June’s – ‘The Beauty Issue’ – Download Now
Creative Direction: Amy Sessions
Photography: Greg Adamski
Hair & Makeup: Melanie Meyer at MMG artists
Production: Olivia Morris
Fashion Assistant: Sarah Joseph
Videographer: Joachim Guay
Hourglass is the cruelty-free luxury beauty brand known for its innovation. The powerhouse behind Hourglass, Founder and CEO Carisa Janes, discusses the brand’s success story.
Can you talk us through your career?
I studied at Parsons School of Design in New York and got my start in the beauty industry as a product developer in the very early days of Urban Decay. Then, I began working as a consultant and developer for several smaller, independent brands, helping to advise and establish up-and-coming beauty ventures for a few years. During that time, I saw an opportunity in the market for high-performance colour cosmetics that applied seamlessly and effortlessly while offering a luxury look and feel. I believed that consumers were looking for makeup with ingredients that really worked and at the same time, looked chic and luxurious on their bathroom vanity. So, I set out to fill that gap in the market. The concept was really about fusing science, beauty, and a core purpose with cruelty-free, multitasking products that make people look great and elevate the expectations of how a product should perform.
How did you find your way into the beauty space?
I’ve had an interest in makeup ever since I was a child. When I was a little girl, I would watch my mother do her makeup and it seemed to have incredible power—a smoky eye or a swipe of lipstick would instantly make her look more glamorous. And I could see how she immediately felt more confident. It’s not magic, but makeup does have the power to transform how we feel and what we see in the mirror. Its ability to transform us, both inside and out, has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. The idea of making people feel good about themselves through makeup is a big part of what led me to get into the business.
What inspired you to start your own brand?
It was two-fold. In 2004, I saw an opportunity to create a modern luxury brand and, as an animal lover, I dreamed of developing high-performing products that were cruelty-free. I wanted to raise awareness about the harmfulness of animal testing—just like us, animals are living beings that experience love and happiness; pain and fear. As a society, we need to stop treating them as expendable.
What was the process of starting your own brand like?
Starting your own business is a massive undertaking, no matter the industry. First, you have to create something unique that doesn’t exist anywhere else and that fills a specific need. What was tricky about Hourglass was finding a way to remain cruelty-free in an industry that, at the time, largely based its product development on animal testing. It was also a challenge to get the brand’s name out there in a very saturated space and to get both clients and investors to see our vision with the same passion we did. Ultimately, it was a test of what’s possible, and I’ve learned so much along the way. The success of Hourglass shows that we’ve been able to make an impact in some way, and as a founder, that’s one of the main accomplishments you aspire to.
How has Hourglass evolved since it launched in 2004?
Hourglass has grown so much since we first launched! We started as cruelty-free, but our definition of the word has now evolved to mean more than just prohibiting animal testing. Through our transition from becoming vegan to our charitable partnerships, we continue to strive to do more and be better.
Our first step in activating our cruelty-free mission was making a pledge to donate 1% of annual global profits from hourglasscosmetics.com and 5% of profits from all Unlocked™ product sales to our partner, the Nonhuman Rights Project, which is the only civil rights organization in the U.S. working to secure fundamental rights for animals. Then, we began looking more closely at our product formulas in 2017. Even though about 80% of the line was already vegan, how could we call ourselves cruelty-free if we still had animal-derived ingredients? So, with a lot of hard work and support from our partners at Unilever, we reformulated the remainder of our products to become vegan and celebrated that milestone with the launch of Confession Lipstick Red 0, a vegan red lipstick formulated with our patent-pending replacement for carmine, in March 2020. Our sights are now set on incorporating more sustainable packaging into our collection, and the next launch—coming this July—is rooted in the idea of sustainable luxury for today’s conscientious consumer. It’s one of our biggest innovations to date, and I’m very excited to introduce it!
What, in your opinion, is the brand’s hero product(s)?
This is a tough one because I love all of our products! If I had to narrow it down to some of our top-sellers and my personal favourites, I’d say…
· Veil Mineral Primer & Veil Translucent Setting Powder – These were two of our first launches and both are lightweight, sheer complexion products that make magic. Veil Mineral Primer is my go-to product to start my makeup routine. It makes any makeup that follows perform that much better by creating a smooth canvas. It tones down my redness and is the perfect prep for the foundation. And Veil Setting Powder has been a best-seller of ours since day one. The powder is ultra-refined and loose so your skin doesn’t feel cakey, and it helps to blur imperfections for that flawless finish. I use it every day to set my makeup.
· Vanish Airbrush Concealer & Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick – These are amazing products from our Vanish Collection, which is centred around formulas that are weightless, buildable, and create a natural, effortless finish. Vanish Airbrush Concealer is one of our bestsellers across the board. It blends so seamlessly into the skin to conceal and brighten for a smooth, yet natural look, and gives you full coverage without the heavy feel. I’ll even use it in place of foundation sometimes— the coverage is that foolproof. It’s a must-have. Similar can be said for the Vanish Foundation Stick. The formula is highly pigmented, so I love that a little goes a long way.
· Unlocked Instant Extensions Mascara – I love bold lashes and this formula is truly so unique and easy. Just one coat instantly lifts, separates, and fans lashes to give you that look of extensions. I use it on both the top and bottom lashes for full impact. It sold out at one of our UK retailers (SpaceNK) on launch day last summer and became their number one best-selling mascara of all time. It’s a truly fantastic product.
· Ambient Lighting Finishing Powders – This was inspired by my mom, who put pink light bulbs in all of the lamps in my childhood home. She loved pink light because it was so flattering and made everyone look beautiful. I designed Ambient Lighting Powder as a kind of personal lighting technician. The innovative formula uses Photoluminescent Technology, which captures and diffuses surrounding light. One swipe is like putting on an Instagram filter.
· Confession Ultra Slim High-Intensity Refillable Lipstick – We decided to make Confession refillable because the packaging, a sleek gold applicator, was so beautiful and unique that I didn’t want to throw it away! So, I designed it alongside a full line of refill shades and that actually marked our first step toward more sustainable packaging years ago. Lipstick just gives that extra boost of confidence and this is a saturated, creamy colour that won’t smudge or feather. One Day is my go-to shade for a next-level natural lip, and for an extra bit of intensity at night, I wear I Lust For.
How does the beauty space differ in the Middle East compared to other regions?
It’s hotter and more humid in the Middle East compared to other regions, so women seem to be more focused on finding luxury products that keep makeup in place, control shine, and continue to perform well from day to night. Hourglass products are formulated with innovative, vegan ingredients that still deliver in the heat.
Your products are staples in many people’s routines the globe over. How does that feel?
It definitely can be an overwhelming thought at times, especially remembering how we started and watching the company’s growth over the years. I think it ultimately just goes to show that our vision and mission is not only being seen but also being received by consumers all over the world. It’s humbling and empowering all at once, but the job is not done—we have so many more exciting products to create!
What have been the hurdles you’ve experienced throughout your career?
There are a lot of unknowns when you’re starting your own brand, and I think one of the biggest hurdles I’ve faced was not giving in to those who told me not to do it. Some people brushed off the notion that my idea could compete against the biggest beauty brands in the world or told me that I was taking too many risks. First, it was just the idea of starting my own business. Next, it was the concept of a cruelty-free, luxury beauty collection. Then, it was our commitment to become vegan. None of these things were easy, and people were right—we could easily have failed. But sometimes you have to turn down the volume and trust your instincts. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had listened to them and succumbed to external doubts. Just believing in yourself and going for it can be the biggest hurdle sometimes, but if you get past that, you’re guaranteed to be successful in some way.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, what have been the key milestones?
I’ve been very fortunate that there have been quite a few milestones since I founded Hourglass. I’m most proud of the occasions where we successfully created an innovative product that aligns with our core mission, and our consumers fall in love with it. Confession Refillable Lipstick Red 0, which we launched in March, is a great example of this! Red 0 is a special-edition shade featuring our patent-pending vegan replacement for carmine, the industry’s standard red pigment produced from crushed female insects. Not many people are aware of the carmine production process, so it was a huge innovation for us to bring awareness to how harmful it really is. Even we were shocked to learn that there are about 70,000 insects in just one pound of carmine, which is about 1,000 insects per tube of lipstick! The vibrancy and boldness of carmine are extremely difficult to capture so finding a vegan replacement wasn’t easy, but we knew it had to be done. It took us three years, where we went through 175 colour experiments, 36 pigment combinations, and 19 full formulations before getting it just right. We launched it as a limited-edition product, but it was so well-received that we’re now bringing it onto the permanent collection! We were so proud to have gotten this important message out there and to have created a true, vegan red lipstick people can feel good about.
This is ‘The Beauty Issue’ – how do you define beauty?
For me, beauty means integrity—doing what you love and doing it with purpose. When you feel good about yourself and the way you lead your life, that tends to radiate outward and affect all that you do. True beauty is looking and feeling like your best self, however you get there!
June’s – ‘The Beauty Issue’ – Download Now
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