Wende Zomnir isn’t letting corporate culture squash her creativity.
Wednesday night, the cofounder and chief creative officer of Urban Decay sat down with Carol Hamilton, president of L’Oréal Luxe, to chat brand growth, consumer evolution and the cultish Naked palettes at the latest CEW Beauty Insider Series event moderated by WWD Beauty Inc editor Jenny B. Fine.
Since L’Oréal acquired Urban Decay in 2012, Zomnir and Hamilton have found working together a pretty seamless experience: Hamilton leaves the creative decisions to Zomnir and instead acts as a gatekeeper to help keep the brand’s edge in tact.
“We wanted to maintain the California vibe,” said Hamilton. “There’s a freedom and a difference in the approach to creativity versus our European counterparts and versus working in New York.”
Thanks to the brand’s “beauty with an edge” philosophy, growth has been astronomical. While the prestige makeup category grew 6 percent in 2014, Urban Decay clocked a 32 percent growth, according to The NPD Group.
“People are always looking for a real connection,” said Zomnir. “People want to buy from other people — they don’t want to buy from corporations. That’s what we try to do, is still have a thumbprint on it. We try to put a personal spin on the products.”
One product that has certainly proven successful is the Naked palette, which now includes three versions and has expanded into skin products. When Zomnir decided that the brand needed a neutral palette, she asked her team to bring in their favorite neutral eye shadows. With all the colors splayed out on a table, they realized that most of the shades were completely different and a typical four-shade palette just wouldn’t do. Thus was born Naked.
“We knew it was going to do well,” said Zomnir. “But we had no idea we would be out of stock for so long, so many times.”
As the brand continues to grow, Zomnir and Hamilton have witnessed the evolution of the consumer as well.
“There is an acceptance of all different beauty looks,” said Hamilton. “Allowing people to share and express themselves is evolving the cosmetics category.”
That is thanks, in large part, to social media. While Urban Decay has increased its print advertising the past two years, Zomnir still relies mostly on social media and word of mouth to engage consumers.
“Our social media philosophy is different [from other brands],” said Zomnir. “We don’t have many purchased followers or likes. We are more organic.”
So what’s the ultimate goal for the brand that NPD says has grown more than any other in the past five years?
“For me, it would be to continue to maintain the integrity of the brand,” said Zomnir. “It’s easy to get bigger and bigger and lose sight of uniqueness and specialness.”