A Danish Makeup Artist Creates Her Own Dream—and Clean—Beauty Brand
Here at goop, we’ve been noticing—and applauding—the rise and influence of women in industry. Perhaps the only upside to workplace inequality is it has driven a lot of amazing women out of corporate America—and straight to the helm of their own companies. So we decided we didn’t want to just cheer them on anymore. We wanted to meet them and interview them and write about them. With that, we give you: Female Founders, a column featuring women who create, design, and inspire.
After years working as makeup artist all over the world, Danish-born Kirsten Kjaer Weis decided there had to be a better way. “Many of the models I worked with started to push back on the conventional products I had in my kit at the time,” she says. “They were sensitive to the products.” After a fruitless search for clean, nontoxic products she loved (at the time, there were few clean or even all-natural lines), Kjaer Weis took matters in her own hands.
So in 2010, she launched her own line. “I didn’t want to compromise on the ingredient list or on performance,” she says. Kjaer Weis manages to combines exquisite color with clean, nourishing formulas. We love her super flattering lip tints made with shea butter and beeswax; her gorgeously blendable cream foundation that leaves skin with a flawless, velvety finish; and her easy highlighter for glow. And the luxurious packaging—chic red boxes open to thick silver compacts—is impressively sustainable.
A Q&A with Kirsten Kjaer Weis
I first began working on the line in 2003—and it launched it in 2010. We started with twelve shades, including eye shadow , lip tint, and cream blush. Since I was working on the line as I was working as a makeup artist, I took the products on jobs with me and tested them on set. I also slipped samples to friends who I knew would give me honest feedback.
We’ve also always worked very closely with our manufacturer in Italy. When creating a new product, I typically suggest four to five ingredients that I would love to include. They start testing and come back with feedback and samples, then we start producing prototypes to figure out what works best with the formula. Typically, for a brand-new product, it takes anywhere from twelve to eighteen months from start to finish.
“Since I was working on the line as I was working as a makeup artist, I took the products on jobs with me and tested them on set. I also slipped samples to friends who I knew would give me honest feedback.”
We hit snags in terms of the product and packaging. (More on that below.) I wanted to get the texture just right without the use of silicones. Silicone is a popular synthetic that’s a pretty standard ingredient in cosmetics because of its perfect slip—it makes a product feel moisturizing without being too oily or dry. Replicating that effect using natural ingredients—we use certified-organic oils, butters, and waxes—proved to be challenging. Replicating that perfect “silicone slip” involved fine-tuning the formula to get it just right without cutting any corners. It’s a lot like having a great chef in the kitchen to really perfect the finest nuances, who in our case is our amazing formulator in Italy.
“Replicating that perfect ‘silicone slip’ involved fine-tuning the formula to get it just right without cutting any corners.”
I love good design, but it proved challenging to find a sustainable material that also felt luxurious. I turned to Marc Atlan, an LA-based creative director whom I’ve always admired. We started working together, and he came up with the concept. He sourced the silver compacts, and since they’re not recyclable, we decided to make them refillable.
Hands down, lipstick. This goes back to the fact that we don’t use silicones in any of our products. A formula that feels moisturizing but has that perfect velvety matte finish is difficult to nail. As soon as you add too many moisturizing components, you run the risk of the lipstick breaking too easily or having an overly shiny finish.
I took the brand door to door, starting with stores I knew in Copenhagen. In the US, I started attending luxury trade shows in New York, which allowed us to widen our distribution. We’re now in goop and Barneys New York in the US and Ilum in Copenhagen, all of which are big for us, but that took some time.
My goal is to create all-natural versions of all the products I loved to work with as a makeup artist. I want to design a thoughtful collection of products that hold their own season after season.
To stay true to your vision. Don’t cut corners because people tell you it will get you to your goal faster. Trust your intuition: It’s your strongest ally.
“Don’t cut corners because people tell you it will get you to your goal faster. Trust your intuition: It’s your strongest ally.”
We are delving into body-care products with our first Body Oil that’s launching this fall. More skin care is also in the pipeline for 2019, while we’re still expanding our color line, of course.