LONDON — Model, actress, influencer and mother-of-one Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is this month unveiling a full, sustainably sourced and packaged color cosmetics brand called Rose Inc. And if that sounds like one big cliché, or just a clever marketing exercise from an ambitious celebrity, she’ll tell you otherwise.
Huntington-Whiteley argues that Rose Inc., which begins selling next week online and at retailers including Space NK, Sephora and Mecca, is the culmination of 20 years of modeling; successful lingerie and cosmetics ventures with Marks & Spencer in the U.K.; and a beauty content and commerce platform she launched in 2018, also called Rose Inc.
The platform, which features slick photography, interviews with beauty experts and a shop that stocks some of Huntington-Whiteley’s favorite products, has allowed the model to build a community with 339k Instagram followers, and to cement her authority — and authenticity — within the industry.
“I think a lot of the time we see celebrities in beauty or skin care, and you think to yourself ‘Well apart from the fact that you wear makeup every day, I didn’t know this was a die-hard passion of yours. And if it’s not a die-hard passion, then why should I believe in your product?’” she said during a Zoom interview together with Rose Inc.’s chief executive officer Caroline Hadfield.
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It was important that she lay out her manifesto before she even thought about launching her own formulations. “I didn’t want everybody to assume I was doing this just because I’ve loved beauty products my whole life.”
Huntington-Whiteley, who has appeared in many Burberry campaigns, walked the runway for brands including Prada, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, and Victoria’s Secret, said the Rose Inc. platform has also allowed her to connect with experts, highlight industry figures and — crucially — gather data ahead of the product launch.
“The content platform has been an amazing thing; I can’t imagine building this brand the other way around. I think community first is just the way to go,” said the 34-year-old Huntington-Whiteley who is English and lives in Los Angeles with her longtime partner, the actor Jason Statham, and their son Jack.
Currently, the site has interviews with the California-based journalist and activist Aditi Mayer, and with fellow lifestyle entrepreneurs Mandy Madden Kelley and Folasade Adeoso. It offers tips on how to create a “Parisian red lip” from the makeup artist Harold James, and looks at how alcohol in beauty products can impact the skin.
Behind that gloss, she’s been able to “dive into all the data and statistics and see ‘What did I sell? What did I not sell? What brands perform? What is my audience buying into? What articles are they clicking on and responding to, which influencers, which people, which experts, what are they interested in learning about?” she said.
Huntington-Whiteley has also forged some powerful partnerships in the making of Rose Inc. She’s teamed with the longtime beauty executive and entrepreneur Caroline Hadfield, who is the company’s CEO, and Amyris, the bioscience company that develops and produces sustainable ingredients for the flavors and fragrances, health, wellness and clean beauty markets.
She and Hadfield, a clean beauty pioneer who developed the Biossance skin care range for Amyris, had worked together in the past. A few years ago, Hadfield, a Body Shop and Sephora veteran, had tapped the model to be an ambassador for Pipette, another clean skin care brand, for mothers and babies, that she developed for Amyris.
Huntington-Whiteley and Hadfield described the products as clean and multitasking, and said every effort has been made to keep the packaging minimal, and functional. The main ingredients are derived from plants, and include squalane, Vitamin E, renewable sugarcane, pink clay powder, sea fennel extract and pea sprout. The packaging is refillable, the glass bottles are recyclable and the labels rinse off.
The way Huntington-Whiteley tells it, “pretty much everything is multipurpose, from our blush that can be worn as a lip product, to our brow gel that has ingredients to help with hair regrowth and conditioning the hair.”
The debut collection is called Modern Essentials and features four color products and two skin care ones. Over the next year and beyond, the plan is to drop new products and extensions at regular intervals, online and through the international store network.
Prices range from $26 for the brow gel and lip color, to $30 for the lip and cheek tint, to $72 for the brightening serum. There are also various brushes, a toner and reusable cosmetic rounds made from organic bamboo cotton.
Customers can sign up for exclusive purchasing starting Friday, August 20, on RoseInc.com, and the collection will be available for registered members to purchase from August 24-26.
Rose Inc. will be available in the U.S. exclusively at Sephora on August 27.
Hadfield said the brand wants to be at the forefront of clean, ethical color cosmetics — no easy feat given past difficulties with the texture and efficacy of nature-derived products and pigments.
A few years ago, though, things began to change, Hadfield said.
“The ingredient industry really stepped up in ensuring it was going to produce cleaner ingredients for the color category, and the whole pigment market has lifted in quality. In the past, people would always say natural pigments don’t last very well, that the pay-off wasn’t there.”
At the same time, Amyris has been bringing new ingredients to the market, including bio-silica made from the ashes of burnt sugar cane. “They take those ashes and produce a silica that’s not chemical, that hasn’t got nanoparticles, that really gave us a new, sustainable ingredient for color cosmetics,” said Hadfield.
She said squalane, a plant-derived moisturizing agent, has been a game changer, too. It’s the main ingredient in the Radiant Reveal Brightening Serum; the Brow Renew Enriched Shaping Gel; the Lip Sculpt Enriched Amplifying Color and the Softlight Luminous Hydrating Concealer.
“A lot of people wouldn’t have used squalane in the past — many would’ve used mineral oils — but squalane has an efficacy and weightlessness to it, you can really see that with the concealer — it doesn’t drag the undereye skin. We’ve tried to amplify the top four ingredients in each of the products and talk about what they do and to demonstrate their newness.”
She added that Rose Inc. is working with European companies “where we’re able to trace the source and the production of the ingredients.”
Hadfield feels that, given their respective experiences, she and Huntington-Whiteley have formed a mighty partnership.
“We’re taking everything from the sustainable ingredients to Rosie’s experience sitting in the hair and makeup chair for 20 years, to my experience of building and scaling brands.”
There is also a comfort level from having worked together before. “Rosie knows I’m shocking at putting on makeup,” said Hadfield. “She’s told me never to use my finger to put on makeup, so the concealer brush has changed my life. Of course, we had to put a concealer brush into the assortment.”
Hadfield declined to give a first-year sales volume for the brand, but the plans are ambitious. Rose Inc. will roll into China, Continental Europe and Scandinavia in 2022, after debuting this year at Space NK in the U.K.; Sephora in the U.S. and Canada; and Mecca in Australia.
“We are launching globally from Day One and really see the speed and the trajectory of growth as being very fast and very intense. There’s a lot of newness that will pulse through the first year,” she said. There are three more collections planned for next year, in addition to lipsticks and a tinted serum.
Rosie-as-celebrity, Hadfield believes, is not core to the brand.
“We’ve been very aware since Day One that this is not a celebrity brand,” she said.
“Rosie’s authority, her passion, her understanding and obviously her want and need to set the standards in the modern industry has allowed us to build a brand that doesn’t rely on us having to sell through a celebrity. What we are selling is the integrity of the formulations, the commitment to an holistic, sustainable approach, and the amplification and detail that Rosie puts into the product development with our team, and with her very large community.”
So confident is Huntington-Whiteley in the project that she said she wants to be free to walk away — and know that it will thrive.
Even before she met Hadfield and came up with Rose Inc., Huntington-Whiteley said she wanted a brand “that could live without me, one that had enough integrity to carry itself, and not just ride on my success. And I do think consumers are craving more and more transparency from brands across the board, whether that’s in fashion, food or beauty.
“As consumers, we are so much more aware. We pick things over a bit more, we ask the questions, we have high expectations from our brands, we vote with our dollar, and we understand these brands stand for something beyond just the product.”