February 2nd, 2021
Grace Fodor is the founder of pro-age makeup brand Studio 10 and BBC ‘s Be Your Own Boss beauty expert. Studio 10 was born out of Grace’s passion for wanting to celebrate her age and growing tired of struggling to find beauty products that work for mature skin. Gaining a cult following, Studio 10 has been hailed as ‘genius’ by journalist India Knight, has been featured in the likes of Stella, The Daily Telegraph and Woman & Home, and counts Jenni Falconer, Andrea McLean, Patsy Kensit and Anthea Turner as fans. As an anti-ageism activist, Grace frequently talks and writes about the need to redefine beauty for women as they age, and redefine age, which has included appearances on QVC and the INNOCOS summit. As such she has become one of the leading pro-age, pro-beauty voices that gives 40+ women the recognition they all deserve.
We had a long chat about beauty, makeup, ageing and making sure you have the right bra and knickers for your face. It was quite a long conversation, so grab a cuppa and get comfortable.
Tell us about your background in business and PR.
Life started in PR and so I was a PR girl in-house and then I moved to an agency. I always had this ambition that I wanted my own business and I set myself a goal that by the time I was 27 I would have my own agency. I had that self-belief and vision that it was going to happen. It was probably really unrealistic – a 20-year-old going “by the time I’m 27…” However, my business partner and I founded Fodor Wyllie 4 weeks before my 28th birthday.
So PR was my trade and I actually think it’s the best trade in the world – either PR or journalism – because you have to tell a story in a headline. I sold that agency to one of the big groups, got married, had my children. I then moved into branding and particularly how brands play into product development and creating brands. The “what’s the story in a headline?” premise really sets you up for business because whether you’re talking to a journalist, whether you’re talking to a buyer, whether you’re talking to a consumer whatever audience you’re communicating with – if you can’t tell a story in a headline that stops them in their tracks and resonates with them you’re not going to get very far.
From there I worked with Jemma Kidd on her Makeup School developing the brand and then getting involved in product development. Working there I came from a product concept – what is it women need? What do they want? What have they got in their make-up bag? So on the product development side it was very much insight analysis, the science of the consumer whereas she came from the actual product you put on your face and we worked on it together. That’s where I really learnt and understood makeup from texture, formula and colour perspectives. How it interacts with the skin, and how to get the finish you’re looking for.
I’m not a MUA, I can’t apply make up on anyone. I can talk about the principles of make-up and Jemma went on and did two amazing make-up books and manuals – so I understand the theory of make-up but I couldn’t apply it – I’d be poking people’s eyes out! But working with her is where I properly understood make-up and, most importantly, the performance of make-up.
How did you end up creating your own brand?
In my mid-forties – and I guess I’m a little entrepreneurial in that sense – I thought I don’t use the same skincare in my 40s as I did in my 20s so why am I using the same make-up? My skin is different and products interact with my skin differently, and I thought you know what? There’s an opportunity and that was really the inspiration for Studio 10.
What sets Studio 10 apart from other makeup lines?
There are thousands of make-up brands in the market place – why am I different? How am I different? It’s a very crowded market place. So going back to the PR – what’s the story in headline – what’s your proposition in one sentence?
We are the only make-up brand formulated for mature skin. The products are designed for mature skin and for mature women. I’ve really incorporated their lifestyles, their needs their feelings their emotions. So I think that’s why we’re different. We use the medium of make-up to do a job of work – and when you look at make-up as a medium the power to transform is phenomenal. I think it’s one of the most transformational things that we can use as women in our toolkit, if that makes sense, and I do the same with fashion. The other part of Studio 10 that sets us apart is that we’re more than skin deep; we are a movement.
You’ve been dubbed a Pro Age Warrior – how does this shape the brand as you grow?
When I created the brand I was in my late forties, about to turn 50. I’m now in my fifties and next birthday I’ll be 55. When I looked into the emotional side of middle-age it took me into a completely different area, and that’s where the pro-age movement started. We are pro-age not anti-age – and that’s not just about make up, it’s beauty too.
When I started looking at middle age it was negative, all the associations were negative and I started to question why the connotations of the word made me feel bad about myself. Then suddenly it started to unravel. In society, and probably more so in the western world, female currency is as much about their beauty and their ability to attract, or their attractiveness, than it is about their talent. I think that’s wrong – our currency isn’t just beauty. When you drill down, beauty equals youth. Youth equals beauty. I’m there thinking I’m no longer beautiful. And to be beautiful therefore I have to be young. I thought this is completely wrong. Then you look at all the influencers on society that drive our views and our value system and suddenly I’m looking at film, music, fashion, the beauty industry, social media… and all the images surrounding me of beauty are around youth, and getting that feeling of feeling invisible and not being represented.
I think the beauty industry has a lot to answer for. I was looking at adverts, by the very brands trying to sell to me, using models who are 25. There was one, a really big beauty and fashion brand, an inspirational, aspirational, amazing brand, advertising an anti-wrinkle cream using Cara Delevingne in the ad. Now I’m not being funny, there’s no lotion or potion in the world, even if you spent a million pounds buying it, that is going to take away your wrinkles and make you look like Cara Delevingne. If you really want to do that then it’s botox and then you’re into surgery. I realised this was wrong. It’s perpetuating this negative, it’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. When are they going to break that basic value that beauty equals youth? What happens is it puts pressure on middle-aged women to chase youth as they want to look younger.
Looking at the beauty industry it’s anti-wrinkle, anti-ageing, anti anti anti – it’s negative again. It’s not a surprise that women don’t feel confident and feel invisible. They don’t feel attractive. So I feel it‘s really negative for women. Particularly when you analyse press coverage – say from the Oscars – all the 40+ middle-aged actresses – we talk what they look like, what they’re wearing, how young they look. We don’t say the same about George Clooney and other male actors. It’s so contradictory and I thought this is wrong.
I try and analyse it why do we feel like this, where does it come from? Anti-wrinkle, anti this anti that. It’s saying that if you have wrinkles therefore it’s negative and you have to eradicate them. The beauty industry I think has played on the negatives, making us feel bad about ourselves by using role models that aren’t realistic or representative of certain groups. That’s why I love Dove; 25 years ago they were already doing their body confidence campaign. Beauty is personal, it’s individual. Don’t follow the crowd, be you. Dye your hair bright pink – celebrate your individuality, rather than trying to fit into a pigeon hole. Pressure to be Size Zero is another one. It’s negative and wrong and damaging. It damages women’s self-esteem, confidence and their view of themselves. We are our worst critics – we aren’t good at taking complements and the way middle-aged women are represented in the media doesn’t help with this.
At Studio 10 we don’t use the word anti, I do not believe in anti-ageing. The reality is – if you chase that holy grail you are never going to achieve it. You are never as a 45-year-old, or me as 54-year-old, going to look 30 again. My face might look 30 because I’ve had some treatments but my neck is never going to. You’d have to go from the top to toes. So then when I started to think about it – all that energy, all that trying to get to a place that’s not achievable. I’m better off putting my energy into enjoying life. Finding a sense of inner confidence, peace with my age. When I really analysed it, I realised beauty is not just youth, it’s not just about being young. That’s where I started to coin my phrases. Beauty is ageless, it doesn’t have an age limit. I’ve always said that if you want to change the way we think about something we have to change the way we talk about it. I’m passionate about Studio 10 being a pro-age voice and really challenging those outdated stereotypes about what middle age is. How to age – do you age gracefully? Should you be having botox or tweakments?
There are so many taboos. When I was 52 I had a tattoo. People would say I was too old to have a tattoo. Who says I’m too old? If you’re over 50 there’s this perception that you’ve got to have short hair, you can’t wear shorts, you can’t do this you can’t do that, you’ve got to grow old gracefully. Just all this noise, this additional conditioning and at a time where women’s lives change quite dramatically. Obviously your body changes but life changes – life stages change – you might have had kids who are leaving home, you’re hitting menopause and menopause is massive for women. I thought we need to make this important.
The mid-life crisis is seen as a male domain, it’s accepted and almost expected for men and is used to excuse whatever they do. But women go through that as well. I explored why does it have to be a crisis? We should rename it as mid-life choices. You reach a point in your life where you come up for air – at least for me – and a big part of my life is children, a big part is career and suddenly I was approaching my 50s and I thought I am at my mid-life in this journey of life and who am I? Where am I going? What do I want? What are my dreams, my ambitions? What about me and my own sense of self and agency? And I think you do reclaim and start to find yourself. So that’s the pro-age movement side of Studio 10 which is my passion and my purpose.
To bring that back to make-up – and this is the bit I’m excited about – it is a powerful medium and a tool that we all can use every day in our lives. Make-up is the confidence you wear on your face. If you look good on the outside you feel good on the inside. So you put your best face forward, or put your warpaint on, which is another way that women use make up –to give yourself a confidence boost. You’ll look good, but you’ll feel good as well. At a time where we’re not feeling as confident or not feeling as positive or we’re not feeling as attractive or we don’t feel as valuable, and certainly feeling invisible then that interplay is really powerful. However a lot of middle-aged women can find make-up confusing, intimidating and don’t know where to start or end. If you go into a department store there are hundreds of products, textures, formats, colours and I realised this was another element.
So when you ask why is Studio 10 different? I look at it at so many different layers. Part of it is the lifestyle of middle-aged women. Busy women have busy lives and whether you’re 18 or 80 we are a hundred miles an hour all of the time from the moment we wake up to the moment we collapse into bed. I knew it had to be quick, instant and easy. I started to research and realised most make-up is a fashion story. What I mean by that is you get the look, season, catwalk, celebrity, trends, colours. I just thought that’s not the place I want to play in. We’re not really a colour brand. I would say we’re skincare with coverage.
A journalist described us as Spanx for the face. When I started to think about it, I thought that’s absolutely right. Ten years ago Laura Mercier promoted the face as a canvas, going back to basics and amazing flawless skin – unless you have a good canvas you can’t go on. We sort of play in that arena but I’ve extended and expanded that. Spanx for the face made me laugh because if you go out to buy a new dress for the season you wouldn’t leave the house without your bra and knickers on. The underwear we are wearing in mid-life is not the same as the skimpy things we wore in our twenties; I need the full on control. The spanx analogy plays to us because you’re smoothing your canvas, you’re giving shape, you’re giving definition, you’re creating a lift, you’re adding… Actually that’s a really good way to describe Studio 10: we are the bra and knickers of your face!
If you want to wear coral as it’s on trend for spring, or you want to wear a glitter for winter but you don’t have the right foundation, I don’t mean canvas but structure, it’s not going to look a million dollars. I started to look at the application of make-up and at products. I think S10 is a quick fix, it does a job of work, (spanx for the face) and then you can go on and add your colour story if that’s what you want to do, and if you don’t then you’ve got beautiful skin, you’ve got structure to the face, you’ve got colour. So if someone asked what does that mean, what’s your signature look? I can say it’s that no make-up make-up. It’s your skin but better, it’s put your best face forward, enhance your features.
I created make up made easy in four steps that anyone can do from home using their own make up bag – they don’t have to use Studio 10 although we are formulated for mature skin, with the textures and colours we have. Whatever make-up you use it is super easy. In terms of the Studio 10 range I’ve created, I distilled it into the four steps – just like your essential make up bag. It’s four, maybe five, products and my whole range including all the colour ways is only 30 SKUs. I’ve got 20 products in the range and that’s it.
Take our Plumping Lip Gloss; the purpose of lip gloss is to make the lips look fuller and plumper, so I’ve used a perky pink. I love pink as it’s brightens and lifts. I’ve got one SKU. If we were a fashion brand we’d have 15 or 20 colours.
The other thing is, because I come from a product development business side, the business side of make-up I spent years analysing sales, looking at what women were buying and part of what came out of that is the Pareto 80:20 rule: 20% of the SKUs – best-selling products and colours – account for 80% of your volume and value in sales. And that 20% is nude, universal, natural shades. It made me think of men’s shirts – the best-selling men’s shirts are white, a blue stripe and a pale pink. You can get your fashion palette – your paisley and your bright colours and your florals but then that’s not what sells. And that starts to separate Studio 10 as we’re playing on the 20% and not the 80%. It’s just made it easy as women don’t have the time, and I’ve done it before, where I’ve gone into a department store, gone through my make-up routine and ended up buying hundreds of products that I’ll never use again, I’ll never recreate that at home and it’s not the look I really want. What I want for me is my skin but better, my best face forward. I still want to look and feel like me but enhancing my natural features. If in the evening I might want to wear a red lip and do that colour fashion story and then I’ll buy into another brand, but my everyday make up is about confidence that I wear on my face.
I broke down the list of the ageing face: fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, age spots. Redness becomes an issue whether it’s hormonal or if you’re moving into flushing and menopause. You lose collagen and elasticity so your lips thin out, hooded eyelids, our hair thins, your brows become sparse, you lose that definition. The whole list! I built this whole routine – make-up made easy in four steps. It’s so easy that anyone can do it from home and you do not need to be MUA to do it. For me my pro-age message is use a little bit of make-up every day to enhance your natural beauty, at any age, and give yourself a confidence boost. Why not?
I get asked I do a lot of zooms now in lockdown, and speaking to journalists who say they don’t wear make-up at the moment unless they’re doing a zoom or going out. I think that’s interesting – my view on it is wear make up every single day as part of your morning confidence pick-me-up. It’s true that if you look good on the outside when you look in the mirror you feel good on the inside. So why not do it? I’ve explored it and I’m doing it for me, I’m not doing it to attract a partner, or someone to procreate with. I mentioned earlier that women’s currency tends to be in their beauty, it should be about their talent or their ability to provide or excel but it’s all tied up in to beauty. And I thought “why is that?” Evolution – if you go back – it was important to attract a mate, to procreate otherwise we wouldn’t get very far. And here we are, thousands of years later, and we still have that pressure. Even back in the 1950s women had to be perfect – dressing for dinner, dressing for when your husband arrives. I’m not doing it for anyone else, I don’t care if no-one sees me, I do it for me because I’m worth it. I want to look and feel the very best I can. I don’t want to look younger I don’t want to look like a 20-year-old as I’m never going to look like that, but you know what? If in that process I cover up some age spots so my skin looks fresher or younger, or I define my eye brows so it gives me a bit of a lift, then yes, I may look five years or six years or maybe ten years younger. But that’s not why I’m doing it – it’s because I feel I’m worth it and I do it for me because of me and why not? Now we’re in lockdown we need all the tools we can get our hands on.
I love lockdown on one level as I can go around in my sliders or my trainers all day and I can wear leggings or tracksuit bottoms or joggers, but I still dress up a bit. I feel I still want to look good. If you want to wear a sequined ballgown then why not? There are short cuts – I’ve got loads of amazing tops because I wear a lot of jeans, even for work. I don’t always want to formalise them with a jacket or blazer so I put on an architectural top. We are more laid back with our clothes now even for work. I find it fascinating. Clothing in the workplace has become more informal, for men and for women it’s much more relaxed, even in corporate and banking. Men are quite at ease with it as they wear their chinos and a jacket and their shirt without a tie. But for women it can be a double bind and it’s causing quite a lot of internal pressure and stress. Historically women have had a uniform in a power dress or power suit and they felt safe within it. It’s not too feminine but it’s not too masculine; it’s a uniform that defines us and also means there’s no focus on what we’re wearing rather than what we’re doing. But now that’s all changed.
Lisa Armstrong [Head of Fashion at the Daily Telegraph] wrote an article about this; she found that women are feeling really stressed as they don’t know what to wear and what’s appropriate and what isn’t. I found it really interesting as I hadn’t really thought about it. I wear jeans a lot, even in big formal meetings my clothing style is my clothing style. One of the things that comes with age is the confidence to dress as you want to – the “uniform” thing is about first impressions, you’re portraying how you’re going to perform. If you power dress its powerful, I mean business and I’m a proper business person. So if I’m in combats and trainers and t-shirt, am I not saying that about myself? I’m all of those things, regardless of what I’m wearing. Someone said what is the number one thing you felt you have benefitted from with age? and for me it’s that I do not care what other people think. I think men and women, when they’re younger, are so caught up in what people think and how you come across and how you’re being perceived and a big part of that is expectations from your parents as you want them to be proud, it’s all caught up in everybody else and not you. For me, what you see is what you get, I am what I am – like me or not. The other realisation is that you can’t be liked by everybody all of the time. You do get personality clashes or you don’t feel that there’s a good fit, and that’s okay too.
Which makeup artists do you work with?
When I developed Studio 10 I wasn’t targeting the MUA community as the professional products used behind the scenes are different to general consumer everyday makeup. Traditionally, they needed different more high performance formulas. I was interested in a range for real women with real lives that any woman could incorporate into her daily make up bag and it makes a difference to how she looks and feels. But I think what’s really interesting now is with HD and technology it’s all changed. Theatre make up was the same as for TV, it needed to be much heavier, much stronger, it needed to stand out under the lights and all that stuff. But now the make-up is I think, joined in the middle, so I have a lot of MUAs who absolutely love S10 and have it in their kit and use it every day on jobs, even for TV or film. For me that is probably one of my proudest achievements. When I have a professional MUA who has been working in the industry for twenty-odd years say this product is genius, it’s in my kit I won’t use anything else, that for me is humbling. They are real fans and it made me realise that the make-up that make-up artists are using today is very different – everyone wants high-performance, quick fixes and a lot of Studio 10 products are multi-purpose. Why have five products when you only need one?
My brow pencil creates shape and definition, the colour is phenomenal. The thing is with Studio 10 is I don’t want it to look like make up. It looks like your brows, not make up. It’s your skin, not foundation. It’s contoured lips but not lip liner. So all of those products are what make up artists want. They want the perfect brow pencil and they want to use it quickly. All my brushes are double-ended and my face brush has a finger shaped brush on one end so you can apply it as you would your finger and then on the other end a stipling brush so you can buff and blend it into the skin. Make-up artists love it as they have thousands of brushes but you can pick mine up and do the whole job. Everything I’ve done is for ease for real women but of course MUAs are exactly the same; if anything they’re under more pressure. I’ve worked with amazing MUAs and I’ve seen them on shoots and sets and it’s phenomenal. Watching Jemma dealing with a table of products, so anything that simplifies their life is good. And it’s a whole mix of MUAs; ones who have had careers for 20 odd years as well as some of the new guys coming through. Some work in TV, some do talent, celebrity others do editorial, a real mix. For example, Ruby Hammer, Gary Cockerill, Mary Greenwell, Buster Knight, just amazing MUAs. Make up is transformational! I love it, it’s so powerful. Makeup artists are so skilled, they’re artists. Gary Cockerill’s book Simply Glamorous – I was amazed by it – he contoured one woman’s face and changed the shape completely. That’s how powerful it is – why don’t we do that every day? I do say the wrong make up can be more ageing – there is a skill and and mastery to it so I’ve tried to take the thinking out of it, if that makes sense. That’s the idea of Studio 10 anyway.
Which is your favourite product/s in the range and why?
I’ve got two! The majority of women use some makeup, something they can’t live without, like mascara or lipstick. I always say if you’re only going to use one product, make sure it’s the right one. The one product I think is an absolute starting point is coverage. Whether it’s an under-eye concealer or a bit of foundation. You can wear mascara which opens up the eyes and makes the eyes look big and wide awake, but if you’ve got dark circles and darkness in the corners of your eyes and redness around the eyes you’re not going to see the mascara! You’re going to see someone who’s really tired and needs to go to bed for eight hours.
My four-step process is prime, perfect, shape and shade. Prime is the texture of the skin, you’ve got to even the texture if you’ve got enlarged pores and fine lines. Perfect for me is a cover up job, so it’s concealer, it’s foundation, covering up the uneven skin tone, pigmentation etc. Shape is definition; the spanx. It’s the contouring story, but I don’t use the word contour as middle-aged women run a mile as they think Kim Kardashian, red carpet etc. Contouring ‘s been around for 25-30 years and it is one of the main principles that MUAs use! Instead I talk about adding shape and definition to give a bit of a lift. And Shade to me is colour, and colour is pigment that you lose. I said before about the Laura Mercier flawless, perfect skin. For me that’s only one part of the story, so prime to get that beautiful flawless, radiant glowing skin, but the next step – and this is why Studio 10 is different again – you’ve got to add some shape and some definition to the face because you lose it as you age due to losing collagen and elasticity. I can see it in my skin every day. It’s important to create some definition, add in some naturalness. Our skin becomes dull or lacklustre as we lose pigment so need to add radiance and natural glow but also a flush of healthy colour.
So my two favourite products, and I think that if you don’t have time to do the four step process – although I promise you it’s really quick – if you want to pare that down, the complexion boost (Plumping Blush Glow-plexion) is key so you’ve got beautiful radiant, glowing, healthy-looking skin. The other is foundation (Age Repair Perfect Canvas SPF30 Foundation).
A lot of middle-aged women use tinted moisturisers or mineral foundations because they want little bit of coverage without having anything heavy or cakey. The problem is both of those do not give you coverage. If you’ve got redness coming through, tinted moisturiser is not going to cover it, it’s a veil. My daughter uses tinted moisturisers – I think they’re brilliant for younger skin – because they’ve got gorgeous skin already, they just need to even out the skin tone a little bit and have that glow, but as you age you need more coverage. You’re going to need to start using concealers and colour correctors as well, and I thought no, I want a foundation that is a medium to even full coverage so it covers everything I need it to cover: redness, age spots, pigmentation, dark circles. The key thing about it is the coverage.
The reason that women don’t like medium or heavy coverage or liquid foundations is traditionally they are heavy and cakey on the skin and they give you that mask. It doesn’t look like real skin and the colour’s off. My foundation is almost like a liquid foundation in the convenience of a compact. I don’t want to be carrying a glass bottle around in my make-up bag as I tend to drop things because I’m always doing my make up on the go. I’m literally sitting on the train or in the back of a cab [obviously pre-lockdown] or I’m touching up before I go onto my next meeting, so I wanted the convenience of a compact and this is part of my product blueprint – everything you put on your skin has to be blendable so that you can buff it into the skin so that it gives you the coverage. It doesn’t sit on top of the skin so it looks like your skin but better. And that is why I use a lot of crème and liquid products. I’m not a big fan of powder as it can look dry on the skin, and at a stage where our skin much drier as we’re losing hydration it’s not a great idea.
Whether you wear foundation or not, we all use a moisturiser but powder will stick to that emulsion. It does make foundation longer-lasting but then you can’t blend and buff it and that’s not what I’m trying to create. Our foundation gives you coverage but is so creamy on the skin and very slightly dewy so that it gives the skin a lift. I also put SPF30 in it so it’s really designed for mature skin. And I drilled down, even down to how women are going to apply it. It’s got to be quick and easy. The foundation I love, use that even if you do nothing else. Because it’s got such good coverage and is ultra-light and creamy, it doesn’t sit in fine lines and I don’t have to worry about concealer. That’s the other thing, where you you’re told you need to use one thing on some parts of your face and you need something else for under eye as well as a concealer…. And I’m like bugger that for a game of soldiers! I have got a skin perfector kit if you’ve got issues and you need the ultimate concealer or colour corrector, or if you’ve got amazing skin and you just need to spot correct. However for most women, for everyday use, my foundation is brilliant – all over the face and neck and over the eyelids that evens out the tone perfectly.
Plumping Blush Glow-plexion is our best-selling product. It’s a complexion pick-me-up boost. If all you use every day is this and foundation it will transform your skin. This fits into the shade step – adding colour and pigment to skin to replace that healthy flush. Most women use bronzer all year round to get that healthy sun kissed glow. I love bronzer – we do a bronze version of this product too. The problem I have with bronzer is in the middle of winter – like today – when it’s grey you don’t really want to have a tanned face. I understand why women use it; they want to add warmth and colour but I don’t think it’s an appropriate colour all year round. That’s just what I feel but I’m quite passionate about it. You might also be a skin type like my gorgeous girlfriend Sian who’s a redhead and her skin is porcelain – and she’s never going to be tanned. If she has a tanned face and her hands are this beautiful pale colour it doesn’t look good. Also some bronzers can look a bit grubby – particularly if it’s a true bronzer where it’s more matte because you’re creating a tan. It doesn’t necessarily lift but we need a boost and to lift skin once we hit middle-age.
We say peach is a girl’s best friend. I love the colour peach for blush. The reason is it’s universal and really works across the broadest skin types, but peach is also a very clever colour. It has an orange undertone and it’s this that you get in bronzer so it adds warmth to the skin but peach also has a pinkness to it and pink brightens. So if you put the two together it adds warmth, brightens and is much more natural than some bronzers. Iin the summer though, when you’re tanned and you have that sun kissed glow, then yes, use a bronzer. I’ve also added light-reflecting pearl. Highlighters and luminisers all use light-reflecting pearl. The difference is I’ve used a pearl with a gold undertone whereas a lot of highlighters tend to be silver, which is why they’re quite strobey. I don’t want that look on my skin as I don’t think it’s natural and I want natural highlights. The product is a liquid so once again the texture works better on drier, ageing skin. The other thing is, when you blend it into the skin, you can buff it as it’s liquid, you can still see the pores and the texture of the skin so it looks like your own skin. Foundation to even out the skin tone and then this. It’s not really a blush it’s a complexion pick me up. My trick is a little bit onto the cheek bone and just blend it out, building up on the apple of the cheek if you need a bit more and buff in, ideally with a brush. Then just as you would with bronzer, a little bit on the forehead as I’m boosting the complexion, a little bit down the nose a little on the chin. I sometimes bring a little down my neck. The thing I love about this, because it’s such a great colour, I put a little bit on my eyelids and up above my socket and honestly, if you do those two things, when you look in the mirror your skin is transformed and people will say “wow your skin looks phenomenal, have you been on holiday?” and of course you haven’t, it’s just make up.
So that’s prime and perfect, the first two steps. It’s then shape and shade. Shape is contouring not to contort. The other thing with our foundation is that there is a smaller darker palette included so that it can be used all year-round, all season-round. I also hate being told that you have to use something in the summer and something else in the winter – I don’t want to spend that money, so I included it on our palette. Because it’s slightly darker you could do a bit of contouring if you wanted, but I don’t generally do that in shape. The two areas for me for definition are framing your face with your brows and defining the lips to create balance. The top is your bra and the bottom, knickers.
I’ve got two amazing pencils, the Brow Lift Perfecting Brow Pencil and the Age Reverse Perfecting Lipliner (recently featured in an article on how to get fuller lips without filler). Feather strokes in the brow will frame the face and create balance with the lips. Both pencils are double-ended; the brow pencil has a natural flesh coloured highlighter. They say to do your brows properly you should define them and then add a highlight. This has them both together for ease and speed.
Lip liners are seen as a little bit old fashioned, they feel dated. However, it’s so important as a tool for women as they age. When I started I thought you’re meant to match your lip liner to your lipstick but who’s going to do that in the real world? You can use a clear lip liner which is waxy but gives you the protection and stops bleeding but it doesn’t give you any shape, it doesn’t plump. Ours is lip coloured so you don’t have to match it to your lip stick or gloss, and you can use it on its own although I generally use it with a balm as my lips get really dry. If you just tap it really lightly it doesn’t look as though you’re wearing lip liner – it just gives the lips some shape. I’ve got men who use this as well to create that shape. You can fill in your lip if you want to, but you don’t have to if you tap it.
MUAs always say to highlight the cupid’s bow because it reflects light – so on the other end I’ve put a flesh coloured liner just for that: it needs to be really sharp though. If you look at anyone who’s got a naturally plump lip they have that halo, that milk line. For those of us who don’t we can fake it. This is the crux of Studio 10 – it’s a quick fix for fuller lips. You can then put whatever colour story on top. If you don’t line and create shape to your lips and you put on another product your lips are never going to look their best. You need balance, there’s no point just focusing on the eye area or just the lips, you need both – both bra and pants. Spanx for the face!
Because I’m so consumer focused I always think what do women want? Having a big mirror in the foundation compact is so important as well as having the two shades included so it takes me all year round. My Age Defy Skin Perfector Cover & Conceal is the ultimate concealer kit and has two colour correctors and two concealers. I focus on women and their concerns – you need a primer if you’ve got enlarged pores so I’ve put one in here. If you’re a woman who doesn’t need foundation you can just use this – the primer on the cheeks, the green colour corrector for redness or rosacea and peach to help take out dark circles – both a different texture to the concealers. The two concealers are so creamy you can mix and blend them to get amazing coverage. I know the green won’t be used as much – if you’ve really got rosacea as an issue then you’re going to buy a green colour corrector – so I weighted them according to how you’re going to use them. It’s the same with my eye palette – I weighted the compact according to usage- you never use as much of the darkest brown as you do of your highlight. I really don’t like ending up with some some empty pans in a palette! The eye palette also includes a primer as this is really important for mature skin. Every single product has a story – we’ve focused on mature skin and then overlaid it with the lifestyles and emotions of middle-aged women. Studio 10 is more than skin deep because it’s much bigger story.
We love your Buy and Try initiative which is perfect for Lockdown when consumers and makeup artists can’t check out the range. What informed this initiative?
We’ve done this from day one of launching, for two reasons. I’ve got some real industry mentors and they were saying you’ve got to be in bricks and mortar, you need testers, people need to go into a store so they can see, feel and smell the products. My heart isn’t in bricks and mortar so I didn’t believe I needed to do that. The other thing is, when you go into a store, you test products on your hand. That does not bear any relevance to what it does on your face. If you tested my brow pencil on your hand you’d look at the colour and think “oh my goodness, I’d never wear that” as it’s grey and ashy. Most brow products I think are too warm, too red, too brown. This is ashy. It’s grey. You put it through your brows – and we developed this with Look Good Feel Better, the Cancer Charity, for women who don’t have brows and it is the best high-performing colour. I looked at QVC who have amazing makeup brands, and they don’t have bricks and mortar and thought there’s another way around this, so that’s where the 30 day buy and try promise came from. I’ve had the experience of going into a department store, buying something, being oversold it and then never using it again and it didn’t feel right to me. So customers can get my product and not just try it, but really use it. If they decide after using it for 30 days that it’s not right they can return it and get their money back, even if it’s virtually empty.
I think from a brand perspective – and I still do brand consultancy and am a non- exec on a couple of boards – brands need to have a real sense of purpose for social good, to make a difference in the world. You can’t just produce great products. I think all consumers expect and demand and want so much more from companies today. You need to have the consumer at the heart. I’m always driven by the consumer, that real woman. I am one too and I know what my pressure points and bugbears are.
The inspiration for our eyeshadow palette which is also weighted for usage was my experience of buying the big quads or eyeshadow bricks. My girls all have them and I was thinking “what a waste of money” as there are probably only about 4 shades they actually use regularly. The classic quad you can use to go from day to night or do a natural look and go to a smokey. But the trick is which of the colours – particularly for my age group – are more effective? Even my girls using their big colour palettes they don’t use all the products – so they’re paying for product they aren’t using. Or in the quad you always have a colour you run out of or one you don’t use much. I thought that didn’t make sense.
I have had a couple of people say that’s really genius but it’s not, it’s just common sense. As I’ve said, mine includes a primer – you need one as you age – it’s slightly coloured so if you put it on your lid it evens out the colour. It’s not even tricks of the trade, it’s just putting yourself in the seat of a real woman who has a real life. My products and colours do a job of work – they are deliberately narrow as I’m not a fashion brand. There are lots of others in the market that do that and do it really well. There are amazing brands out there – MAC, Nars, By Terry, etc whatever you want in a fashion or colour story it’s already there. I can’t compete with that. I’m never going to be able to compete. From a commercial perspective stocking 450-600 SKUs is impossible – stock equals money. Nobody wants to make that investment. A retailer doesn’t want to carry a whole lot of stock that’s dead money. I definitely don’t. I’m quite happy with my niche – and then add your own colour story. From a retail perspective you can cross-sell Studio 10 with any other make up brand. I wrote an article on menopause make up specifically and I recommended other make up brands within it. I’m quite happy to do that as it’s makes sense. I’m not fighting for the same customer.
We have a really low return rate as fundamentally the products are fit for purpose as they’ve been designed specifically for mature skin to do a job of work. For instance, we don’t do a black eye liner; we do a very-pigmented dark chocolate brown instead. We get a lot of 5 star reviews and make-up artists really rate the brand – especially the lip pencil. I’m not going to get lots of returns as it does what it says on the tin. A lot of my formulas are creamy, so if you’ve got a really oily skin you might want something more mattifying, so it may come back. I’m quite happy with that. Or the big issue will be a colour – that foundation wasn’t quite right for me. I always say buy two and mix and match and find the right one. Particularly with skin and foundation and concealer products it’s hard to get the exact shade. But we get very few returns – but I don’t mind them as you get feedback from the customer, and they’re usually really apologetic about it. We do get feedback though, mainly from customers asking for a pinky version of the Wake Up & Glow Lip & Cheek Tint. I may extend that – it’s currently three natural shades – but I don’t think we’ll ever have more than 4 or 5 shades as it then gets into a colour story, and if you want a red lipstick Chanel does one! I’m not going to complete, but what I will do is create products that will create shape and definition, regardless of what you put on top.
Who’s is your dream client to work with?
Oh my goodness! My dream client would have to be someone in my age bracket and they would have to be inspirational, aspirational, thought-provoking, who would as much about their attitude as their beauty – age with attitude. And then I guess for me, I would go for attitude first – it would be someone like Michelle Obama, someone who’s out there really making a difference in the world. Now we’ve got Kamala Harris – she’s really interesting. Then we’ve got this 22-year-old, she’s not in my age bracket, but Amanda Gorman, 22 years old! I’ve got a 21-year-old daughter… Oh my goodness. I think it’s someone who’s really out there achieving and being a role model and inspirational for other women.
I often think, if I had unlimited budget, who would be the face of Studio 10? And it wouldn’t be whether they’ve had work done or not – you do whatever’s right for you. I always come back to Kate Winslet. I think it’s because she doesn’t fit the stereotypical archetypal beauty but she’s so beautiful. She’s got attitude and plays a whole variety of roles. She’s real; celebs can live that Hollywood lifestyle but I wonder if they sometimes get disconnected from real life and it can work against them. I think that’s the key with Kate, she wouldn’t be out of place in the pub or Sainsburys. And that for me is the difference – Studio 10 is real. Let’s send her a copy of Warpaint! [laughs]
What advice would you give someone starting their own range?
When you create a range most founders – and not just in beauty – they have a lightbulb moment, an inspiration, a dream. Generally, that is a very creative right-brain thing. However, you need the commercial left-brain side too. Have a great idea in your head but you need to kick the tyres. Research, research, research, research, research. Test that idea, test the products against the competition. For me that commercial, strategic view is key and you can’t research enough.
I did so much research for Studio 10. I even presented it to some of the key retailers I knew in the industry to get their feedback, to kick the tyres. When you’re investing money – whether it’s your own or someone else’s – you want to be sure. Having a great idea is not enough. I started off as a PR person with what’s the story in a headline? If you said to me Studio 10 in one sentence, how is it different? If you can’t answer that [about your brand or idea] then you might as well give up. You’re not going to stand out when you’re pitching it to a journalist or a retailer or a customer, they’ll think it’s just like everyone else. You can’t be a lookalike you have to be different, stand out. And it has to follow through into your products. Studio 10 has a very specific product blue print – to be a quick fix and do a job of work, formulated for mature skin. Every single product that comes out has to match that blueprint, otherwise you won’t have consistency and continuity.
Brands today have to be more than just great products and storytelling. They have to have a soul, it’s about purpose, mission, doing something, adding back, making a difference for social good. Most big brands or companies have their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) sponsoring coffee mornings – that’s not enough. You can’t pay lip service it’s authenticity, you have to be real as consumers are savvy. My audience are intelligent, they’re savvy, they know what they want and they aren’t stupid, they’ve been around the block. Advertising an “anti-wrinkle” cream to me….. firstly the word anti-wrinkle – I don’t want to get rid of my wrinkles and even if I did it’s unrealistic. Don’t put a 25-year-old supermodel [in the advert] and think I’m going to buy into that. I find it offensive. So that authenticity – treat me with respect – is important. Saying that though, my three girls, 14, 18 and 21, they’re really savvy customers. They can annihilate a brand, they can see through it. In our world it would be a licencing deal – they can see it, smell it a mile off oh she just put her name to that product. They are definitely savvy consumers. Being real is important.
What’s next for Studio 10?
I really want to focus on this pro-age movement, really bring it to life. It’s global. We need to be challenging those outdated stereotypes of middle age. Championing beauty being ageless, really getting those messages out. And I guess at the end of that spectrum, challenging outdated stereoptypes all the way through to ageism, which exists for both men and women. It will be campaigning – I’d love to talk to government. Look at ageism in the workplace. So definitely building that side.
For the make-up side – almost evangelising, although that doesn’t really make sense! If I can give every single woman the confidence to use a little bit of make up every single day and it makes a difference to how they feel and gives them a confidence boost then I want to do that. It’s not complicated or intimidating – it’s easy.
I think in terms of product there’s room to develop products but I’m never going to have a huge new product pipeline as if you’re an essential range, you’re an essential range! I’ve got be careful that I’m not getting into trends. If I’m doing the white pink and blue-striped shirts I can’t justify creating the paisley one too. I don’t know how big the range will get but for me it’s more the education. There’s lots of exciting stuff happening so we shall see!