Is minimalism dead?
It is if you ask Il Makiage, which is spending $8 million on a marketing campaign in Manhattan and Brooklyn that includes black billboards with a white font that reads “minimalism is dead” and “Sorry, I don’t speak low maintenance.”
The campaign, created by Huge Agency, is a part of the relaunch of Il Makiage, the makeup brand founded by professional makeup artist Ilana Harkavi in New York in 1972. Harkavi is no longer part of the brand, which former M&A executive Oran Holtzman acquired about five years ago. Holtzman and his team — none of whom have prior beauty industry experience — relaunched Il Makiage in Israel, where, Holtzman said, it became the market leader in less than three years.
With 40 stand-alone stores and five makeup academies in Israel, Il Makiage is now ready for its U.S. homecoming. And with a $29 million investment from L Catterton, the brand is able to finance its maximalist tendencies, including the $8 million promotional budget.
The goal, said Holtzman, is to make the brand a leading online makeup player.
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“We have no doubt that the future of beauty is online and a strong physical shopping experience,” said Holtzman. “But in order to stand out and adjust ourself to this model, we knew that we must do something different.” The brand is launching a series of pop-ups designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid and her team to accompany what Holtzman said will be a “state-of-the-art maximalist e-commerce platform.”
On June 1, Il Makiage will launch its web site in 72 countries along with its first pop-up, which will open in SoHo for four to five months. In July, a pop-up will open in Flatiron, followed by two in Miami and one in Washington, D.C. Holtzman plans to eventually open permanent locations using the insights gained from the initial round of pop-ups. Third-party retailing — like Sephora or Ulta Beauty — is an option, but first, Holtzman is focused on establishing Il Makiage’s online presence.
The relaunch comes at a time when Millennial favorites such as Glossier, Ouai and Drunk Elephant are finding success by taking a minimalistic approach that ranges from ingredients to packaging. By contrast, Il Makiage is targeting high-maintenance Millennials.
“Nothing about our DNA as a company is minimalistic,” Holtzman said. “Everything that we do has uncompromised standards. We simply don’t connect to this no-makeup makeup trend. My message is not about encouraging women to wear heavy makeup — not at all. If you feel like you don’t want to wear makeup today, that’s completely fine with us. But we’re absolutely against using five, six, eight products to arrive to this makeup, no-makeup natural look just to follow someone else’s trend.”
Through its billboard campaigns and social media strategy, Il Makiage celebrates being high-maintenance. It has 800 stockkeeping units, with prices ranging from $22 for a lip pencil to $47 for a foundation — they have 50 shades — to $119 for a large eye shadow palette. The products are not tested on animals, and though it considers itself a conscious beauty brand, Il Makiage does not wish to be associated with the clean beauty movement that’s become increasingly popular among the Millennial set.
“Clean beauty needs to go with minimalistic and since we are on the opposite side as maximalists, we cannot be there at that landscape,” said Holtzman. “That’s why it’s a no.”
And though there are many other color cosmetics brands, Holtzman believes the market is large enough for new players. “The Millennial consumer loves to explore new brands so there is always room and demand for new indie brands,” he said. “We have seen the rapid growth of many new brands that launched these past few years, which is a testament to that. Besides that, we believe that the combination of our strong products and our unique positioning makes the brand distinct. No other indie beauty brand has had the starting point that we have.”