Despite the bevy of beauty brands hitting the market, makeup artist and industry veteran Jeanine Lobell believes every creative has the right to do just that: create.
“I don’t mind that [beauty is] crowded. I don’t want to tell anyone not to do something. If you want to make something, go for it,” Lobell said on this week’s episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast. “I always feel like I need to say, ‘Well, why?’ ‘Who are you making it for?’ ‘What are you making?’ If you’re just making it because it’s an ‘I want to have a brand, too’ [type of] thing, that’s a difficult way to go about it. But if you’re making it from yourself, then — not to sound like a total nerd, but — you’re trying to live your dream and I’m all for it.”
After successfully founding ’90s “it” brand Stila in 1994 and selling it to Estée Lauder Companies five years later, Lobell knows what it takes to start a beauty brand. But her latest venture, Neen, a DTC makeup line that operates via a subscription model, required considerable unconventional thinking. Case in point: Each month, shoppers receive a Neen postcard showcasing five models all wearing the same shades in varying makeup looks. The cards include color samples to encourage trying before buying, as well as a QR code for each look that leads to a tutorial video on the brand’s website. And while Lobell is considered a master in cool-girl makeup, the models — not Lobell — lead the video tutorials. As for the products themselves, they are clean, and both the postcards and product packaging are made from recycled materials.
As for integrating multiple concepts into Neen, Lobell said, “I wanted to bring all these sides of myself, the person who likes to design, [prioritize sustainable] packaging [and] make product, and bring that into the culture of my brand.”
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Why Stila went big
“It was never planned or intentional. I always say that it’s like somebody said to me, ‘Want to go to Vegas?’ and I’m like, ‘Okay, let’s go to Vegas.’ And then I’m in Vegas, like, ‘What the hell am I doing in Vegas? I don’t even know where I am.’ It was really like that for me. I had no expertise, except in how I thought makeup should look, how colors should perform … and that’s from a tactile place — no knowledge of formulation, chemicals, ingredients. It really was an accident, and I am a very quick learner, so I kind of learned as I went along. A lot of the things that we made that became so iconic were just accidents. I always say necessity is the mother of all invention, and [that proved true]. We didn’t have money, and I didn’t want to do the run-of-the-mill plastic compacts that everybody used. So it’s like, ‘OK, well, what can I make something out of that won’t be so expensive?’ ‘Oh, wow, paper or paint tubes are cool.’ ‘I’ll use an aluminum tube full of gloss.’ It was all these random things that became sort of cult.”
“[My team] teases me about this all day long — they’re like, ‘You need to be on a card.’ ‘You need to TikTok.’ And I’m like, ‘Leave me alone. I don’t want it to be about me, I want it to be about you.’ I joke and I say, ‘I go to my pantry and pull out six things, and do your makeup with them because I know what to do.’ Even when I used to do Stila events, I would do one eye, and I’d make the consumer or the client or whatever at the event do the other. What does it matter if I can do your makeup? You’re gonna go home and be like, ‘Wait, what did you do?’ You have to have that tactile experience of doing it yourself. Plus, I love the way makeup has changed, the way we talk about makeup. Back in my time, all I did was interviews about how to fix a hooded eye, how to fix a corner that turns down, how to fix this, how to fix that — and it was so annoying. You don’t have to fix anything. A hooded eye is awesome.”
“I know both Wendy [Zomnir of Urban Decay and Caliray] and Bobbi [Brown of Bobbi Brown and Jones Road], and they’re awesome, awesome, awesome women. I’m a total super fan. It’s been fun to, sort of, check in with them here and there as we do all this. I guess people are excited [about my second brand], because that’s like an expectation thing. I go back to why I made a card and silicone packaging and [why I am] using this diverse community and really embracing my community — because I can’t come out with a little two-part compact that says ‘Jeanine.’ That would just be embarrassing. At this point, the bar was here, and I had to go here, but I find it really exciting. All three of our brands are super different. Not only are our brands different from our previous brands, but Caliray has the California girl, Jones Road has that high-impact, practical girl thing, and Neen has that fun community and environmental thing. We’re all actually bringing pieces of our old selves, but it’s definitely a different experience. For sure, I think the expectations for all three of us are probably way higher than for anyone else.”