.  You have to experiment to know what would be interesting enough to grab attention.  You have to understand what you do NOT like in order to know what you WILL like.  Being wishy washy or too agreeable will not get you anywhere in this business.  I believe I have been successful in this job because I know immediately if I like something or if I don't like it.  I feel strongly about most things, which allows me to make decisions quickly.

When I first started in cosmetics at Mirabella, our dreams were pretty limited.  They revolved around variations of pink, peach and brown...sellable colors but not necessarily new or noteworthy.  It took awhile to understand that pink, peach and brown always sell, but they do not necessarily inspire.  These shades should be part of every collection in some way, but you MUST have a pop of something special to grab attention.  Start looking around at every pre-filled palette on the market.  There are usually 2-3 really wearable shades paired with a darker or colorful shade that provide a more dramatic pop of color, if you will.  In the shopper's mind they say, "I would use three out of the four shades.  I wish this fourth shade wasn't so bold, dark, etc. (or whatever adjective they decide on for the moment)."  What you do not realize is that the fourth shade made the palette interesting enough to look at in the first place.  That shade drew your attention to the pink, peach or brown that you may have passed over to begin with.

In the beginning, we never discontinued anything.  We had a gigantic display with a myriad of variations of pink brown.  We barely even offered a red lipstick.  Yes, all shades sold ok, but we were not aware how many people just passed our display without even looking at it.  Our display just blended into the background.  In 2009, we discontinued 1/2 of our product line because we realized this policy did not do us any favors.  All of our shades had a gray base that was so popular throughout the 90's. Since we didn't update as we moved along, our line was no longer competitive in the marketplace.  When we added brighter colors to our mix, ladies started stopping on their own to look.  Two years ago we added brighter eyeshadows to our display and sales increased by a surprising 300% for the year.  I share this because salons tend to be nervous with bolder colors, but that shouldn't be the case.  They will never be your best-sellers, but they will draw attention and create a conversation that may otherwise not happen.

These are all areas I consider when creating new products. I think about an inspirational shade to draw attention then I work on the texture/application to make sure it can work for all ages and tones. Then I support it with core shades that will ultimately be the best-sellers.  

The great thing about working for Mirabella is that I am in control of my vision from start to finish. This is very unique. Normally you have a team of people to please. Because Mirabella is a smaller company, I work in the trenches every day even though I have a management position. I try to surround myself with awesome people.  One of the awesome people I get to work with is Jamie Richards. Jamie is my creative lifeline, and I trust her because she is willing to be in the trenches as well.  The stress of making all of the pieces come together can be overwhelming at times, but it is so rewarding to see a product come to life that was previously just in your head.

One dream that recently became a reality was when we planned and executed our photo shoot for the first half of 2014 launches.  This is the most stressful event of my year...but it is also the most fun.  On this day, my dreaming comes to life as the products are applied to the models.  It is where I find out if the past year of planning is actually going to come together in a cohesive story.  It is also the day that I spend the most money!!  Talk about pressure, because every second is costing a fortune.  Wasted time equals wasted money...and if you have ever worked with John Maly, you definitely have to account for the money you spend.  Each year I feel like we get better at execution.  This was the first year John decided to stop by to see how his $$ were being spent.  He commented immediately saying that I seemed more relaxed this year.  And it was true.  Because I did not compromise on the beauty team responsible for executing my new looks, we came away with so many BEAUTIFUL images. It is impossible to choose which looks to use.  The models were amazingly talented and really able to play up each look.  Jasmine Dashtizad made my products look awesome on these stunning girls.  And a big shout out and thank you to Adir Abergel for creating fresh and fabulous hair designs! I am humbled that a celebrity/editorial stylist of his caliber is willing to work for my brand.  My spring collection was a harder sell than usual to all parties involved.  It was a lot of panicking up until the last minute that really sapped my energy...which is not good for my most important day of the year.  Adir restored that positive energy ten fold, and I will be forever grateful.  The lesson to be learned is that you must surround yourself with people that provide positive energy.  You will never dream big if you don't have people to believe in you.  Check out this fun video and some pics from the shoot!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Thoughts over a holiday weekend...

It is day 3 of my 4-day holiday weekend, and I have had more time than usual to think.  As I was leaving work, I wished John Maly (owner at Mirabella) a Happy 4th of July.  He immediately corrected me saying, "It is Happy Independence Day.  We are not celebrating the 4th of July."  His statement kept playing in my mind, so on Independence Day, I decided to test it out.  It was a crazy Vegas-like party at my apartment complex pool, so as I passed a couple of neighbors, I wished them a Happy Independence Day.  Both did a double-take, like they had a difficult time processing that statement and replied with "Happy 4th".  Then I read an editorial online article on The Washington Post where the writer was of the opinion that  America would be better off without the revolution!  I was shocked.  As I continued to read, it stated that the United States tied for 14th as a country in a "life-satisfaction" survey...that Americans work longer hours with fewer benefits, etc, etc.  Paul Pirie writes, "The U.S. performance should also be assessed against the ideals the new country set for itself — namely, advancing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  He then claims that Americans fail to live up to these ideals.   I am not usually very political, but I strongly disliked this article.  It brought to mind something Mirabella's PR agent told me awhile back.  His French friends said something like "the only difference between me (a French citizen) and you (an American) is that you can live your dream".  This statement really resonated with him enough to share it with me, and I think about it often.

With all that being said, I wanted to take a minute to state that I am really grateful for the freedoms we have in the United States.  I have been able to live my dream!  I have loved Mirabella for almost 12 years and put every effort toward its growth.  We sell millions of $$$ of makeup that I designed internationally!!  Thinking back to our dreams of having a cosmetic line for our salon, I can't believe that I am where I am today.  As I mingled amongst my friends during fireworks, I asked them what they appreciated about living in the United States.  Answers completely varied...but I found them all interesting.  So here are my Top 5...

  1. I love that we were able to start a small business and grow it into something bigger just from hard work, belief and opportunity.
  2. I truly appreciate freedom of religion.  My faith provides me with direction, community, happiness, and love...which have all played an important part in my success.
  3. Whenever I return from traveling abroad, I always think, "that was the hardest thing I have ever done!"  I love that it is easy to accomplish things in the United States.  It is so efficient here!
  4. I am thankful that I feel safe to live by myself here.  I live in a wonderful city that is clean, beautiful and safe.
  5. I specifically appreciate the cleanliness and hygiene standards in the United States.  It may seem silly, but I always appreciate clean bathrooms, toilet seat covers, hand soap, etc...when I return from traveling abroad.
I will admit there are times that I take things for granted.  We all do it.  We are so blessed that it becomes the norm and is sometimes not appreciated correctly.  There are times when I feel tired and sad...especially without my family.  But this weekend was another reminder that we can all pursue happiness.  It is something I intend to put more effort toward.  A friend recently said that there are 3 things we can do everyday to be happy.

  1. Perform a random act of kindness daily.
  2. Write down 3 things you are grateful for every day.
  3. Write down 1 thing that you have learned that day.
At first I thought this would be easy.  Not so much.  Sometimes you have to work at being happy.  Anyway I do because I get lost in the craziness of life and negativity around me.  However, I realized that I don't want to be a statistic that proves our freedoms as archaic.  So I have to actually do something about that.  If everyone tried a little harder to be kinder and more appreciative, maybe we could turn that statistic around pretty quickly.  Just some food for thought...

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My Adventures in Europe - Part 2

This past week I flew 2800 miles to NYC just to smell my latest lip gloss.  It is crazy the things I have to do!  But I want everything to be perfect just for you:).  The fragrance in the pre-production samples was WAY too strong...taking the lip gloss from yummy vanilla baked goods to smelling like burnt brown sugar.  Ugh!  So I traipsed across the country to be on site and literally smell the batch as they added fragrance by minute percentages.  It took the entire day to get it right!  Shocking how finicky fragrance can be.  I literally had 6 beakers full of lip gloss in front of me with different strengths of vanilla...and it is all about picking the right one.  There were a few other stops along the way, but now I am back in California and couldn't be happier about it!

...Until I decided to try a new eyeshadow pencil formula this morning for my fall collection in 2014.  Disaster!!!!!!!!  I looked like a drag queen.  No joke.  Usually I try to save my efforts, but no matter what I tried, it just got worse.  It was finally clear that I had to start over.  I'm texting Jamie (my marketing guru, shade-naming extraordinaire) as this is happening.  

With no extra minutes to spare, I had to totally start over making me super late to work.  But such is a day in the beauty life!  John Maly is used to these outrageous excuses by now:).  He just stares at me as I am explaining and shakes his head like he totally doesn't get it...but whatever.

And now on to the reason I decided to write today in the first place.  I figured I should continue my tale of my experiences in Europe.  Hmm...where was I?

Oh yeah...I just fell down the stairs with my luggage.  Ouch.  So I was haggard and about to have a break down when I finally met Stephanie Sandoval (our International Sales girl that speaks fluent Italian).  I felt like a pouty child by the time I finally found her, but she took care of everything and we arrived in Florence.  We spent two days there while we acclimated to the time difference and we were on a mission to find all things gorgeous leather.  Stephanie had lists of gifts to buy, but I was just shopping for me:).  Retail is like therapy to me.  Seriously.  I tried to stay awake the entire first day by shopping and sightseeing.  As it got dark, I was really dragging.  And then I found the most wonderful leather shop that sold handmade custom journals.  I'm talking CUSTOM STAMPED LEATHER.  Absolutely beautiful!  I perked right up and started shopping.  Not that I ever write in a is hard enough to blog.  But I just loved them.  I found these amazing mini size journals for all of nieces.  Can't wait to gift them to my gorgeous sweethearts.

We shopped the leather markets in the rain, but I loved it.  My goal was to find an amazing leather purse to invest in.  Mission accomplished!  I seriously love this bag.  Supposedly it is a direct knock-off of one of the latest Prada designs.  It is lovely.  We also visited all the main sites in Florence.  My favorite was the museum of all things Gucci. Even the cookies were shaped in GG.  I snapped a few pics illegally...but I wanted you all to see.

Alas, it all ended too soon as we grabbed a train to Bologna to setup for the show.  Cosmoprof Bologna is the world's largest beauty trade show.  Absolutely incredible!  Love this picture of John.  Stay tuned for stories from the show.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Adventures in Europe

I had the awesome opportunity to travel to Cosmoprof Bologna in Italy this year, and there is something I should tell you.  I am the worst navigator in Europe!!  Seriously.  Just because this was my 5th trip there, don't ever think that I know what I am doing:).  For example...

I flew into the Milan airport and was given one task.  Meet Stephanie in Florence.  How difficult could that be, right?  Wrong.  I purchased my ticket (with help from an English speaker I might add) from a kiosk at the airport.  Somehow I ended up on the wrong train (even though I asked a rail representative if it was the right train) six stops away from Milano Centrale where I was to connect to my train to Florence.  In super broken English, I learn that I need to take the Metro six stops to Milano Centrale which will cost 1.50 Euro.  Of course, I didn't have any Euro yet.  My plan was to withdraw some at the airport or the train station, but since I was at a smaller local station, the ATMs only accepted credit cards issued by the European bank called Bankomat.  It took me 20 mins just to figure this out with me stressing that I was going to miss my connecting train the entire time.

Let me pause here and tell you something that I learned very quickly from these first 4 hours of my journey.  NEVER, EVER take a lot of luggage to Europe.   Even if you have business and vacation on the same trip.  Even if it is winter there with rain and snow.  Even then!!!  I knew that.  I did.  I spent a week agonizing over what I needed to take.  I tried to be smart about shoes, coats, jeans and the like.  I thought I was smart until I ended up in Europe with a large 30 lb backpack and a 40 lb suitcase.  It took 5 minutes after picking up my luggage to know I had made a mistake.  Duh!  This is a terrible picture (out of focus) but it will give you an idea of what I was dealing with...and you can all whisper about how stupid I was behind by back:).

So a guy finally tells me that I can go to the bank across the street from the train station to get money.  1.50 Euro!!!  I felt like begging for money as my backpack became heavier and heavier by the minute.  So I head to the stairs...yes, I said stairs...don't ever think that it will be easy in Europe.  There are no ramps and very few elevators.  And when I say stairs, I mean 30 steep stairs!!!!  So I heave my enormous suitcase and move as fast as I can up those stairs.  To all my family who think that I walk slow...I truly moved very quickly:).   It took another precious 40 mins to drag that luggage over cobblestones across the street to the bank, withdraw some Euro, and then head back again, to go down the 30 stairs to the signs pointing to the Metro.  By this time, my connection is long I am in a  bit of hurry.  I practically run down the hallway just to encounter 40 more steep stairs heading down to the Metro.  By this time I am sweating in all of my layers of clothing (that I can't really take off without adjusting that awful backpack) and panting...and for those of you that know me well...I HATE IT WHEN I SWEAT!  I just kept thinking...I'm almost there.

I hear the train coming.  At this point, I am getting close to missing the next train to Florence.  So, once again I heave that damn suitcase up and starting rushing down those stairs.  And then my foot slips down the stairs while the other stays behind!  OMG>>just remembering gives me stress.  I catch the rail to keep me from falling head first down the stairs and that stupid backpack goes flying over my head pinning me down in the splits on the stairs while my suitcase makes a big racket as it tumbles down grabbing the attention of the entire waiting crowd.  You know when you are skiing and crash (this happens a lot for me) and your ski is still on but at a weird have a difficult time getting it back in place to stand up without breaking your knee.  Well this was exactly the same.  I really could NOT get that backpack back over my head onto my back!  Seriously.  Totally PINNED on the stairs.  I think it was through sheer embarrassment and mortification that I used all my might to hulk that backpack back over my head and finish heading down the stairs just as the last call for the train comes over the speakers.  I shove my way onto the packed train trying not to cry.

In the end, the next hour seemed just as horrific, but that is just part of a day in the beauty life.  I finally found Stephanie (who speaks Italian) and she got us to Florence.

The moral of this story...

NEVER, EVER take a lot of luggage to Europe! Even if you have business and vacation on the same trip.  Even if it is winter there with rain and snow.  Even then!!!

Stay tuned for my other adventures...


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A day at the lab...

It has been several weeks since I have been able to write about living a day in the beauty life. January has been all about new product development which is definitely my favorite part of my job. Products just inspire me!!

This week I traveled to New York with my new partner in crime, Helena Bruun. Helena is a blogger from Denmark that found our website and starting following our blogs. She liked what she read and sent me an email to see if she could come to work with me. Talk about initiative! I love to meet other people that love cosmetics, and I was impressed that she took the time to contact us. Now she is in the US for 4 months learning the ropes about what it takes to create new products.

For the past two days we have been working on lipsticks. It is so fun to see the amazing variation of shades that can be created! But there are so many other things to consider. Texture is huge! There is a fine line between luxurious full coverage and sticky/thick mess. Just altering shades slightly can push a lipstick one way or the other. Not only do you have to consider the way the shade applies but also how the bullet looks on first glance. Some darker shades can look very scary in the tube but apply beautifully. I always have to remember that a girl has to like a shade by glancing at the bullet before she ever picks it up.

Today we got a tour of the production floor so Helena could really get a look at how cosmetics are made. I always love this part and find it so fascinating how many steps there are to the final product. The last time I had a tour of the factory was several years ago, so they have added space and new machines since I was last there. The biggest change was that they added a $1 million deionized water filtering pipe system that allows them to create formulas with high percentages of water (which translates into long wearing). With this system, there is absolutely no waste and all water is recycled. It was really amazing to see in action. They also installed an air filtering system that keeps pigments and silicas out of the air which results in a safer, cleaner environment. Super medicinal looking and feeling. It makes me happy to see such a clean atmosphere for my products to be made. Check out our lab coats and hair nets! I just love this look on me:).

And finally, Mirabella really makes an effort to launch gluten-free products. Today I was able to see first hand the intense sanitization that occurs to make this possible. Very impressive indeed...

Now we are in New York City for brainstorming and innovation presentations. Looking forward to it!