Anisa Telwar Kaicker is playing the long game.
For 30 years, the beauty founder and chief executive officer has wielded her hard-won knowledge and technical mastery of her craft to pioneer innovation in a category that has often been slow to embrace change.
A long-standing leader in cosmetic brush design, Anisa International has manufactured makeup brushes for a cadre of beauty industry heavyweights including Estée Lauder, Sephora, Laura Mercier and MAC, and also launched its direct-to-consumer arm, Anisa Beauty, in 2019.
For Kaicker, remaining agile over the years has meant not only adapting to, but also anticipating the ever-evolving needs of both consumers and the companies she partners with.
“When I started, brushes came in little compacts — nobody really gave them the time of day,” Kaicker said. “Being a woman, I came into this industry competing with a lot of commodity-type manufacturers. I think I was the first to sit down and ask people, ‘OK, have you tried this brush with this product?’ Most of the time, they hadn’t.”
Nixing the once-prevailing, one-size-fits-all approach to makeup brush design, Kaicker started off by taking into consideration the viscosity of a brush’s intended product pairing, as well as the ingredients it would routinely come in contact with, to determine the most suitable shape and structure of each brush.
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“When I entered the industry, people were using their fingers for foundation and concealer,” Kaicker said. “I think there’s still an intimidation sometimes with brushes,” she continued, noting that the goal behind each Anisa brush is to make product application as seamless a process as possible.
Decades later, the founder has not only remained steadfast in her mission, but also brought it to a new category: skin care.
“When I design brushes, it has a lot to do with my personal needs,” said Kaicker, who has now launched several skin care brushes, including a facial cleansing brush, spot treatment brush, a mask application brush and, most recently, a neck treatment brush. “The increased coverage that you can get when it comes to makeup also occurs with skin care; brushes offer more even application, and a better ability to layer on your skin care products.”
Kaicker has also swelled her portfolio beyond just brushes, expanding into facial rollers, eyelashes, brush cleaners and cosmetic bags over the years.
“We don’t do makeup, we don’t do skin care — we really focus on how to perfectly pair launches in the industry with a tool that is going to make use easier and give the consumer the application they desire,” Kaicker said.
While Anisa International is based in Atlanta, Kaicker has maintained ownership of the company’s manufacturing facilities, which are located in Jinghai and Tianjin, China.
“Building a plant in China has been one of the toughest things I have ever done,” Kaicker said, adding that while the endeavor was a challenge, it has also been crucial in terms of quality control, protecting the company’s intellectual property and, above all, ensuring eco-conscious and humane practices are enacted throughout the production process.
“If we do not self-regulate as manufacturers and as partners to the industry — if we do not make ourselves accountable for the environment, how we impact it and how we treat our workers, that is not a good thing,” Kaicker said.
In 2016, Anisa International launched its naturals collection, which was made with cruelty-free fibers, and by 2017, the company stopped using animal fibers in the production of all of its products. Now a vegan and cruelty-free company, Anisa International (and, by consequence, Anisa Beauty) uses synthetic fibers, and the former has more than 30 patented innovations to date.
“Sometimes advocacy doesn’t work in this industry, but what does work is implementing a solution,” Kaicker said. “We want to set a standard — this is how a brush should be made; this is how somebody should be paid.”
Anisa Beauty has launched 28 offerings to date, ranging in price from $90 for the everyday makeup brush collection, to $7.50 for the spot treatment brush. The incubator brand’s hero product is its pinnacle foundation brush, a dense, triangular brush that is designed to provide a natural finish, and the success of which spurred the creation of the pinnacle body brush, which emulates its design and is meant to be paired with bronzer, essential oils and body shimmer products.
When it comes to Anisa Beauty, influencer marketing has been a key aspect of growing the brand’s reach. In terms of deciding who to team up with, Kaicker seeks those who she feels have a true appreciation and understanding of the brand — and passes on those who don’t.
“Sometimes it’s just like a treasure hunt,” Kaicker said of the process of finding social media users to join forces with. “I want people to understand my product, and love my product — not just get paid by me to say whatever.”
According to Kaicker, being selective pays off. When the Anisa Beauty team does find a bona fide match for the brand, Kaicker said they are often those who embody the very creativity she saw when she first entered the industry — when the likes of Francois Nars, Laura Mercier and Bobbi Brown were spearheading makeup artistry.
“We’ve seen artistry come back,” Kaicker said. “You have your influencers who do not have to be, maybe, classically trained at a MAC counter, but also are the true educators of artistry, and we feel that we’re attracting and aligning with them.”
As far as next steps for the brand, Kaicker sees opportunity for innovation in body brushes, given consumers’ heightened interest in both skin care and self care following the pandemic, with many even often thinking of the two as synonymous.
Beyond that, she aims to continue bolstering the brand’s sustainability efforts, and leading others in doing the same.
“I want to make sure brushes are still around 30 years from now,” Kaicker said. “If we can be the thought leader that sets the precedent so that we all rise together in doing the right thing, that would be a great legacy to leave behind.”