Every year at The Makeup Show NYC, one or two keynotes always stand out, such as Charlotte Tilbury’s talk in 2014. This year, the must-see event for me was I’m With the Brand: From My Living Room to L’Oreal with Wende Zomnir. You may know her as founder and Chief Creative Officer of edgy makeup brand Urban Decay.
Zomnir said she started Urban Decay as a way of expressing herself positively through makeup. She wanted to create makeup in colors that she was interested in wearing, but couldn’t find anywhere. “I wanted to get away from pink, red, and beige, and say that individuality is acceptable in the world of makeup,” Zomnir told the audience.
She realized she had a hit on her hands when she started getting letters full of positive feedback. The letters would say things like, ‘You really understand me’ and ‘You get me’. As Zomnir put it, “I realized we were able to speak to customers from a makeup standpoint.”
A few of Zomnir’s core philosophies that helped her take Urban Decay from startup to sensation are:
- “Be good at math.” You need to have discipline and pay attention to the “business” side of the business. It’s not enough to just have an innovative product or service.
- Surround yourself with people who are passionate about the business and your vision. Staffers in Urban Decay’s California HQ are just as passionate about makeup as Zomnir is. “If you are going to work for us, you better put your face on in the morning!,” said Zomnir. (Her makeup was flawless, btw.)
- Be aware and spot emerging trends. Zomnir used the example of Urban Decay’s cult favorite All-Nighter makeup setting spray. Now setting sprays are everywhere!
- Cultivate your inner voice. Trust your gut, it makes the best decisions, Zomnir said.
- “Check your ego at the door.” Trust your team and be willing to listen to different opinions.
- Keep your eyes and ears open. You never know where an idea will come from.
- Little ideas are important, too. They can make a difference.
- Be flexible.
“Building a brand is a constant evolution,” said Zomnir. Urban Decay is always trying to improve its products and do things a little differently. The purchase of the company several years ago by L’Oreal allowed it to expand to Europe and Asia.
Zomnir also showed videos during her keynote. One was a virtual tour of Urban Decay’s California offices, and another talked about The Ultraviolet Edge, Urban Decay’s worldwide initiative to empower women. My favorite gave us a peek inside Urban Decay’s first freestanding store, located in Newport Beach, California.
Zomnir saved her best advice for last, though. “Be true to your brand, or else you just start to cannibalize each other.” In other words, never be afraid to just do you.
Do you use any Urban Decay products? I love my Naked Smoky palette and the Anti-Aging Eye Primer Potion. Tell me about your favorites in the comments!