September 9th, 2013
Warpaint tends to feature the MUAs, it’s who we write for at the end of the day. Most of the brands we cover rely heavily on their MUA ambassadors, creative directors or pros to validate their products, in fact its almost weird if they don’t, so I was both a little curious and if I’m honest sceptical about the Lipstick Queen, until I met her.
Poppy King isn’t a make-up artist; she hasn’t trained in bald caps or fake lashes, doesn’t claim to know the difference between primer and camouflage, but what she does know an awful lot about is lipstick.
Poppy’s story is one of inspiration, determination and good old fashioned hard work. When the 18-year-old Poppy King failed to find her perfect lipstick in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia, quite simply she decided to create her own range of lipsticks. Twenty years on, Poppy’s passion for lipstick is as vibrant and strong as her signature red lip. Lipstick Queen is the result of a lifetime devoted to finding the perfect lipstick. Her book, Lessons of a Lipstick Queen tells the story of an extraordinary journey as a young entrepreneur starting out in the cosmetics business. It’s a practical guide on how to become a real entrepreneur, from recognising a good idea to finding finance and marketing your brand.
Warpaint Meets Poppy King…..
WP: If you had to choose one colour and one colour only as your lipstick on a desert island, which would it be?
PK: That would have to be red. Customers sometimes tell me that they don’t have the confidence to wear red lipstick, but for me it’s the other way around. I don’t have the confidence NOT to wear red!
WP: There’s a million ‘ultimate red lipsticks,’ what sets Lipstick Queen’s Velvet Rope apart from the Chanel’s and the MACs of this world?
PK: Velvet Rope is the first high end, super luxe lipstick that isn’t from a fashion brand like YSL or Chanel. This means that the focus isn’t just on the packaging and presentation but the wearability, application, feel and benefits of the formulation. Yes, the packing is ultra-luxurious, but it doesn’t end there. The way this lipstick lays down colour, the weightlessness, the way it wears off over time; all of these things have been considered and obsessed over in a way that only a brand devoted to lipstick can.
WP: As an entrepreneur as opposed to a MUA, do you think this is an advantage or disadvantage in the cosmetic industry?
PK: I think there are benefits to both, but from my own personal perspective, I’ve been able to translate my own desires and frustrations with the industry as a consumer into the products my customers want to buy. I have always seen things from the point of view of the end-user, hence why I’ve always focused on how the lipstick feels not just looks.
PK: I draw a huge amount of inspiration from the worlds of film, art and literature. Lipstick has a relevance and reference point is so many unexpected areas of life. Medieval, for example, was inspired by the fact that wearing lipstick was frowned upon by medieval women, so instead they used lemon juice to bring a stinging redness to their lips. I love looking back in time and discovering stuff like this.
WP: Lipstick is your thing, how much pressure is there for you to extend past the lips?
PK: I’ve always maintained that lipstick is the most powerful and transformational item of make-up. Whereas other products work to enhance, conceal or correct, lipstick stands alone as something that completely changes your look which is why I am the most interested in it. Having worked in lipstick now for over 20 years you’d think I’d be running out of things to say on the subject, but in actual fact this is still just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve got so much more in store for lips.
WP: Lipstick Queen is a cult product amongst make-up mavens. What has been the secret of your success?
PK: I’ve always stood by the principle of product over marketing. I’ve always believed in ploughing every resource into developing the very best formulations rather than investing in creating hype. The hype will come if the product is good enough! I also listen intently to my customers and try to respond to what they want – as with my new Chinatown Glossy Pencil shades. This was a direct response to customers saying whilst they love the sheer texture, they wanted more muted tones, hence my creation of three new shades in soft nudes and pinks.
WP: How do you spot the next big lipstick trend? Is there something new on the horizon for lipstick?
PK: Trends are dictated by the customers themselves and as more and more women discover or return to lipstick (after the long reign of lip gloss), companies respond with more daring shades and richer textures. There is a definite resurgence in wearing red and bright lipsticks and this is only going to get more pronounced. But there’s also a need for those lipsticks to care for your lips. I guess it’s a bit like the whole BB cream explosion. It’s not enough to have a foundation that speaks to one aspect of your makeup – it needs to protect and nourish as well as perfect. With Velvet Rope, this lipstick has a retro look in terms of high density pigment and matte finish, but the feel and formulation are so modern it’s almost futuristic!
WP: Can anyone where red lipstick? And why are women sometimes scared of bright colours?
PK: For those women who say they can’t wear red lipstick, it’s often that they are just not used to seeing themselves in a bright shade. My advice is to wear it around the house – whist you’re doing the vacuuming or watching TV. That way you’ll get used to seeing yourself in it and it will make it easier to wear. As for whether or not anyone can wear red lipstick, it’s a resounding “Yes”. It’s just a question of finding the shade and texture that suits you best. It can be sheer or opaque, smudged on with a finger or precision-applied with liner and brush. Each give a different look and each will suit you differently. Trial and error will soon tell you what works best. And once you crack your perfect shade, there’s no going back. Red lipstick doesn’t just change the way you look, it changes the way you feel.
WP: You collaborated with No.7 here in the UK. Do you have more such links in the pipeline?
PK: For the moment I am focusing entirely on Lipstick Queen.
WP: If the likes of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc came calling, what would you do?
PK: Having worked for Lauder a few years ago I know that the corporate world isn’t really for me, so I am very much devoted to building Lipstick Queen. Niche all the way.