The Beauty Business | Alexia Inge – Co-Founder of Cult Beauty

What if you could gather a panel of the beauty industry’s upper echelons such as Ruby HammerDaniel SandlerDr Sam Bunting and Andrea Fulerton, find out the beauty products worthy of their time and then make their favourite products available at the click of a button. Wouldn’t that be genius? Well, that’s exactly what Alexia Inge did six years ago with Cult Beauty thus giving us access to niche brands with bona fide cult status and making it the online destination for products given the insider seal of approval. With Cult Beauty‘s recent sixth birthday, I recently had a chat with Alexia about the cult selection process and what we’d find in her makeup bag should we wish to rummage through it!

Alexia Inge Cult Beauty

Where did the idea for Cult Beauty come from? My business partner Jessica Deluca and I co-founded this site as beauty consumers who were tired of being sold products that didn’t live up to their promises; we had too many half-used cosmetic containers cluttering up the shower and too much money waisted down the drain! Jess was looking through the InStyle Best Beauty Buys when she had the idea to use an expert panel to cherry-pick the best products out there, creating a beauty hall of fame, that one can shop!

Cult Beauty is known for stocking the coolest, niche and independent brands from Sunday Riley to Le Soft Perfume. How do you keep track of the latest beauty launches and know when something is cult enough to be stocked at Cult Beauty? We have the ears and eyes of our expert panel who work all over the world. This is also a company of complete beauty junkies who are perpetually driven to find the next ‘hit’ of beauty cult-ness. Stacia, our buying director is a veritable beauty bloodhound who can sniff out a gem before you’ve even got it out of the box.

Who is the ideal Cult Beauty customer? Many of our customers come to us in a confused and fed up state with the beauty industry, just wanting to buy something that does what it says on the tin. Then we have the cult hunters, the people who want to discover the latest underground thing so they can show off to their mates online when it gets big. We also have a lot of professional women who simply don’t have time to search for hours and just need to find something they trust quickly. Our ideal customer is a happy one because they will not only come back, but they also tell their friends.

What has your biggest achievement been since opening the store? I look around at the team and feel a huge sense of pride in what we have achieved in 6 years. That we continue to grow even though we launched small using Jess’ and my savings, just as the world economy was melting. We’ve won many best beauty website awards, which are amazing, but meeting someone random at a party and hearing them say that they love the site is probably the thing that makes me smile most like a Cheshire cat.

Many women enjoy the experience of visiting a department store and trying out the products they’re about to buy. As an online retailer that experience doesn’t exist for Cult Beauty customers, but judging by its huge success that doesn’t seem to be a problem. How have you overcome that? I think it’s a mix of the fact that they know everything on the site is expert selected by a panel that we don’t allow to recommend anything they are financially tied to so the hard filtering work has already been done. I think the brilliant product descriptions written by Verity Douglas definitely help. All other sites tend to blindly regurgitate the brand’s marketing materials, but Verity researches each product before writing it. Also, so many women simply don’t have the time to go into town to buy beauty, parking and travel are expensive and stressful and this is an uncrushed, unhassled experience within a chic and simply-designed site.

Which Cult Beauty products can we find in your own makeup bag and beauty cabinet? Jouer Luminizing Moisture Tint is the best tinted moisturiser in the world I wear it daily with the Studio 10 Visible Lift Face Definer, it’s the simplest way to look pretty without looking like you are wearing make up. I then finish the look with Magnetic Lash Mascara and a spritz of Molecule 01 or 02. Lait-Crème Concentre by Embryolisse is a must-have staple because it is so versatile, MV Organic Skincare is my fall back when too much product testing makes my skin sensitive and I adore Oskia masks and cleansers. Now that the sun is coming out I’m all over the Zelens Daily Defence SPF 30 and UltraSun for my body. If you have any issues with your lips Pommade Divine is a 200 year old British recipe that beats the pants off everything else I’ve tried. The packaging isn’t that chic so I sometimes stray to newer, sexier models, but I always come back! Oh and if you are ever feeling stressed or have trouble sleeping have a bath with the Therapie Himalayan Detox Salts – I’ve recommended this to many people and they are all now addicts… It’s magical.

Cult Beauty Alexia Inge Edit

Most important beauty tip that you’d shout from the virtual/online rooftops? Look after your skin in your twenties. One tends to think that naughty things you are doing are not affecting your skin because you can’t see a difference then. They are, and you notice the effects the day you hit 35, then you start to see the effects of sunbathing, smoking, eating badly, stress and pollution. My other one is smile, especially at old ladies in the street. The smile you get back from them is generally so bright and unexpected that it puts a swing in your step.

Any words of advice for budding entrepreneurs, particularly those keen to enter the beauty industry? You need to start off with a lot of passion for whatever you are trying to do because the entrepreneurial process will make you question why you ever wanted to do it in the first place. Make sure there is a market for it, ask a lot of people and not just people in your social group, all ages, all backgrounds. Don’t let no’s get you down or stop you, when you start 90% of the answers you get will be no, or even worse “maybe” then ignored. Be tenacious and dogged. Don’t copy what other people are doing, it’s much harder to succeed that way. Be original, then your idea will shine.

The Beauty Business | Martine Micallef – Founder of M. Micallef Parfums

My fascination with all things olfactory goes beyond the delights of the nose, it’s an experience. Sweet smelling notes cased in a beautifully designed bottle will always be my weakness, and M.Micallef Parfums is the epitome of it all. In a world where mass fragrance has a firm grip on the market, M.Micallef Parfums takes fragrance back to the days where it was an art to be appreciated with carefully handcrafted, gold and crystal studded  bottles filled with exquisite scent.

Founded by Martine Micallef and her husband Geoffrey Nejman, I recently had the opportunity to pose a few questions to the lady behind one of my favourite fragrances, Mon Parfum Cristal, a delicious gourmand blend of Bulgarian rose, toffee, Madagascan vanilla, musk and amber.

Martine_MicallefWhat was it that ignited your interest in fragrance and eventually led you to founding M. Micallef? I founded M.Micallef with my husband in 1997, and it has been a joint venture of love and passion since the first day . I am an artist and I love to work with my hands; I love creating, designing, painting and combining elements of art. When I met my husband in 1992, I owned two beauty Salons in Cannes and Geoffrey was a banker and managing the finance department at a lab in Grasse. We would both speak about perfumes a lot and what he experienced in the lab, and it helped us to decide to create our own company and develop a brand. M.Micallef Parfums was born…

What are the things that inspire you when creating a fragrance? What does the process of creating a fragrance entail? Creating a perfume starts with a mood and a flash in my mind. It often happens when we travel and are in changing environments. It is either Geoffrey or myself coming up with the idea. Geoffrey then goes to the lab and starts to mix the first ingredients that appeal to the idea with our senior nose.

It is a long process and it can take 6 months and more, but sometimes it is done in no time. We use the finest ingredients and we do not save on ingredients costs. It is always a mix of best natural ingredients and some synthetics that are of the highest olfactive quality. We decided to target the high end of the consumer market from the start and decided to produce luxury with magnificent packaging and scents with rich and natural notes. I think it was the right choice since these consumers are connoisseurs and enjoy great quality.

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What are your favorite raw materials to work with? Your best job is when you like something yourself, so I would say that ingredients like rose, jasmine, iris, ylang, aoud, vanilla, gaic, osmanthus and styrax are among my favourites.

Scents usually trigger memories, events and important people in our lives. What was your earliest and favourite scent memory? I think it is going back to the perfume my mother wore. It reminds me of childhood and the warmth and sensitivity of my mother holding me in her arms.

What kind of training is required to create fragrance? There is a special school to attend to become a perfumer, I think it’s a course for a 3 year period. But I strongly believe that the key to become brilliant in this science is to be born talented and gifted for the creation of perfumes. Theoretical knowledge would not be enough to become a master perfumer.

Any advice for budding perfumers? It is really difficult to advise and to say something. To be a perfumer… or not to be…? Perfumery is so interconnected with passion, dreams, feelings and personal inspirations and moods that you cannot be the external adviser.

My Presentation at Making Cosmetics

Putting the daunting task of speaking to a room of experienced beauty industry professionals and the possibility of completely fluffing it up to one side, when I was invited to speak at the Making Cosmetics Conference about how beauty brands can communicate with their Muslim customers I felt honoured and was immediately on board. With three of the emerging and newly coined MINT (step aside BRIC!) nations each housing significant Muslim populations, a promising Halal industry encompassing food to cosmetics, globalisation, increased tourism and the Internet opening doors to communication, shopping and even social change, I felt that there’d be no better moment to speak than now. Hafsa Making Cosmetics 1With my presentation I aimed to initially dispel the usual myths about Muslim women. It’s often that Muslim women are grouped into one without a true understanding of  the vast differences between them in terms of ethnicity, occupation, class and buying behaviour. To do that I created pen portraits of different Muslim women; for example, there was Humaira the 22 year old British graduate whose beauty purchases were mainly determined by sales promotions and the best value available which was a complete contrast to Emirati fashion designer Marwa with a penchant for her luxury cosmetics brands like Guerlain and Tom Ford! There were many other pen portraits I presented to the audience, but while I wanted to highlight the differences between Muslim women I did note that there were indeed similarities to be drawn and that would be their values, mainly influenced by their Islamic faith. Anyone with a marketing background would know what psychographic segmentation is, but for those that don’t it is to divide customers within a market based on their values and attitudes so this would work better than the traditional demographic segmentation. Lancome I took to Facebook in order to find out which values you ladies hold dear and common themes I found were modesty, family, charity, faith and tradition. Using psychographic segmentation and knowing the values of most Muslim women would then influence how a brand would market a product, and I gave the presentation attendees many examples of successful marketing by keeping these values in mind. To illustrate I showed Lancôme’s slight tweak in advertising in the West and in the Middle East to appeal to the value of modesty.

In all, it was an honour to speak at the conference, particularly about a topic I’m passionate about. And thanks to those of you who attended!

Four Things To Know About Estee Lauder

One of my first makeup memories is being a curious 14 year old, raiding my mother’s makeup stash and slapping on copious amounts of Estée Lauder Double Wear all over my face. It didn’t matter that the foundation was five shades lighter or that I was given a good telling off, but the glamorous packaging and luxurious feel of the Double Wear planted the seeds for a love of what is now one of my favourite cosmetics brands. Years later as a business student I’ve come to appreciate Estée Lauder as a whole – the brand, company and businesswoman who started it all. Born Josephine Esther Mentzer, Lauder’s interest went from creating Youth Dew, a perfumed bath oil at Saks Fifth Avenue to a multi-billion dollar conglomerate.

five things to know about estee lauder

1. Being the first to introduce the gift-with-purchase, Estée Lauder was a marketing pioneer. Getting people to buy your product is one thing, but retaining customers is another and while many see gifting as a simple token of appreciation, it goes beyond that. Should the customer fall in love with the sample sized gifts, they’d return back to the counter for more. Clever!

2. Estée Lauder is parent to many of your favourite beauty brands and you probably didn’t even know it! OjonOrigins, Jo MaloneMAC, Tom Ford, Bumble & Bumble and Darphin to name but a few. It’s genius how Estée Lauder has a wide portfolio of brands varying in price point, brand identity and product ranges. Clinique is the scientific skincare brand, MAC the fun and youthful cosmetics line with very loyal women of colour customers anTom Ford is where we all go for super luxury.

3. Not one to miss out on an opportunity, Estée Lauder is expanding into Africa with its first MAC store in Nigeria and the intention to focus on countries including Kenya, Ghana and Angola. While some brands are struggling in the West due to the current economic downturn, many African nations are seeing a boom in their economies and a rising middle class so it makes perfect sense for Estée Lauder to enter. Maybe you’ll be seeing MAC in Mozambique, Clinique in Cairo or a Bobbi Brown counter in Bosaso!

4. After meeting Rodolfo ArcigaEstée Lauder‘s Global Makeup Artist from Mexico at Selfridges‘ Global Makeup Artist Event last November I realised just how global the brand was. The counter staff were also from all over the world, and Estée Lauder‘s faces Constance JablonskiLiu WenJoan Smalls and Arizona Muse reflect the brand’s international diversity.

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