June’s – ‘The Beauty Issue’ – Download Now

Cult Beauty launched over a decade ago. The goal was to “curate only the best beauty and wellbeing products in the business”. Co-Founder and Co-CEO Alexia Inge discusses how the brand continues to lead the way in the commerce scape.

Can you talk us through your career – how did you find your way into the beauty space?

When I left university I really had no idea what I wanted to do and was offered the opportunity to be a model, a role that took me all over the world and gave me a fantastic, behind-the-scenes window into the fashion and beauty world. I learned many beauty tips from the professionals backstage, but also saw the disconnect between what the artists were using, and the sponsored products displayed for the cameras. A back-breaking car crash put a stop to my catwalk days, and I moved into fashion and beauty journalism and then brand building and PR – storytelling became my living.

What inspired you to start your own brand?

I was a beauty obsessive who found myself too regularly being oversold products. I met my co-founder socially in 2007, we bonded over cosmetics, the highs and lows of the hunt for the gems and walked away from the evening with homework – to go home, collect all of the beauty products in our home that we hadn’t used in over three months and tot up how much money we’d wasted. Our totals were horrifying, but we found we were not alone and this was the beginning impetus for us to start a curated retailer that only sells cult products that exceed expectations.

What was the process of starting your own brand like?

We invested all of our savings into setting up the business and building the website and launched just as the global economic meltdown was gaining pace. In the first year, we would sometimes go for days without an order, no banks would lend us money and we didn’t have any money for marketing.

So, I got creative, for the first three years I spent every waking hour promoting the business – whether pitching stories to journalists about our unique concept and undiscovered indie brands, going to events every night to get the word out or network the industry to sign up new brands. It was utterly exhausting, and in 2011 we found ourselves in a financial bind with three weeks of cash left, we managed to find some investors at the 11th hour who bought us enough time to build the brand and get the business off the ground.

How has Cult Beauty evolved since it launched in 2008?

Our brand stable gets better and better, but we have never veered away from our core values to ‘truffle hunt’ and curate only the best beauty and wellbeing products in the business, and to deserve the trust of our customers.

What were the very first brands you had on the Cult Beauty website?

We were the first European retailer to sell brands like Escentric Molecules perfume, BeautyBlender, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Sunday Riley, Huda Beauty, Briogeo, Glow Recipe, Milk Makeup, Tata Harper, The Inkey List, Summer Fridays, Drunk Elephant, Versed, Natasha Denona, and now cults in the making Danessa Myricks, Laneige, SuperGoop! And Youth To The People.

Cult Beauty Founder

What, in your opinion, are Cult Beauty’s hero brands?

This is a difficult question as they are all heroes in their own right, however, the ones really hitting the zeitgeist right now are:

Supergoop! – like SPF 2.0, the hero product Unseen Sunscreen not only protects brilliantly from UVA & B, it also blocks blue light radiation from screens and works invisibly on darker skins too.

Olaplex – offered the haircare market the dream that no one believed was possible – you can process your hair incessantly then turn back time – this technology has gone from being the holy grail for those in the know, to a collective (ab)solution for all our hair sins.

La Bouche Rouge – high-performance, clean indie makeup in beautifully crafted, refillable containers. Everyone asks where their lipstick is from when I get it out of my bag.

Medik8 – the future of clean is ‘cleanical’ (a natural/lab-grown amalgum), and this high-tech insider skincare punches way above its price point. I’ve never met a Medik8 product I didn’t instantly love!

Cult Beauty is well known in the Middle East. What have you learned about the region’s approach to beauty in terms of your clients?

I’ve always seen Middle Eastern beauty as more sensorial and ritualistic, which is something the rest of the world has finally embraced in a huge way during lockdown as well look for moments of self-care amongst the madness.

We ship to the UAE all over the Middle East and are looking to add more shipping, currency and payment options in the next year to make shopping from Cult Beauty even easier.

What is at the core of Cult Beauty’s brand DNA?

My mission for Cult Beauty has always been to, ‘be the most trusted beauty retailer in the world’, which was lauded as a bit ‘old fashioned’ when we launched back in 2008. But as we move into an increasingly impersonal, AI-dominated consumer experience I think the need for trust and humanity will only grow in resonance.

What have been the hurdles you’ve experienced throughout your career?

I think my main hurdles have been internal, jumping over my own lack of self-confidence to follow what my gut was telling me was right. When you are trying to build things differently you come up against a lot of barriers and lack of imagination – unused paths are overgrown and inhospitable, but they can lead to amazing discoveries and once you’ve cut a way through it does get easier.

Cult Beauty essentials

On the opposite end of the spectrum, what have been the key milestones?

There are the growth milestones, hitting certain turnover figures and growth velocity, landing the exclusives for certain brands and winning awards like WWD E-Tailer of the Year, but the thing that makes me smile the most is meeting a total stranger who knows Cult Beauty and loves what we do; talking to someone who is as passionate about the hero products we sell as I am.

This is ‘The Beauty Issue’ – how do you define beauty?

The wonder of beauty is its diversity. It can be simple, glamourous, fun, sexy, artistic, scientific, eccentric and contradictory, but I think the core definition of beauty is that it resonates in your heart and elevates your mood.

June’s – ‘The Beauty Issue’ – Download Now

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