Meet the 9 Glou Queens!
Updated: May 9
So, you may have heard, we're selling limited edition run of graphic tees that feature nine women. When I came up with the idea of celebrating some of the greatest female founders in the beauty industry, past, present, and future, I thought of each representative as a mini case study. Each one of them changed the industry in a fundamental way in such that their mark is still everywhere you look (or will be very soon). I hope you enjoy my blurbs about each of them, and have curated some links for you to learn more.
First up, we have Estée Lauder.
It was 1946 when Estée Lauder formed the company that continues to bear her name today. No need to remind anyone that women didn't have careers back then. They weren't encouraged to invent or hustle. Everyone has Estée to thank for our bins of samples and mini products. The concept of a gift with purchase (GWP) was her invention. She also built this HUGE empire that is still going strong today. Estée Lauder Companies owns 27 brands including MAC, La Mer, Too Faced, Clinique, and Tom Ford among them. In 1998, Time Magazine published a list of the 20th century's most influential business geniuses. Among the twenty selected? Estée was the only woman.
I also have a very personal connection with the brand because the first makeup that was truly mine was my mom's cast-off GWP items. I hardly bought any makeup in high school, but what I did use, was all Estée Lauder. The mascara doubled as brow gel. An EL lipgloss was saved for special occasions. Lipstick was blush. And even when I did buy makeup/skincare, I went to the EL counter because that's where my mom went.
This is the epitome of the 20th century beauty counter model. Generation after generation, you would go up to the counter at the department store and buy your skincare and makeup from the same kiosk. And I had close friends who shopped at the brands that their moms shopped at (Lancôme, Bobbi Brown). We were super nerdy and didn't know where else to go for basic staples, okay? I know it sounds a little silly even a few years out, but social media, influencers, and online shopping have really changed the game.
I want to mention here that Estée Lauder was not the first female founder in beauty to build an empire. There was Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein in the generation prior, but I could only include so many faces on a t-shirt and wanted to make sure we had room for names who are more relevant to audiences today.
Anita Roddick, founded The Body Shop and advocated for ethical consumerism before it was popular or trendy. Back when she started it out, it was either people OR profit. Who cares what goes into a product if it makes you money? Who cares how you treat your employees? Well, Anita Roddick cared.
Here are the top two practices that originated with her and continue to be extremely relevant in the beauty industry:
From the very beginning she made products without animal testing. The thing about industry norms, is that, no one thinks twice about "standard" practices. It is so hard to take a stand and question the status quo."It's always been done this way," they men in suits will say.
Fair trade? No one did this either. Why would you want to procure products at a higher cost? Well, because no bottom line should be at the expense of human lives and dignity. Supply chain transparency has been slow to gain ground and permeate into all businesses. Being responsible for where your product comes from isn't easy and it isn't cheap. She did this in the 70s. She went to meet the people behind the commodities she used as ingredients in her products.
Ugh, she was such a bad-ass.
Feminist, environmentalist, activist, and entrepreneur. She didn't do anything the way it's always been done. She did it her way, and it worked.
Read more about Anita:
I can't remember what magazine I was reading that was interviewing Bobbi Brown, but the gist of it was, you just gotta do it. If it doesn't work, do it again, but differently. She's such a go-getter and someone who makes 👏 things 👏 happen👏.
Everyone now can find their perfect MLBB (my lips but better) shade. No-makeup makeup is probably the most popular look I see around me. But this all started with Bobbi Brown. So when you think 80s makeup, we had big, B.O.L.D. looks. Makeup was loud. Bobbi Brown created a small batch of lipsticks that she felt were missing on the market. They were MLBB colours, with a bold pink and a couple reds thrown in there.
For her it was all about enhancing what yo momma gave you and that idea has really stuck around. As a makeup artist she was amazing at making you look like...well, you. And in bigger is better is louder kind of industry, standing out for pulling back? Now that is something. She made makeup approachable for the every day woman - for those of us who just want to look more "awake", or feel a little more confident in our own skin.
I love her interview with Guy Raz on the How I Built This podcast. If you have a commute coming up, pop it into your playlist. It's a cool story about how she went through the start-up phase, and how the company (and her relationship with it) changed through the years after it was acquired by Estee Lauder Companies.
Okay, so most of the women featured on our Glou Queens tee founded an eponymous brand (or empire). Marcia Kilgore? FIVE. Count them. Talk about serial entrepreneur.
Soap & Glory
This lady is killing it. But what really swung it for me was the business model she is pioneering with Beauty Pie. If you don't know, Beauty Pie calls themselves the luxury beauty buyer's club. Basically, there's only a handful of cosmetics manufacturers out there and when one of the labs makes a breakthrough in some new technology, brands will tweak the formula a little, and put it into their own packaging.
So Beauty Pie, goes to those luxury manufacturers, and buys the same formulas that luxury companies use and puts it in their own packaging and sells it to you at cost. Members subscribe to access the member's only pricing, but non-members will have to pay standard retail prices. It's the best of beauty without the markup, like a $25 lipstick for only $4.86.
What she is doing is just so radical and so defiant of how the industry works. I love it.
HRH Queen MOTHER! Pat McGrath... the woman is a true *artiste*. She's a master of using the face as her canvas. And her medium? Basically anything and everything. If anyone hasn't noticed, most cosmetics out there were not designed for anyone with a complexion darker than a tanned white person. Pigments don't show up. Undertones aren't accounted for. Pat McGrath became an expert at what she does because she had to get experimental from the beginning. And she became a master at working on any face in any shade.
In the world of cosmetics, she's couture. Here's what I mean: You know those runway shows where the models are wearing something that resembles clothes? That's fashion. The runway shows where there are floating sculptures of fabric that might have a person under there? That's couture. That's the level Pat is at.
Pat's work is literally everywhere if you know where to look. She's so ubiquitous behind the scenes, she's like the beauty big brother. You don't even see her. Because everything is her! I almost deleted that because it seems like such a hyperbole, but like, not really.
Okay, so her work appears on SIXTY plus runways across all the fashion weeks. That's awesome, everything starts at the runway and trickles down (as Miranda taught us in the Devil Wear's Prada). But closer to the consumer end of things, she's created cosmetics lines for designers like Giorgio Armani and Proctor and Gamble - the CPG of all CPG companies. That means she's been behind brands from Cover Girl to the newly launched Gucci beauty line.
Pat has been an industry powerhouse for decades. But when she launched her eponymous brand... only one thing comes to mind. Uncompromising quality. If you've ever held one of her products in your hands. Inside and out, no compromises were made in the making of that product. People will fall for kitchy packaging, pretty packaging, and that's all great but often times some aspect ends up feeling cheap in some way. I don't have the knowledge or experience to articulate what I'm trying to say properly, but like, her products are LUXE, okay? Not the kind of luxe that doesn't have substance to back up it's price tag, like a big tote with an LV stamped on the side. It's like the kind of luxe by a brand you've never heard of because they. only advertise in private jet magazines kind of luxe. It's like next level.
I apologize if this post has been a little akin to word vomit. I'm not the best person to do any justice to introducing such a heavyweight, so I leave you with some links!
Daaah-lings. Today, let me introduce you to Charlotte Tilbury. She is not only one of our Glou Queens, she is the Glow Queen. No seriously, if you want to be so glowy you can be seen from space, you need to check out her products.
In her brand's lexicon, a word that comes up often is "magical". And the way she's bottled up the intangible of "celebrity"? That's the real magic. She brings you the red carpet right to you in your home with her range of user friendly products, many of which, she has named after her famous friends/clients. She herself has also made herself into a celebrity personality of sorts. She even has her own catch-phrase, "daaah-lings". But in her videos, she has this incredibly warm approach. You feel like you "know" her, like you "know" the famous faces that dot the tabloids.
I have been to countless department stores around the world. Every beauty hall is the same. Everyone's kiosks are more or less the same. Product, product, product. A shelving unit of lipsticks, foundations, whatever, all lined up one next to another. No one really breaks the mould.
When you step into a Charlotte Tilbury counter, you step into Charlotte's world. It's just full-on backstage Hollywood with a whole lot of art-deco. The lighting is inspired by those dressing room mirrors with the lights all around. Often times, I find there are curves to the counters, which stand out in contrast to the glossy black (sometimes white if they're really edgy), rectangular cubes of other high-end brands.
And then, you see faces. So many faces. She has 10 signature "looks". Which is honestly genius, because people get overwhelmed by choice! Show me how your stuff works together! Makeup is intimidating, especially for shoppers just dipping their toe in. No one shows you were to start. But Charlotte merchandises everything in a straightforward manner. You won't pick up one of her products and wonder how to use it. Her blushes tell you to "swish" colour from the outer circle, and "pop" a little bit of the bullseye on top. Her eye palettes tell you what order to put everything in.
For me, here's the thing about Charlotte. She's giving us Hollywood glamour, but in an incredibly approachable way. She's created an immersive brand experience, but has avoided making it intimidating.
Here are some links to learn more:
Huda Kattan is a makeup artist, turned social media mega-influencer/blogger, turned CEO of a billion dollar beauty company. She quickly became the first of her kind. She is the first cosmetics brand to emerge from the age of influencers. Her vision, strategy, and trajectory is still unmatched in the world of beauty influencers.
The 2008 financial crisis touched the lives of virtually everyone. It was a waking up moment for Huda Kattan. She switched career paths and pursue her passion of makeup. Which is simple to write, but takes immense courage.
Nowadays you look around and it seems like everyone is an influencer. Many people make a living out of it. But I think what will always hold true is that, if you are not passionate about what you're doing, you'll never be fulfilled. You have to forge your own path.
By the numbers, Huda isn't the "biggest" influencer out there. But her ambition is what has made her an outsize influencer. Her entrepreneurial spirit from the get-go when she decided to make the kinds of false lashes, she wanted but couldn't find. She approached Sephora in the Middle East and they picked her up. There's no magic moment for going out on a limb and trying to start a business. You don't wait until you've reached X number of followers.
Huda started her brand when she was struggling, there was no guarantee of success.
Huda's ambition hasn't left her yet. She's basically striving for world domination, and honestly, I can't wait.
First Emily Weiss built her audience. Then she made a brand, just for them. From Into the Gloss to Glossier - the ultimate millennial brand. By that I mean this is the opposite of a typical corporation that defines what's beautiful, what's not; what's trendy, what's not; here's a new launch of something you don't need but will make money. It's about the customer first. And like, every company claims to be customer-centric, but so rarely is it truly followed-through in every possible way.
I purchased my first Glossier product because of the bubble-wrap encased pink pouch. I asked my friend Emma, where can I get that? And she's like, "Oh, this? It came with my purchase from Glossier," as she put on her BoyBrow. My friend Emma is pretty much the Glossier girl. She's effortlessly cool, so immediately I was like, yep, gotta buy some BoyBrow, like ASAP. Later down the road, I asked her what scent she was wearing. You bet I bought Glossier's You perfume after finding out she wore it.
And that's kind of how Glossier works. There's all this slick marketing, but weirdly, it's still very word of mouth. Perhaps it's the nature of direct-to-consumer business. You don't want to buy completely blindly, so you ask someone you trust what they think. The early adopters with their trigger-happy "add-to-cart" fingers get the products. And of course, often times early adopters are those "cool girls" who are in the know. Like, Emma is for me. For Glossier I was a second-wave adoptee.
Several friends and co-workers since have asked me what I think of Glossier and what products I recommend. Despite the hundreds of glowing reviews, people still look to familiar faces and trusted friends to ask what they think. Catchy-marketing campaigns can only get you so far itn this game. When you need people to talk about your products, the products themselves better be good.
I think what's not talked about as much is how much of a tech company Glossier is. A lot of the Glossier product is the user experience. There's a lot of innovation and engineering happening at every step of the consumer journey. The whole online experience is all about removing friction. It's so not an out of the box site. On the desktop version of the home page, you can add most of their products to your cart. All without clicking away from page 1.
Definitely check out these links:
I also really like reading their Into the Tech blog
She changed the industry almost overnight it seems, with one big idea that shouldn't have been as radical as it was.
The idea, and accompanying execution was so revolutionary, Time Magazine gave Fenty Beauty the award for best invention in 2017.
I am so happy that LVMH gave her full reign over her brand, cause Bad Girl Ri Ri did good. She set the bar for all new brands and existing brands. You better make a shade for everyone, or else face the wrath of the Internet.
Just like that, Fenty Beauty is the new standard for shade inclusivity
I want to mention that lots of brands have foundations that come in many shades before Fenty came along. But Fenty made it a BIG deal. And launched with that many shades. And every product that launches includes colours that work for every body. It isn't an easy feat because it requires a lot of effort (aka money) from the R&D side.