At a time when the beauty world is moving faster than ever, led by trendy brands like e.l.f. and ColourPop, opting for the slow road is a bold choice. Make Beauty, now in its sixth year, is doing just that, and privileging unconventional artistry at the same time.
Rather than following a strict product release calendar to satisfy consumers’ desire for newness and trying to hit a certain quota each month, as many brands do today, the brand “rolls with each product as it’s developed,” said Ariana Mouyiaris, the brand’s creative director. That means making changes when necessary, even if that requires pushing a launch back. “We’re not really chasing time; we’re trying to just create things we believe in.”
Its most popular products include the trend-forward Succulent Mist ($25) for hydration and its Marine Salve ($20), an upscale take on Vaseline that’s received recognition from The New York Times and Allure. But its highly pigmented lipsticks and eyeshadows are also top sellers across its retail partners, which include Net-a-Porter and Need Supply.
Mouyiaris, who co-founded the company with her father and the brand’s CEO, Nikos Mouyiaris, hasn’t always had such a laissez-faire approach to product development, however. In the beginning, she was bent on launching 14 new products per season. That urgency led to a 250-item collection, but she felt storytelling (what the product does and its benefits) around each product was missing.
“To tell 14 stories without a massive audience isn’t the best way for us to do business, so we’ve tried to focus in more,” she said. The brand has since whittled its inventory down to 100 products, and now releases more “single hits,” as Mouyiaris calls the individual product launches that roll out every few months. This allows them not just to save money, but also to go deeper on social media with each product, exploring the various ingredients, properties and benefits that are involved — all key elements in attracting online beauty fiends today.
“We’re moving away from a very fast-paced calendar and trying to create strong staples and key products that we believe in, in terms of their formulation and their timelessness,” explained Mouyiaris.
Although its sales figures are not public, they were reported to be growing at triple digits in April of last year.
An artful approach
Make is also taking a more artful approach than is typical for a beauty brand today, but it’s reminiscent of other movements like slow fashion and slow food, all of which launched in response to today’s increasingly sped-up world.
The focus on creativity over blatant consumerism has been in Make’s DNA since it launched, when it began regularly collaborating on products with creatives like furniture designer Faye Toogood, and photographers Erik Madigan Heck and Vassilis Karadis — certainly not the buzziest names around. Fashion designer Maryam Nassir Zadeh, the quiet arbiter of Brooklyn-chic, is probably the most well-known of the brand’s past partners.
“We really wanted to approach beauty from a place of creative self-expression and connect with artists we felt were really interesting, in terms of their practice and approach to color,” said Mouyiaris, whose own background is in design. Partners are tasked with coming up with a concept, which Make then helps them translate into various product collections, comprised of products like eyeshadow and primer.
Convincing these capital-A artists to hop on board a consumer-driven project hasn’t been hard, said Mouyiaris, because they’re given so much freedom over what results. “It’s not something that’s been churned out by us, with their name just slapped on it,” she said. “It’s very much a conversation.”
Still, Make Beauty is not immune to the allure and potential power of an Instagram-weaned influencer. “As an independent brand, we’re always looking for people who have wider scope and reach than we do,” said Mouyiaris.
As such, the brand has commissioned people like the internet-famous performance artist Isabelle Killoran to do a series of “inspired how-to videos,” or avant-garde renditions of the usual online beauty tutorial, for different products. The resulting videos — one of which features her inexplicably dipping clothing in a body of water — focus little on the actual product application.
Most recently, the company worked with the influencer Madelynn (or @madewin on Instagram, where she has 296,000 followers) on a special vegan lip and cheek tint. Continuing the artistic theme, she created a 16mm short film to fete the launch.
According to Mouyiaris, taking a more strategic and studied approach to who Make relies on for so-called “influence” helps them stand out from the crowd. What’s more, she said, “it makes the final product more novel.”