Friday, December 28, 2012
My interview with Mon Ennui Cosmetics
My first question is, how long have you been in the beauty business?
I think that I've always been in the entertainment and beauty business! I was very much into singing jazz and opera, dancing and acting as I was growing up.
I started modeling in the 90s. Nothing major or fantastic. I've always had one foot firmly in the underground and one foot firmly in the mainstream.
I've been in the beauty business since about 2002... when I started doing makeup for photography.
I could talk a lot about my professional career... but, I think that my early influences and journey are maybe more inspiring to other girls out there in internet land who aren't sure where to start out! This interview is more for them, anyway, really. So, if you think I am getting totally off topic... please let me know and I will re-write my response.
My passion for cosmetics started when I was probably about 4 years old. I got into dancing because I got to wear fancy little costumes and wear jewelry and makeup. A lot of people think that little girls are growing up too fast because of wearing jewelry and makeup at a young age (and that it's “too sexy”). But, really, I think that a lot of little girls want to feel beautiful and special.
I was always one of the weird little girls who loved to hang out with very old ladies who had fancy vanities and beautiful things to show me, because they'd teach me about glamor. Art was my second language, growing up. So, I spent a lot of my childhood sitting in my room playing with various old makeup sets. My Aunt would get a huge Estee Lauder vanity set every year for Christmas, and I would be THRILLED to see what colors she got, because I knew that the brightest and boldest would be left over for me the next year. My Aunt wore neutrals. So, I grew up playing in the sparkly, shiny, bright, bold and gaudy stuff.
I think that influenced me the most as an artist and as a person.
I would also do my siblings' makeup and take photos of them, growing up. I once even paid my brother $5 to let me dress him in drag and do his hair and makeup (I put him into a prom dress I got at the thrift store). It was the best $5 I've ever paid a model! He WORKED it, too. :)
2. What prompted you to start Mon Ennui Cosmetics?
Back in 2006 I started getting really passionate about building my own huge kit. I had a friend who purchased MAC whenever she was sad... so, she exposed me to the high end brands. I started buying MAC online back in 2002, but I think that her passion for the brand really set me off like a rocket. For about an entire year I lived at the Sephora and Nordstrom in downtown Seattle. If anyone released a new product... I was there to schmooze the makeup artists so I could learn about it first. I was getting a front row seat to the evolution of the beauty world.
By late 2007, my eyes were swelling shut pretty frequently. By, mid 2008... we figured out that I was allergic to about 80% of my kit. And, I have to admit to you... that was the most depressing day of my entire life! Thousands of dollars worth of happiness was suddenly tainted. I already knew that I had severe food allergies. It wasn't until that time that I found out that a lot of major smoothing agents are synthesized from various plants and foods.
That was when I started getting more involved in the back-end of the beauty world... How It's Made.
I learned about what makes MAC pigments so awesome, compared to other PRO artist pigments on the market. If I didn't know something, I researched it or I found someone who did know so I could ask them about it.
By 2009 I was already very busy with photography, still doing makeup professionally, working on making a lot of costuming and accessories and props on a regular basis... and getting deeply into Burlesque. Burlesque also really changed my perspective on makeup! The Modern Pinup and Burlesque movements intrigued me for a lot of years. Cosmetic glitter and special effects glue. I had done makeup for stage, before... but, never like THAT. This style of makeup needed to be seen from the back row... but, also had to be flawless enough to look at up close. The dichotomy of bold and refined was intriguing to me. I also learned from a lot of performers that the makeup they used wasn't always standing up to what they needed it to do. A lot of them also had bad skin breakouts from using harsher thicker theater makeup night after night.
Between my own allergies to big brand cosmetics and my fellow performers complaints about their own sensitivities... I started thinking “Someday when I have my own beauty brand...”
I actually remember sitting back stage here in LA... getting ready for a show... and talking about how I'd want to develop a brand that didn't just have my name on it... but, also DID something great for skin... that would be long lasting and gorgeous at the same time.
I actually thought that I'd have to be very rich to start my own brand.
Then, I read the history of lipstick... and I read that during World War II one organic chemist, Hazel Bishop, reinvented the entire lipstick industry in her KITCHEN. Her product became so popular that she almost went broke trying to keep up with the demand for her amazing new product.
That's when it occurred to me “I can start this... myself!”
3. How long has the company been around?
I officially started Mon Ennui Cosmetics back in late Summer of 2011. As a working actress, Burlesque performer, Photographer, Show co-producer, Costume designer and Makeup artist... I was putting all of the money I was making from jobs and shows back into making everything bigger and better. I didn't have the money to start my own business.
On a whim... I decided that I wanted to try to recreate some of my favorite high end pigments and products (but without the ingredients that I am allergic to). I had great success with that! My first real success was Perfect 10 (an exact replica of MAC's Rose pigment).
I mean... I probably shouldn't even be telling you that I can recreate stuff! I think that it makes people kinda nervous to sell me makeup, now... lol. But, that was really the heart of what I wanted to do! I wanted the same awesome products I've been using for years... but, without all of the stuff that didn't need to be in there.
I started Mon Ennui with a $100 investment. I couldn't afford that, at the time. It was a lot of money! I felt kinda sick about the idea of it, actually. I thought that it might actually be the stupidest thing I've ever done in my entire life.
I launched on Facebook in November of 2011. I used every talent I had to make Mon Ennui's presence look the way I wanted it to look. And, word of mouth started spreading pretty quickly!!!
By February... I had abandoned Etsy and moved on to Storenvy.
The wonderful people at Storenvy have been really supportive of my rapid success, as well.
I remember when they wanted to talk to me on the phone and ask me about my company.
That was the first time I talked to anyone about what I was doing... and I felt SO nervous about it!
Here I was... talking to people who were pretty much working for ME... and I felt like I didn't know what to say to them because I was just so thankful to have a customizable location for my growing business.
Now, in November of 2012... I am the best selling makeup brand on Storenvy and in the top 50 best selling stores on their entire site (out of over 20,000 merchants)! They've been around since 2009. So, that is just crazy to me how fast we've grown together in one year!
I bring in a lot of business... so, I think that Storenvy has had to evolve a bit to support the demand and interest in my products, as well.
I've had a lot of support from people who deal with major drugstore and department store brands. I think that I wouldn't have Mon Ennui where it is, right now, without the help of people who know more than I do... giving me the confidence and support to believe in my brand and what we're doing.
Having people who know the industry tell me "You need to charge more! Your products are some of the highest quality out there!" is incredible. At this point I still want to make sure that our products are affordable, because we are so new. But, I cannot compete with any of the very small brands who are constantly losing money and closing down.
A lot of online customers get the wrong impression from small brands who don't charge what their products are worth. It devalues the entire industry!
Of course, with all things... you really do get what you pay for.
Some customers want to buy $2 eyeshadow and tell us that our prices are too high. We don't have that available for them. That might mean that our brand isn't for "everyone". But, with the amount of demand we have at this point... I don't think I could keep up with the work load if I tried to make my brand available to that customer base!
It's choices like this that have actually helped us grow dramatically, instead of face failure and going broke trying to keep up with demand.
We also have a pretty firm "No Product in Exchange for Reviews" policy, right now.
I think we're the only brand who has that policy, too!
I understand that blogging is an important tool for sharing your brand with the internet. I just sort of feel like giving a blogger product in exchange for a review... is a bit of a bribe. We're so new that I really want my happiest customers to spread the word (and they are doing that very well), because I feel that new customers can really tell the difference when a blogger is blogging about something they honestly care about... or blogging to promote something because they got some free product to talk about. When you pay for something... you have very different expectations of it compared to when you get something for free.
Right now, I really want to focus on honesty.
If bloggers want to blog about our products... they are welcome to buy them, of course!
We don't hate bloggers. We just prefer this policy, for now, as we grow and evolve.
Maybe in 5 years that policy will change. But, by then... most of the major beauty bloggers won't be as big as they are now, anyway... and I think that the whole system will change over time.
I honestly wish that more small companies would deal more honestly with their brand, when they are starting out. You might be able to find a lot of drama online about a brand... but, when you find really good really honest reviews, it totally overrides that negativity immediately. :) If all you find online is stunningly positive reviews by powerhouse bloggers and lots of random swatches... then, it doesn't really show you that people want that product on their face or in their day-to-day makeup routine. Yanno?
No matter what the age or skill level of my customers... I value seeing happy faces of happy customers proudly wearing their Mon Ennui.
4. What inspires color choices for eyeshadows and other cosmetics?
I want to give women jewelry for their face.
Our main customers are women in their mid twenties to late thirties. I try to make those customers some very luxurious products that are long wearing and gentle. I also formulate our pigments so they will not expire (as long as they are handled and used properly and do not get contaminated).
Our biggest supporters are medical professionals, performers and mothers (sometimes all three!).
There are plenty of playful brands out there that cater to the child in all of us. I want to develop a brand that speaks to the woman within us. It's the difference between plastic bracelets and diamond earrings. At a certain age, you focus on the investment of a few pieces of jewelry that you can wear for the rest of your life... the type that capture timeless beauty and elegance that will never go out of style. That's the sort of makeup I want to create. Products that you can wear with jeans or a cocktail dress, and always feel powerful and womanly. Colors you can wear this season and next season... and always feel “in style”.
Women know themselves. They know what they want when they see it and they get it. They don't feel that they have to ask for permission. Women are beautiful for the self-satisfaction of it. Women are confident because they've earned it... and they don't need to prove anything to you because they know who they are.
There is a Beauty Renaissance happening, now! Women have earned the right to be what they want to be and present themselves the way they want to be seen. Our most sparkly products are as dazzling as gemstones! Even women who normally don't want shimmer or glitter or shine fall in love with our unique blend of texture. Even when we go over-the-top with sparkle... we try to make sure that there is substance, depth and texture.
5. What is your most popular selling item?
Our three best selling products are:
Oil Slick: It's our first and most popular color shifting pigment! Our Extreme Color Shifting pigments are really unique and very special. Oil Slick is a muted shifter that changes from Teal to Green to Blue to Violet to Purple... depending on the lighting you are in and the angle it is viewed from. We have a growing collection of color shifting pigments. But, Oil Slick is still the most popular.
I think that our color shifters are also hard for a lot of beginners to use, as well. There is a huge focus on “blend blend blend blend”... and they end up with the base color and no shift!
To get the real beauty of these shifting products, you have to pack them over our Prime Time Primer (by patting instead of sweeping or blending).
Another way to apply them is by wetting a brush with our Pigment Potion for Eyes.
Actually... that's another of our best selling products!
Pigment Potion for Eyes was my super gentle mixing medium idea! It is water based, but it has a lot of awesome ingredients in it that make it great for your skin. You can apply eyeshadows and pigments with a brush you wet with pigment potion (the key is to wet it, blot it on a paper towel, pick up a bit of pigment and then apply like paint. A little goes a long way!). I also recommend it for people who hate having a “cakey” mess with their foundation! You can sponge Pigment Potion for Eyes on your whole face before applying your foundation, and it will make it apply more evenly and you won't need as much product to get a flawless complexion.
Unfortunately, this is ALSO the product that I sell out of the fastest!!!
We try our hardest to keep up the with demand... but, it's not easy. It's great stuff.
And, our best selling lip product is Type O Negative lip stain! Thanks to awesome bloggers and word of mouth... our test tube of bloody red lip tint has gotten a lot of love. It's the product that a lot of people have purchased alone (and introduced them to our brand). It's the sort of red that any woman can wear, because it leans toward berry on the first application... but, it can be built up and layered to make a more dramatic look, as well. It's also a wonderful base product for red lipstick (like our Norma Jean mineral lipstick... which is also quite popular) because it adds some depth and drama. I also personally love that we created labels that look like lab stickers for the test tube! It's really the sort of awesome product that you'd want to pull out of your purse to show off to your friends.
Thank you again for the interview and opportunity to share my story with you!
We're still SO very new.
I think that my favorite parts of working in this industry are meeting talented new people! I've had the extreme pleasure of working with some undiscovered talent (like Michelle Orozco (of Meeshabelle Makeup)... who I had work with me as a makeup artist on an intense day of promotional photography. I even got her to model for me, as well. She's a beautiful and wonderful person, inside and out... and I am glad that Facebook brought us together to collaborate!
I've also had some very talented people create stunning looks using our products! We've been working with the wonderful MrsElegantBeauty, who creates great inspirational looks using our products (from neutral to imaginative and wild).
I really can't wait to see what happens with Mon Ennui in 2013! I have some big things in the works.. and high hopes for the brand in general. :)
I want to give a special thanks to Mon Ennui, she was wonderful to interview and such a pleasure to work with.