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Influence Peddler: Former Beauty Editor Zoë Foster Blake Talks Skin Care Line

The Australia native shares her thoughts on Instagram, Australia’s beauty scene and her line, Go-To Skin Care, which makes its U.S. debut this week at Sephora.

Zoë Foster Blake is bringing her Australian beauty brand Stateside. The former beauty director of Cosmopolitan Australia and Harper’s Bazaar Australia launched Go-To Skin Care in 2014. Today, the brand makes its official U.S. debut via Sephora’s clean beauty initiative.

Go-To is a direct-to-consumer, natural skin-care brand focused on user-friendly products with playful names — a characteristic that’s directly in line with Blake’s writing style. In addition to her beauty editorial experience, she has written nine books, including popular beauty book “Amazinger Face and a children’s book titled “No One Likes a Fart.

Her skin-care line includes a tight edit of 15 products, six of which are now available at Sephora.com, with an in-store launch to follow on Aug. 8. Prices range from $12 for the Lips balm to $24 for the Properly Clean mousse cleanser and $39 for the Exceptionoil face oil. The packaging is Millennial peach and the shipping box, also peach, is printed with phrases like “The Internets made my Go-To be here! and “Squeeeee!

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Blake, who has amassed a following of more than 650,000 on Instagram, spoke to WWD ahead of Go-To’s U.S. launch. Here, she shares her thoughts on Australian beauty, how she’s using Instagram to interact with customers and what’s ahead for her brand.

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WWD: What made you launch Go-To Skin Care?
Zoë Foster Blake: When I published my book “Amazinger Face, I got so much feedback from women on skin care. They’re happy to bluff their way through makeup and hair and have some fun with it and not get too attached to it, but skin care is a huge part of women’s confidence. They would go to their facialist or they would go to a department store and they would come out buying all these things, they didn’t know why, they felt bullied and frustrated. I had that experience of actually knowing what worked and the consumer side of it to go; I reckon I can make something that’s really user-friendly and makes beauty fun.

WWD: How did your editorial experience help?
Z.F.B.: 
I’d been a beauty editor in Australia here for 10 years at Cosmo and Harper’s. You get this incredible privilege of trying the most high-end and prestige brands right down to the drugstore brands and everything in between. I had an awareness of what was out there and the science and technology behind it, but I was really acutely aware of the bulls–t and the marketing and so much of the rubbish that was being peddled to women and the terminology. It was baffling to me that they could expect women or men to be buying a 10-step routine with no real confidence and education behind it. As a beauty editor, our whole job is to act as a vessel between the brands and the products and the consumer and make it easily digestible.

WWD: What is Australia’s beauty scene like?
Z.F.B.: Natural skin care is a big one for us in the same way that Australian fashion tends to be a bit more laid-back — not lazy, but laid-back, casual. The homogenization and the rise of social media have seen Australians get into makeup a lot more than they would have back when I was a beauty editor. The Kardashian-Jenner effect has reached us also, and we are fully into contouring, all of those things. Skin care is not as glamorous as beauty, obviously. We have Sephora here and Mecca and a few other heavy hitters and people buy online from us, but we generally are not doing 20 steps a day. We’re sunscreen, a serum, cleanser — it’s pretty simple.

WWD: How does being direct-to-consumer affect your customer interactions?
Z.F.B.: 
Australia, we weren’t into online shopping until quite recently. America was far beyond us because of your catalogue and subscription models that have been around forever. We came out in 2014, just as online shopping started to peak and also natural skin care and also Instagram, so we had this beautiful storm of cute, peachy products that girls wanted to put on their Instagram, plus they were happy to buy online and we really made sure that that direct-to-consumer experience was heavenly. I love having that dialogue with the consumer from their social media page to all the emails about when your order’s coming. Any chance when you’re talking to the customer has an opportunity to be fun.

WWD: Go-To’s product names, copy and social media posts are playful and comical. What’s your approach to the language used?
Z.F.B.: That’s how I write. Writing the way we speak was the natural thing to do, particularly with beauty when you do a get a bit stuck in the science world. You need a very useful face cream, right? So let’s just call it that and make it simple, not because people are idiots, but because you don’t want to have to think about all of that with everything else you’ve got in your day. […] Copy is everything for our brand. I love playing with copy and it’s my secret dream to be Don Draper and now I have my own brand to be a copywriter for.

WWD: Was part of your intention with the packaging to make the products Instagrammable?
Z.F.B.: It wasn’t, but my god we lucked out because I’ve always loved peach and I thought why hasn’t anyone done a peach skin-care brand? Now I understand — it’s really hard to get the peach right. This was before Millennial pink came out, but I loved peach that it was not quite as girly as pink, but it was soft and feminine but still had a cheekiness to it. Now we do know that some things work a lot better on Instagram — [for example] our sheet mask that we just launched.

WWD: When it comes to your personal social media, how do you choose what to share and not to share, balancing pictures of your children with brand announcements?
Z.F.B.: It’s a question I ask every day. Having been a blogger for so long, I was really used to sharing my life. And then you have kids, you get married, and things change a little bit. I do share my life on social media because it’s my life and it seems to me disingenuous to just use it as a work platform or just use it as a family platform. I’m a multifaceted woman. I’m a business woman, I’m a writer, I’m a mom, I’m a wife, I’m a traveler and so I like sharing all of those parts.

WWD: How are you personally using Instagram Stories?
Z.F.B.: I do more on Stories now because I like the pace of that and that it goes. A lot of my recommendations for a lipstick or a hair diffuser or something can slip up into Stories and then they’re gone. My actual page is my own personal billboard for 650,000 people. It’s way more followers than I had when I worked at a magazine.

WWD: Are you using Instagram TV?
Z.F.B.: No, I haven’t tried it yet.

WWD: What about other platforms?
Z.F.B.: I like Twitter for reading, but I don’t post much on Twitter anymore. You don’t want to choose too many mouths to feed; they all have different purposes. Instagram is great for beauty.

WWD: What is Go-To’s social media strategy?
Z.F.B.: Connection and education, having that direct line to the customer for discussion of products and education of products, and also when we’re in new product development and we’re thinking about something, it’s so amazing to be able to ask them a question like, “What would you use or what aren’t you using and why?” We like playing with our customers as well and making them feel like they’re part of the community and they’re the most amazing customers. They’re so loyal, they’re so vocal, they do all our marketing for us.

WWD: Are there certain kinds of posts you find elicit more engagement?
Z.F.B.: The posts where we’re teaching them something get low likes, but high comments and engagement. I’m focusing a lot more on Stories for Go-To as well because I think that’s how you get a full beauty editor article in one story. You can teach them fully about lactic acid without it being a small caption in one picture. The highest engagement are always new product or talking about new products or launches or sets.

WWD: What about on your personal page?
Z.F.B.: 
For me personally, travel pics or kid pics. I’m a beauty girl but whenever I bother to do a fashion week shot, which I’m not great at, I think it stands out. It’s not what I normally do. It’s a funny thing in Australia.

WWD: What is coming up for Go-To this year?
Z.F.B.: Because we make completely natural products, no synthetics and irritants, our product development takes years and years because natural products are very disobedient; they do whatever they want. There’s a product I’ve been working on for four years that I’m very hopeful will be launching at the end of this year in Australia and then in the U.S. We’ve got about seven products due to be launched in the next calendar year. It’s not unusual for me to get up to version 50 or 60 on a product before it gets to manufacturing. It has to be perfect.

WWD: What else are you working on at the moment?
Z.F.B.: My husband and — I’ve got an 11-month-old and a four-year-old — we’re going on a three-month trip together. We travel a lot even though we’re in Australia. I just finished another book, which will be out in February — that’s my 10th book. We planned this holiday last year, so we’re going to Greece and Italy and then we’re gonna base ourselves in New York for six weeks.

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