I always enjoy interviewing iconic make-up artists or founders of beauty brands. Each and every person that I’ve interviewed in the past has a different approach to beauty and to the business side of it. Two weeks ago I was invited to London to meet with the one & only: Laura Mercier. I think every woman owns (or should own) a Laura Mercier product. The brand is famous for their ”Camouflage” and for their natural approach when it comes to make-up. I absolutely enjoyed talking to Laura Mercier, I could feel from her energy how genuine she is and that everything she says comes from the heart.
I sat down with Laura Mercier at Claridges hotel in Londen along with her PR team. She shared her experience on working with Mariah Carey, how challenging it is to work with a business partner and what products she would launch dedicated to the Middle East!
Why have you decided to start a make-up line? Did you feel like something was missing in the market?
Yes, at the very beginning it was for selfish desires to cook my own recipes. I think all make-up artists feel the same way. But also frankly, I was very eager to bring certain things that we couldn’t find in the market and one of them in particular was the ‘’Camouflage’’. It wasn’t available in a certain texture and shades. I wanted to create a ‘’friendlier’ texture that you couldn’t find in professional make-up stores. I was amazed how no one has ever thought of it before. The world of concealers was evaluating, yet no one thought of the ‘’Camouflage’’.
You cannot apply concealer on pimples because obviously it causes more break outs. Back in the day, it used to be challenging to hide blemishes with products that weren’t built for that. The only option used to be, by building up foundation on the skin. My obsession was to break that routine and to bring a natural approach to covering and hiding blemishes with make-up. What if you don’t want to wear foundation or just a sheer coverage? It just doesn’t look good to cake on foundation on a break out and there weren’t any other options so I was really obsessed to create a new concept and philosophy on that label. After that, I launched the primer and tinted moisturiser.
Have you stopped doing make-up?
I stopped doing make-up for photo shoots.
Do you miss it sometimes?
From time to time I still do it for the brand so it’s fine. Honestly, I don’t know if I could fully go back to doing make-up because it requires long hours, you’re travelling all the time… I feel too old to be doing that right now.
I know that you’re obsessed with skin but what is your favourite era when it comes to make-up trends?
Oh I love everything! The obsession with the skin is just because I feel it’s a primary thing that would hold a beautiful make-up. But I love smokey eyes, I love doing red lips, I love brows… I’m obsessed with brows as well. I love everything but obviously the canvas has to be right.
What is your definition of beauty?
My definition of beauty really is not the stereotype. I find beauty in many different faces. Very rarely I find someone strikingly beautiful based on their looks. I find beauty in many odd things, who the person is from inside, what shines through a person.
When do you feel most beautiful?
Definitely when I have make-up on.
Although, you don’t wear a lot of makeup.
No but I can have a very minimal make-up look on and instantly feel better. I feel very washed out and sick looking when I’m not wearing makeup. I feel very colourless just like many women do, wearing make-up is magical.
No question about that – I definitely feel more beautiful with make-up on.
Favourite celebrity you’ve worked with?
Many of them, it was always important to me that I could get along with that person and to have a nice relationship. I have a hard time doing make-up on someone that you don’t have a connection with. Doing someone’s make-up is very intimate, you’re standing closely, you touch the face and look the person in their eyes… Even though you don’t really know that person, you have a strong interaction and you need to get their trust.
It’s funny because, we often talk about celebrities who are premadonna, being very difficult – but I’ve learned how to read them. Some that didn’t have a great reputation (being a diva), I realised that it has to do with their insecurities more than anything else. Those with insecurities don’t know how to protect or defend themselves from the unknown. They feel like they lose some type of control because they’re nervous about the shoot, afraid that they won’t be happy with the photographer or they just don’t want to be there in the first place.
I’ve found myself a lot in those situations and I noticed that when I’m just being myself and remain calm, peaceful, confident of myself and inspired, almost in a serene mood – I could transfer that energy to that person by making them feel comfortable. I would explain everything step by step, if there’s anything that person didn’t like, I would change it. This way I would really work with her towards a comfort zone and it worked every single time. Some celebrities who weren’t symphetical in the beginning turned out to be so much nicer at the end and that’s the power of positive energy. Although, the ”mean’’ ones have been eliminated from my life, I don’t want to work with people that enjoy humiliating people or me. Or those who are grumpy all the time, very mean and have that negative energy – I don’t enjoy working with those type of people. I only want to work with people that I love and I have a long list of them, a part of that list is: Sarah Jessica Parker, Julia Roberts, Madonna, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey… All these women are fabulous to work with.
What was your experience working with Mariah Carey? She has a reputation of being a diva right?
Diva, yes she is! And she’s proud to admit it but, she’s a great person! She’s wonderful from inside, very generous, she has a big heart. Talking about insecurities; the diva side of a person is really just protecting and hiding their insecurities… So of course that’s something difficult to get used to for the entourage, its tough. But talking straight from my heart, it’s been a wonderful experience with her and I love her!
Other than dealing with diva’s and celebrities, are there any other challenges you’ve faced through out your career?
It was difficult building a career as a make-up artist when I just got started. It was hard to gain someones trust in your work and therefore I had to practice a lot so that I could prove to people what I’m capable of and that I can preform well. You have to arrive on time, never miss a day, you work long hours, you never complain, you do as expected so it comes from a tough learning experience. If you want to succeed in that industry, you have to put your personal life on hold, you don’t get married, don’t get children, basically you don’t have a life. Period. If you know what it takes and you’re ok with that, then its fine. When I discovered that I was too old to have a child then it hits you, all that for fashion? But then when you realise that you’ve built a successful career, that comforts me… I try to stay wise and positive, maybe it wasn’t meant for me to have kids and that was perfectly okay. My work was my baby, I was an ambitious woman and that’s it – turn the page and be grateful for the things you do have.
In terms of challenges in building a successful make-up brand is to have a dream and clear concept of what you want to do. I didn’t have a million dollars to invest into this brand so I had to work with a business partner… A business partner is a business partner, they’re not creative and only think about numbers. So it was difficult to convince my business parter about my creative ideas and to take on the challenges of bringing certain products into the market – or doing such things that may not be so commercial. He didn’t understand certain things such as; investing money and energy into training the staff and creating an entire education system. Business people tend to study what has been done and look at the safe options only, it’s the nature of the business side and that was challenging for me – I had to work really hard to be heard and trusted.
If you weren’t a make-up artist or an entrepreneur, what would you be?
Uhm, I don’t know. All I always know is that I like to work with my hands, I wanted to do something creative from an early age whether it would have turned out good or bad.
Words of wisdom to up and coming make-up artists or entrepreneurs that want to walk into the footsteps of Laura Mercier
If I would think or idolise too much about how I could make it in this industry, I wouldn’t have done it. If you really believe in something, try it, jump and go for it. If you have something very strong and sincere from the heart and the head, where you want be and why in that place amongst the amazing competition, do it! But also, you need to realise that today’s market is not the same as 30 years ago. If the management doesn’t sustain the competition and if you don’t have a strong support, or even strong guts, you will be swallowed within 2 seconds. We’ve seen amazing brands get born and die straight away. Don’t waste too much time and energy in something which you aren’t sure of doing for the sake of your wallet. There’s way too much competition out there and thank God I’m not stressed about that because I never look at the competition – I don’t want to know what other brands are launching.
Otherwise it just becomes commercial right? You just want to bring out whatever you think is missing in the market.
Yes, exactly! I don’t want to follow the trends and just launch something because other brands are launching it to, I’d rather wait until we have something meaningful to bring out. That’s the challenge of today and unfortunately there’s no guarantee that your brand will be here for a long time so it’s just one year at a time. For those who want to start a make-up line, build your career first as a make-up artist, bring your passion and talent together, you will automatically see that it’ll open up doors for you.
Your favourite Laura Mercier product?
Camouflage, this was a part of our first product launch and it’s still my favourite, iconic product.
Beauty products you always carry in your bag?
*Opens up her bag*
Let’s find out… I usually do my make-up ones in the morning and I never touch up through out the day. The only thing I touch up is my lipstick, so I always carry that in my bag.
– Velours Lovers Lipsticks (new): in #Dark Brick, # Bright Red & #Dirty Pink
– Tooth brush
Any skincare secrets?
Its very simple, always remove your make-up before going to sleep. I personally do a scrub ones a week and I use wide adapted moisturisers that can be used through out all seasons. I love using repairing serums during the Winter in particular, I always apply an eye cream which I also apply around my mouth. I rarely slab on my skin care products in 2 minutes unless I’m in a hurry. The canvas is essential so I like to take the time in applying my skincare products and prepare the skin for make-up.
A make-up product you cannot live without?
I think you know the answer to that already, Camouflage.
A make-up trick that every woman should know?
I don’t like the term ‘’Every woman’’ because I don’t generalise all women, each and everyone of you are different. However, I think its important to spend enough time in the morning doing your make-up instead of rushing. This way you don’t have to touch up through out the day. A tip for “everyone’’ is to keep their skin as natural as possible and to avoid caking on the foundation… That definitely implies to everyone, for sure! Us at Laura Mercier, this is our strength because we want every woman to have the best looking skin.
What are the future plans for Laura Mercier?
Many plans, we’re looking at doing fine fragrances and more body products, more skincare and we’re really expanding our range of products.
Would you ever launch a product or collection dedicated to the Middle Eastern woman?
In my opinion, whatever we have is totally fitted to the Middle Eastern women because when we’re launching a product, we do look at different cultures, skin tones and ethnicity’s. However, I would love to do dedicated collection with kohl’s because its populair in the Middle Eastern. Personally, I also really love the pure, natural kohl which my assistant always brings for me from Afghanistan. I think we have great stuff for the Middle East and if I ever find something that’s missing in the region, I would develop that… Since you live in the Middle East, do you know what’s popular now?
We just follow the global trends but at the moment, face baking is huge!
That’s not something I would go for because it doesn’t enter the philosophy of ‘’Laura Mercier’’ the brand. However, you can ‘’bake’’ using Laura Mercier products if you want to because we have the loose powders. What else do Middle Eastern women like?
We love long and dramatic lashes!
Okey, that’s not something I don’t have a lot of. Maybe that’s an idea to create more lashes in the future dedicated to the Middle East.