Like all the best ideas, Robin Derrick’s latest business venture was born in a pub.
Or rather brewery. The former British Vogue creative director was having a pint with his now business partner, Max Leykind (co-founder of cult Nineties nail polish Hard Candy). ‘The brewery had crowdfunded their new premises and discovered a spike in sales while doing so,’ he tells me over coffee in Hackney. ‘I thought, well, of course. People are saying to their friends “I own part of this beer. Try it!” It’s engagement, right? I thought, why don’t we do a brand people can own part of?’
MyBeautyBrand, which will launch on 5 December, is set to give the beauty business a makeover of its own. It is, on one level, an Avon for the Gen Z and Millennial demographic. You, me, your Tuesday night hockey team, can all sign up and get a flawlessly designed digital e-store to personalise. From this store we can create, photograph and upload make-up looks, tag the products we use and earn commission from what is sold. ‘It’s a new way of doing things,’ says Derrick. ‘There’s no contract, sign-up or minimum sales. I own the product, do the fulfilment, manage the website back-end.’ Commission, settled monthly, is generous, too. Sell up to £1,000 of product per month and earn 10 per cent. Sell more than £2,000 and get 20 per cent. Sellers who achieve £3,000 in a quarter will get shares in the company. ‘The average affiliate link tends to be six to eight per cent says Derrick. ‘So it’s good.’
Which, of course, takes us to make-up. MyBeautyBrand launches alongside ByMe, a 60-strong range straight out of Intercos, the Italian laboratory responsible for producing make-up for the world’s coolest and most luxurious brands. Since the platform’s success relies on peer-to-peer selling, the quality is excellent. ‘If you buy a lipstick from, say, Dan’s e-store and it breaks, you’ll complain,’ says Derrick. ‘While I can’t stop every lipstick from breaking, I need to make good on my store owners, so the production brief was to use the highest quality formulations on the market.’ As a result this make-up is richly pigmented, perfectly textured and remarkably affordable since Derrick has skipped costly marketing campaigns. I’d recommend snapping up the Total Colour Metallic Eyepaint in Colette, £15, and the ruby-red Rich Glide Cream Lipstick in Diana, £18, sharpish.
The first MyBeautyBrand store owners are a set of hip, inspiring and interested Central Saint Martins students. Derrick teaches at the university and the group has helped to workshop ByMe products, earning shares in the brand and namesake shade names in the process. The website aesthetic, as you’d expect from a creator with Derrick’s credentials, is beautifully simple and clean. ‘Every big photographer I’ve ever known generously said “I’ll shoot for you,” but I didn’t want any of it,’ he explains. ‘This is simple content that I’ve created with these people. But it looks good and others can do the same.’ As the ByMe range expands, MyBeautyBrand store owners will also have the chance to collaborate on new product design and innovation, redefining how make-up is created. At some point Derrick expects to host curated edits of the best products from other beauty brands, too. ‘I think this is a really effective route to market for other brands,’ he adds.
It’s exciting stuff, but it is perhaps the branding and language integral to this newcomer that will earn instant attention. Derrick has teamed up with slam poet Simeon Farrar of Black Score fame to collaborate on the brand’s provocative manifesto and messaging (see previous page). One tagline says: ‘When did beauty get so ugly: when you got paid to say you love me.’ Then there’s ‘I may paint my face but I ain’t no clown,’ and ‘Be an inspiration not an influencer.’ Products arrive in small boxes that slide open to reveal an inspirational line: ‘Do it for you. Not for them.’ After finishing your make-up, you can use the prepaid returns label to have the empty packaging recycled efficiently.
Derrick is clearly frustrated by what much of digital and social media content has become. ‘Social media was a fantastic enabler and communicator,’ he tells me. ‘The original ethos of bloggers was that they would be the authentic voice. That has gone and it’s become a top-down bought media.’ In a time when beauty brands must work harder to grab consumer attention, Derrick suggests that many have lost the ability to communicate with their customers, paying influencers as a quick-fix solution. ‘Just as the rise of it all was originally interesting, because influencers were people of influence, it’s now become a paid hierarchy of media,’ he says. ‘I don’t think it works. I looked at people trying to launch social media-led brands and thought someone needs to use what the web can do to empower. I strongly believe that if you do things well, and with integrity, they’re successful. So our positioning is very much as a post-influencer brand.’
Derrick’s belief in the beauty industry as a force for good is palpable and he has watched fellow disrupters such as Beauty Pie with intrigue. ‘I think the industry is incredible. I am married to a make-up artist!’ Because, oh yes, his wife is Lisa Eldridge, one of the most celebrated make-up artists on the fashion and beauty circuits, with a vast global digital following and a make-up brand of her own. ‘Actually, for me, it’s not ideas of beauty per se, but cosmetics and make-up as reinvention and expression.
‘[The beauty industry] is a thriving, dynamic place — and the beauty consumer one of the most socially targeted, digitally educated and engaged in the world. I think [consumers] still trust peer-to-peer recommendations, but they have to be real. These people are weary of the sell.
‘That’s why I am doing this, despite my wife telling me to stay in my lane,’ he chuckles. ‘Sure, I have learned a thing or two about [beauty] over the years. And sure, I can get excited about great products now, although that wasn’t always the case. Essentially I saw that things could be done differently and [beauty] is the category I’ve chosen to do it in. When I was creative director at Vogue I always said that I worked in publishing not in fashion. Now I don’t work in beauty’ — he roars with laughter — ‘I work in changing the world.’ And who can argue with that? (mybeautybrand.com)