Having been a journalist for over 20 years, first as a fashion editor, and then as beauty director of British Vogue, I had never considered creating my own beauty company.
It was only thanks to years of loyalty to one small brand, and the fact that, despite having every beauty product in the world at my desk, I still spent my own money on it.
My addiction led to a passion for the power of plants, for the natural efficacy of aromatherapy and for the pleasure that came from it.
One day, almost on a whim, I decided to create similar products of my own. My collection of essential oil-infused bath, body and skin care is called This Works and I couldn't have done it alone, of course. My partners provide the expertise in formulation and prescription. But to get the line into stores and selling was a huge hurdle for me.
I still work for Condé Nast in a directorial role as international beauty director for Asia. This has allowed me to experience the compelling world of brand-building and target-marketing from the Atlantic to the Pacific and test products from China to Japan and from the U.S. to the U.K. It is no mean feat to get a brand onto retail shelves, competing with multimillion dollar brands. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there! It is equally impressive to get your products written about in glossy magazines.
Looking at it from both sides, I am now aware of some invaluable lessons I've picked up along the way. Following are a few tips from the trenches that future marketers who know as little as I once did might find useful:
01 Your brand has to sit on a shelf next to names like Chanel, Estée Lauder, Lancôme and so on. Your packaging must compete on that level. If you are going into the mass market, there are even more brands to compete against. Your brand needs to stand out in a crowd. Inventing a look from a little graphic design package on your computer at home just won't cut it. Get professional help and advice.
02 Magazines will never photograph your boxes. So while outer packaging is vital on the shop floor, it's the componentry that will get photographed, or not. Art directors are purists. They look for good design. They will only photograph items that they feel have style and design value. The ones that "pop." If your product is fabulous, the beauty editor may write about it, but it won't get photographed unless it meets the art director's aesthetic requirements.
Issa Rae stopped by WWD's NYC headquarters to talk about season two of "Insecure," which premieres this Sunday on HBO. Click link in bio for all the details. #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery; Styled by @mayteallende)
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"