Influence Peddler: Annie Lawless on One Year of Lawless Beauty

A year after launch, Annie Lawless has developed her namesake natural makeup line into a major player in the color cosmetics space.
One of the founders of Suja Juice, Lawless has always been committed to living a healthy life and came upon the idea for her brand when she couldn’t find natural makeup that equaled the performance, high pigments and long-lasting wear that she was used to with conventional makeup.
Lawless Beauty, a prestige quality natural makeup brand, launched last October with eight shades of its liquid lipstick on its own web site. Now the brand is carried by retailers such as Sephora, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman and has grown to new categories, including complexion with 20 shades of its Flawless Finish Foundation and three shades of its Loose Setting Powder, and is entering the eye category with the launch of The One, an 18-pan eye shadow palette priced at $64, on Dec. 1.
Lawless has no plans to stop there. She expects the brand to grow between 300 and 400 percent next year thanks to product launches and distribution expansions. Lawless already has a slew of launches set for 2019, including additions in the complexion and lip categories, as well as expansion into other categories.
She is also continuing her distribution partnership with Sephora by expanding from roughly 40 doors to 100 with a dedicated fixture in each store and is growing the brand’s global footprint with partnerships with international retailers in the U.K., Australia and Southeast Asia.
Here, Lawless talks about her first year in business, the challenges of making natural products and how she sees the natural makeup category evolving.
WWD: What white space are you trying to fill with Lawless Beauty?
Annie Lawless: I initially started trying to clean my beauty routine up and was on a quest for natural makeup and I wanted to do a comprehensive guide on my blog since my audience is wellness and health based. When I purchased stuff, I couldn’t find anything remotely close in terms of performance and pigment, so when I saw that white space I knew I needed to do it because it’s really rare these days to find something that hasn’t been done before.
WWD: What was one of the biggest surprises when launching your brand?
A.L.: I was generally surprised by how big the appetite is for clean cosmetics. When I first started I wasn’t really able to find a lot of clean cosmetics that were high-performance and I know natural skin care has been a strong category, but I wasn’t sure why color wasn’t when people were so hungry for natural cosmetics.
WWD: What have been some unanticipated challenges of running your business?
A.L.: One of the most challenging things was timing and lead times for ingredients and packaging. It makes every launch tight and it wasn’t something I had experienced since I was coming from a juice brand. If I want to launch something in eight months, then I have to start the packaging now and if I sell out of something, it’ll be three more months before I can get more ingredients. So it’s been a very big learning curve. Also, making clean formulations is difficult to do without all of the chemical ingredients to have a high level of efficacy. I had to spend more time and reject iterations of products more than most conventional brands do.
WWD: Why do you think there is more interest among consumers in natural makeup?
A.L.: The trend started with food 10 to 15 years ago and since then it’s trickled into beauty and skin and people are putting the connection together that if they have a clean skin-care routine then why are they putting those ingredients back on their skin through makeup? The education has been a lot more expansive and consumers are waking up to this.
WWD: How do you anticipate the natural makeup category will evolve?
A.L.: The next phase will be a higher level of performance and making clean a standard norm. For so long we felt like clean wasn’t as powerful or doesn’t last as long and I think the next step is all of the clean companies will see it as a normal standard and a lot of labs will start to do better and have smarter formulations.
WWD: Why is it important for you to have a personal social media presence to promote your brand?
A.L.: I always wanted to use social media to share other aspects of the brand outside of the product on the shelf, tell a story and bring the customer into my world of how I got into clean cosmetics, why it’s important to me and how I use the products. It’s a way to go deep and connect with the consumer and have a dialogue with her. People want to see a heart and soul behind a brand and connect with a brand. The consumer is savvy and wants to know who is making her products and social media has allowed consumers to engage and have this dialogue with brands. That’s something they expect, so for me maintaining that human side to who we are is important to me.
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